Frequent First Things ’ contributor Matthew Milliner claims that David Bentley Hart, a contributing writer for FT, has written the ” theological book of the decade “:
Hart’s 2003 tome [ The Beauty of the Infinite ] was the theological book of the decade, a postmodern elegy, and it has taken the rest of the decade to percolate down. Sure self-professed postmodern Christian thinkers persist, but to those who have read Hart, they are like ghosts in the land of the living - barely even there. Is this overly-privileging one man’s take on a complicated, multifaceted movement? No. There were many thinkers to whom one could have gone for similar perspectives, it’s just that Hart encapsulated them. The book emerged from a community of thinkers, but was delivered with an individual panache that took up the postmodern invitation “for theology to respond in kind.” A beautifully written book about the primacy of beauty.
In hindsight, those early, pre-Hart theological engagements of postmodern thought look like sixteenth-century maps of the Americas, with vast swaths labeled “terra incognita.” No one can blame those first explorers for inaccuracy. As they engaged the (then) new and (then) popular modes of thought, they found patches of vegetation in what was supposed to be pure tundra, and they excitedly pointed out the green. But now, thanks to Hart, the cartography is nearly complete. We know what the landscape actually looks like. Both the “Thar be dragons” of the fear-mongers and elephant graveyards promised by progressives have been exposed. There were dragons, but they’re sickly now, and not so terrifying. There was little ivory to speak of. Postmodernism has been mapped, flood-lit by Cappadocian light and declared unfit for settlement. Emboldened by his confidence in analogy, Hart moved us on to the welcoming, fertile Nicean fields.
Related: Geoffrey Wainwright reviewed The Beauty of the Infinite in the March 2004 issue .