First Things RSS Feed - David Bentley Hart
David Bentley Hart is a contributing editor of First Things and is currently a fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies. His most recent book is The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. en-usCopyright 2016 First Things. All Rights Reserved.email@example.com (The Editors)firstname.lastname@example.org (The Editors)Wed, 26 Oct 2016 05:20:13 -0400https://d25wp47b6tla3u.cloudfront.net/img/favicon-196.pngFirst Things RSS Feed Image
Wed, 01 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400So, there I was, pondering, with an old familiar feeling of perplexity (about which more anon), certain reactions to my reaction to various reactions to the pope’s last encyclical, when it occurred to me that the one thing on which Hegelians of every stripe—right or left, theological or materialist, contemplative or activist—are undoubtedly correct is that the logic of history is not the logic of individuals, or of parties, or of states. It is not ideology, that is to say, that determines the course of cultural evolution, but the dialectic of history, which (even if it is not materialist) can never float free of material conditions. Hence Hegel’s famous “master-slave dialectic”: that process by which the material economy of ancient society slowly but
inevitably inverted the order of knowledge and power upon which that society rested. History—its meaning, its irony—reveals itself only by way of a continuous pragmatic labor, an engagement between spirit and matter; and the final issue of that labor becomes manifest not in the abstractions we profess but in the culture we create.
The Scholar and the Nymphhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/the-scholar-and-the-nymph
Sun, 01 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400As he stood alone in the immense library of his college a week after Michaelmas term, mourning the arrival of his sixty-fifth birthday and contemplating the mild, pristinely white light pouring in through the high arched windows, the senior scholar reflected that over the years he had added no accomplishments at all to those his father had instilled in him as a child. And these had been few enough: mastery of classical languages, knowledge of antique literature, and skill in the hybridization of phalaenopses. Moreover, he thought, closing the volume of Statius that had lain open on the table before him at no particular page for ten minutes, in none of these spheres had he ever equaled, let alone surpassed, that saturnine, perpetually weary man, whose image he could now summon up in memory only as a spectrally pallid face casting a disappointed gaze over the top of milky spectacles.
]]>Roland on the Secret Soulhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/04/roland-on-the-secret-soul
Fri, 01 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400I was, it seemed, standing in my garden, gazing through shifting silvery curtains of mist at the muted yellow of a flowering forsythia. Somehow I knew it was only a little past dawn. I might have gone inside after a moment had I not heard the garden gate behind me swinging on its steel hinges and then the soft click of its latch. When I turned to look, I could see nothing through the haze; but after a moment a small figure appeared, at first like a wavering phantom, then assuming the solid, mottled, familiar form of my dog, Roland. Dangling from his mouth by a thick silken cord was what after some seconds I recognized as a Japanese
, though one of unusually small design. On seeing me, he started back slightly, furrowed his brow, then strolled over to the low wooden deck of the house and gently set the instrument down. Returning, he stared at me thoughtfully and said (in a voice curiously similar to Laurence Harvey’s), “You never rise this early. Is all well?”
]]>The Dream-Child's Progresshttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/04/the-dream-childs-progress
Fri, 01 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400I was somewhat disconsolate in the waning days of 2008 as I realized that the centenary of one of the most significant events in the history of humanity—the first publication of
The Wind in the Willows
—was about to slip away all but entirely unremarked. What a barbarous lot we are, I thought, to be so callously indifferent not only to such exquisite artistry, but to that new epoch of the spirit inaugurated by the advent of Mr. Toad, and
revealed in its truest depths when Mole and Rat sank to their knees before the piper at the gates of dawn. A people no longer awestruck by such things, I concluded, is probably only a few generations away from devouring its own young.
]]>A Dialogue Upon the Islandhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/01/a-dialogue-upon-the-island
Fri, 01 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0500 On the strand,
: the former seated atop a milk-white boulder with knees drawn up beneath his chin and wings folded behind him, the air about him stained with a mild prismatic splendor; the latter crouching in the surf with one hand shielding his eyes from the sun and his thick purple tongue grotesquely thrust out before him to taste the spray rising from the softly surging foam. Both are gazing out over the water to the far, glistening green horizon, where the last of the departing ship’s masthead is just now melting away, fading between azure sea and sapphire sky like the last pale flicker of a dying candle’s flame.
]]>Roland on Dreamshttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/11/roland-on-dreams
Sun, 01 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0400It was, I believe, the third time that the small, hard, moist rubber ball struck my forehead and dropped to my pillow that I awakened fully (or dreamed I had done). The gaze that met my own was that of my dog Roland, his coal-black snout, drooping brown ears, and handsome chalk-and-charcoal face so beautifully illuminated by the pale golden glow of the rush light beyond my open bedroom door that he looked like a saint or bodhisattva wrapped in a haze of glory.
Thu, 01 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400A
month or so ago I found myself hovering at the edges of a long, rambling, repetitive intra-Orthodox theological debate over the question of universal salvation, and specifically the question of whether there exists any genuine ecclesial doctrine hostile to the idea. It is an issue that arises in Eastern Christian circles with some frequency, for a number of reasons, some of them reaching back to the first five centuries of the Church, some only as far back as the middle of the nineteenth century in Russia. Not that there really is much of an argument to be had on the matter. Orthodoxy’s entire dogmatic deposit resides in the canons of the seven ecumenical councils—everything else in Orthodox tradition, be it ever so venerable, beautiful, or spiritually nourishing, can possess at most the authority of accepted custom, licit conjecture, or fruitful practice—and the consensus of the most conscientious and historically literate Orthodox theologians and scholars over the past several decades (Evdokimov, Bulgakov, Clément, Turincev, Ware, Alfeyev, to name a few) is that universalism as such, as a permissible theologoumenon or plausible hope, has never been condemned by the Church. Doctrine is silent on the matter. So live and let live.
]]>Roland on Vaikunthahttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/08/roland-on-vaikuntha
Sat, 01 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400At first there was only the vigorous snuffling sound of an inquisitive snout near my brow, then the sensation of humid breath falling tenderly upon my neck, then the light brush of a cool wet nose against my cheek, and finally the tentative probing tip of a broad ductile tongue along the rim of my ear. I stirred, an inarticulate but vaguely interrogative moan rising in my throat. At once, a voice hauntingly like Laurence Harvey’s said, “Yes, I thought you were awake.”