The Beauty of the Infinite is a splendid extended essay in “theological aesthetics.” David Bentley Hart here meditates on the power of a Christian understanding of beauty and sublimity to rise above the violence — both philosophical and literal — characteristic of the postmodern world.
The book begins by tracing the shifting use and nature of metaphysics in the thought of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Lyotard, Derrida, Deleuze, Nancy, Levinas, and others. Hart pays special attention to Nietzsche’s famous narrative of the “will to power” — a narrative largely adopted by the world today — and he offers an engaging revision (though not rejection) of the genealogy of nihilism, thereby highlighting the significant “interruption” that Christian thought introduced into the history of metaphysics.
This discussion sets the stage for a retrieval of the classic Christian account of beauty and sublimity, and of the relation of both to the question of being. Written in the form of a dogmatica minora, this main section of the book offers a pointed reading of the Christian story in four moments, or parts: Trinity, creation, salvation, and eschaton. Through a combination of narrative and argument throughout, Hart ends up demonstrating the power of Christian metaphysics not only to withstand the critiques of modern and postmodern thought but also to move well beyond them.
Strikingly original and deeply rewarding, The Beauty of the Infinite is both a constructively critical account of the history of metaphysics and a compelling contribution to it.
David Bentley Hart has written one of the most thrilling works of Christian reflection to come along in years. . . . This is theology as high adventure, and the excitement continues after the last page is turned.
I can think of no more brilliant work by an American theologian in the past ten years.
—William C. Placher in The Christian Century
An elegant, erudite treatment of basic themes in Christian theology, metaphysics, and contemporary cultural criticism. David Bentley Hart has written a book that is both radical and orthodox. The Beauty of the Infinite sets the standard for postmodern theology.
David Bentley Hart’s book shows great patristic and philosophical learning. That is rare enough. Still more rare is the book’s compellingly complete theology of beauty. Hart shows that the sublime aesthetic of the market — this age’s chief principality — can be disrupted by (and perhaps only by) the gospel’s radiant beauty. This book makes a major contribution to bringing that disruption about.
—Paul J. Griffiths
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David Bentley Hart is a philosopher, theologian, writer, and cultural commentator who has taught at the University of Virginia, Duke University, and the University of Notre Dame. His other books include A Splendid Wickedness and Other Essays and Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, which was awarded the Michael Ramsey Prize in Theology in 2011.