You Are Gods
On Nature and Supernature
158 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: April 2022
- ISBN: 9780268201944
- Published: April 2022
- ISBN: 9780268201937
- Published: April 2022
- ISBN: 9780268201951
- Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Religion, Gold Medal
David Bentley Hart offers an intense and thorough reflection upon the issue of the supernatural in Christian theology and doctrine.
In recent years, the theological—and, more specifically, Roman Catholic—question of the supernatural has made an astonishing return from seeming oblivion. David Bentley Hart’s You Are Gods presents a series of meditations on the vexed theological question of the relation of nature and supernature. In its merely controversial aspect, the book is intended most directly as a rejection of a certain Thomistic construal of that relation, as well as an argument in favor of a model of nature and supernature at once more Eastern and patristic, and also more in keeping with the healthier currents of mediaeval and modern Catholic thought. In its more constructive and confessedly radical aspects, the book makes a vigorous case for the all-but-complete eradication of every qualitative, ontological, or logical distinction between the natural and the supernatural in the life of spiritual creatures. It advances a radically monistic vision of Christian metaphysics but does so wholly on the basis of credal orthodoxy.
Hart, one of the most widely read theologians in America today, presents a bold gesture of resistance to the recent revival of what used to be called “two-tier Thomism,” especially in the Anglophone theological world. In this astute exercise in classical Christian orthodoxy, Hart takes the metaphysics of participation, high Trinitarianism, Christology, and the soteriological language of theosis to their inevitable logical conclusions. You Are Gods will provoke many readers interested in theological metaphysics. The book also offers a vision of Christian thought that draws on traditions (such as Vedanta) from which Christian philosophers and theologians, biblical scholars, and religious studies scholars still have a great deal to learn.
1. Waking the Gods: Theosis as Reason’s Natural End
2. The Treasure of Delight: Nicholas of Cusa on Infinite Desire
3. That Judgment Whereby You Judge: Beauty and Discernment
4. Pia Fraus: Our Words and God’s Truth
5. Geist’s Kaleidoscope: Some Questions for Cyril O’Regan
6. The Chiasmus: The Created Supernatural and the Natural Divine
“David Bentley Hart’s You Are Gods is simply brilliant. The book is a wonderful example of Hart’s incomparable skill as an essayist, delightful writer, and profound thinker, both philosophically and theologically.” —John Behr, author of John the Theologian and His Paschal Gospel
“These outstanding essays are all absolutely first-rate and crucial for current theological discussions and the emergent, most creative directions. Hart successfully shows that the manualist revival is a pathology irrelevant to those directions.”—John Milbank, author of The Suspended Middle
"You Are Gods is a challenging but rewarding theological text whose contents are confessedly radical, and whose end point is to advance the idea that nature and supernature are, in reality, one." —Foreword Reviews
"The debate over whether it is grace or nature that directs human beings towards the beatific vision was one of the most contentious intra-Catholic theological disputes of the twentieth century. David Bentley Hart’s You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature shows that the debate is alive and by no means merely academic and inconsequential—pantheism, tradition, orthodoxy, and heterodoxy are all very much at stake in the argument." —Public Discourse
"As you might expect, if you have read even a single paragraph of Hart’s previous writing, the essays in this collection are erudite and trenchant, and full of surprises." —Church Times
"[R]eaders would do well not to cheapen Hart’s work by allowing his verbal enthusiasms to be nothing more than an exciting (or aggravating) thrill ride. Instead, there’s probably something for most readers to gain by slowing down and trying to grok the basic judgment holding the whole thing up: All created realities, but especially spiritual realities, have their being and meaning in radical and total dependent relationship to God. This, for Hart, is the necessary shape of our contingence." —The Living Church
"You Are Gods has much to recommend it. The author is highly effective in his attack on two-tier Thomism, and his argument that the Gospels are shot through with non-dualist imagery is sound. . . . David Bentley Hart brings to this elegantly written book his customary verve, theological acumen and ability to communicate difficult ideas." —The Way
"Another masterful essay by an essential Christian thinker." —Mayéutica
"Hart’s prose is flowing, profound and often entertaining... This book will not only be of considerable interest to his followers and to students of deification, but will also be of significance for those who are intrigued to see how the classical tradition can be interpreted in such a way as to eliminate divine aloofness and detachment." —Modern Believing
"Eastern Orthodox theologian and author Hart presents metaphysical meditations on his idea that nature and the supernatural are a unified whole." —Publishers Weekly
"One is invited to reflect upon the metaphysical implications of revelation which hearken to the deepest secret of our created and uncreated existence… Taken as a whole, You Are Gods is by turns bold, incisive, exasperating, ultimately a penetrating exposition of the manner in which the primal root of nature, time, and grace is the eschaton that alone bestows meaning and coherence to dynamisms of heart and mind summoned from the nothing as agapeic gift." —Eclectic Orthodoxy
"In its more constructive and confessedly radical aspects, the book makes a vigorous case for the all-but-complete eradication of every qualitative, ontological, or logical distinction between the natural and the supernatural in the life of spiritual creatures. It advances a radically monistic vision of Christian metaphysics but does so wholly on the basis of credal orthodoxy." —Englewood Review of Books
"You are Gods is a work that would be of great interest to the student of theology, and it is also one that opens up a number of important debates which are worth having, and it already appears to have stirred up the Thomist circles which Hart scrutinises." —VoegelinView
In recent years, the theological—and, more specifically, Roman Catholic—question of “the supernatural” has made an astonishing return from seeming oblivion. Until very recently indeed, most theologians with any knowledge of the question’s history had been working under the impression that the issue was more or less settled, and that the early modern theology of supernature and nature that had been briefly dominant in Catholic thought—the infamous “two-tier” system of “manualist” or “commentary” or “second scholastic” Thomism—had been decisively defeated by the far superior and more orthodox theologies of grace that had displaced it. Certainly, those two or three remarkable generations of systematic theologians who made the twentieth century one of the genuinely golden epochs of Roman Catholic thought seemed to have been able to accomplish as much as they did precisely because they had freed themselves from the desiccating atmosphere of that tradition. After all, as we had all been led to believe, the theological proposals of the manualist schools had been curious anomalies in the history of Christian thought, so alien to the whole of patristic tradition, and to most of the mediaeval, and so plainly irreconcilable with cardinal tenets of classical Christian thought and dogma, that they were incapable of producing theology of any particular range or substance, or of exercising much influence outside the small circle in which they had been gestated. Taken together, they appeared to constitute a depressingly sterile system, one that was eerily immune to any kind of enrichment or healthy development, inasmuch as any attempt at either could only expose its internal incoherence; at most, the system could be curated, defended, and endlessly reiterated by the small but indefatigable faction devoted to it.
It seemed only natural, therefore, to suppose that, once something better, fuller, finer, and more rational had come along (call it la nouvelle théologie or ressourcement or the patristic restoration or even “the Eastward turn”), nothing as morbidly barren, impoverished, and unattractive as the manualist tradition would ever again have the power or allure to inspire any sane soul’s allegiance. Why, after all, would anyone want to set aside the lush, velvety, heady wines of Catholicism’s magnificent twentieth-century theological renaissance to quaff the thin, acrid waters of Wormwood from a rusting tin cup? Why, in particular, would today’s students of Thomas want to retreat fromthe repristinated figure of modern research—an inheritor of the fathers and a truly mediaeval metaphysician possessed of genuine synthetic genius—to recover the caricature produced by manualism, which spoke in an attenuated early modern language of causality, presumed an early modern vision of desacralized nature, and practiced an early modern style of propositional logic? Surely the whole sordid episode of commentary Thomism could now be written off as a closed chapter in theological history, a curious anecdote that had briefly interrupted the authentic narrative of Catholic dogma and theology. Alas, it was not so. Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten is a law as much of institutional as of personal psychology. And so now this once seemingly very dead tradition is enjoying a revival (or, better, recrudescence) in certain traditionalist Catholic sects, most especially here in America, where some odd perversity of our national temperament forbids us from ever allowing any ideological project or alliance, no matter how diseased, to die with dignity.
Why this has happened I cannot really guess. It turns out that all those prejudices that those who came after the perceived fall of the two-tierist systems were taught to hold, when examined closely and scrupulously, are not mere prejudices at all, but simple statements of fact. So the system’s return is an altogether shocking reversal of all expectations, rather as if some adventurer long thought dead and buried (or eaten, or frozen, or drowned) in some unknown and far-flung quarter of the uncharted wilds—one who has been pronounced legally deceased, whose estate has already been apportioned to his heirs, and whose wife of many years is now wed to another man—were suddenly to appear at the door of his old home, gray and gaunt and marked by the ravages of time and misfortune, but very much alive and adamantly demanding the restoration of everything he has lost in his absence. In either case, that of the obsolete theological system or that of the truant adventurer, the return has come too late in the day to be a cause of much rejoicing; the newer generations of theologians, the heirs of the estate, the widow secundum legem, even some older theologians formed in the abandoned system, or even some of the forgotten explorer’s life-long friends—all of them are more likely to find the new situation far more of a predicament than a blessing. I tend to think that the current enthusiasm for early modern Thomism is a matter for psychological or sociological investigation rather than something that can be explained in terms of logic or of some genuine spiritual imperative. But I cannot say that this is so with perfect confidence, since I cannot enter imaginatively into minds that find, say, Garrigou-Lagrange’s books deeply moving, or even vaguely palatable. The whole phenomenon must remain a mystery to me, one whose more occult causes will forever be veiled from my eyes behind a curtain of Baroque fustian (or perhaps sickly puce).
If, by the way, my language to this point seems a bit weighted toward one side of the debate, I can only assure readers that my motives are entirely sincere and disinterested. I am not Roman Catholic, after all, and so none of this concerns me personally; and, really, the future of Catholic theology is of no consequence to me at all. The topic interests me only insofar as it raises issues of a more general kind regarding the contents of Christian faith. Precisely because I regard the “two-tier” understanding of nature and supernature as irreparably defective, and in fact among the most defective understandings of Christianity imaginable—in many ways the diametric opposite of everything the Christian story has to say about reality and about the relation of creation to God and about the person of Christ—the unwelcome return of this superannuated vagabond provokes me just enough to make me want to advance an altogether different picture. Perhaps I cannot lay the ghost of two-tierism, or exorcise it from modern theological discourse. But I can, at the very least, take advantage of the moment.