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 Post subject: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2022 8:24 am 
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https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2022/03/80430/

Ed Feser wrote:
it is clear that a concern for distinctively Christian orthodoxy isn’t really what drives Hart in the first place. He tells us that among the influences on his book is the Vedantic tradition in Hinduism, from which Christian thinkers “have a great deal to learn.” Indeed, he allows that “Vedantic Christianity” might be an apt label for his position. In fact, he assures us, “the religion historically called ‘Christianity’ is not a ‘truth’ that exists among and in competition with ‘false’ non-Christian religions.” For in reality, he judges, Christianity is “only one limited trajectory within history’s universal narrative of divine incarnation and creaturely deification, superior in some ways to alternative trajectories, vastly inferior in many others” (emphasis added). “The bodhisattva ideal unfolded in the [Mahayana Buddhist texts] Lotus Sutra and the Bodhicaryavatara” have, in Hart’s view, more to teach us about Christology than many Christian theologians do; “indeed, the latter [work] in some very real sense attests, under the veil of the unfamiliar, to the truth made present in Christ.” And this truth is in Hart’s judgment also more evident from “the metaphysics of classical Vedanta, in either its Advaita or Vishishtadvaita form,” than anything Thomism can teach us.

Meanwhile, Christian tradition and dogma are in Hart’s estimation far from sure theological guides. Tradition, he says, “can serve as a justification for anything” and “boasts an almost limitless plasticity”; and “what we come to regard as ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ are retrospective and (to be honest) transparently ideological constructions.” In fact, doctrinal formulations “rewrite” history, “refashioning the past” rather than codifying and preserving it. For example, the Nicene Council’s claim to be upholding ancient teaching about Christ’s nature was, Hart assures us, “pure fiction” peddled for political reasons. Arius, whom the council condemned, “was in many respects a profoundly conservative theologian” and “a more faithful representative of many of the most venerable schools of Trinitarian thought than were the champions of the Nicene settlement” (even if, Hart agrees, the latter ultimately had better arguments than Arius).

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2022 1:02 pm 
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We are naturally drawn to light and as we allow ourselves to be drawn to the light (accumulation of Grace) it begins to have a supernatural effect on us eventually leading to the beatific vision. Is that not the very essence of the "journey to perfection" I picture Dante and Bernard being drawn in "seeking out the most remote of all the rings" Paradiso, Canto 32 33.

Christ has 2 natures human and divine, natural and supernatural, but man has one nature but is perfected by the supernatural.


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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2022 7:50 pm 
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True, but I'm not sure I see the connection with the article.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2022 9:11 pm 
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I think he jumped the shark a long time ago. I have his translation of the New Testament, the translation itself is not terrible although like nearly every translation done by one person, it makes a lot of weird choices. But I almost didn't read it after reading the preface, in which he insists, at great length, that the New Testament has never been translated correctly, that every translator before himself misunderstood the entire text and how he was going to make the first real translation. The ego is way off the charts, and the things that he insists the New Testament is "really talking about" frankly seem he was reading a completely different book.



And oh, he also calls himself a "Christian Marxist", whatever that means.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2022 8:34 am 
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Doom wrote:
I think he jumped the shark a long time ago. I have his translation of the New Testament, the translation itself is not terrible although like nearly every translation done by one person, it makes a lot of weird choices. But I almost didn't read it after reading the preface, in which he insists, at great length, that the New Testament has never been translated correctly, that every translator before himself misunderstood the entire text and how he was going to make the first real translation. The ego is way off the charts, and the things that he insists the New Testament is "really talking about" frankly seem he was reading a completely different book.



And oh, he also calls himself a "Christian Marxist", whatever that means.

Christianity and Marxism are fundamentally incompatible. Marxism requires the state be all powerful, and has no room for God.


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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2022 10:24 am 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
True, but I'm not sure I see the connection with the article.


Mr bentley is debating this issue of the Natural vs the supernatural. And I am giving my understanding of how they work together and he has twisted them in his weird way. I'll explain further later, as I will be John 21; 3 for the rest of the day. :D


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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2022 8:33 pm 
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I think I see your point now. Thanks!

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2022 8:35 pm 
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Doom wrote:
I think he jumped the shark a long time ago. I have his translation of the New Testament, the translation itself is not terrible although like nearly every translation done by one person, it makes a lot of weird choices. But I almost didn't read it after reading the preface, in which he insists, at great length, that the New Testament has never been translated correctly, that every translator before himself misunderstood the entire text and how he was going to make the first real translation. The ego is way off the charts, and the things that he insists the New Testament is "really talking about" frankly seem he was reading a completely different book.

Universalism is all. Everything must be crammed into making that fit.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2022 9:13 pm 
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Doom wrote:
I think he jumped the shark a long time ago. I have his translation of the New Testament, the translation itself is not terrible although like nearly every translation done by one person, it makes a lot of weird choices. But I almost didn't read it after reading the preface, in which he insists, at great length, that the New Testament has never been translated correctly, that every translator before himself misunderstood the entire text and how he was going to make the first real translation. The ego is way off the charts, and the things that he insists the New Testament is "really talking about" frankly seem he was reading a completely different book.



And oh, he also calls himself a "Christian Marxist", whatever that means.

I tell Greek students that if they ever hear someone say, "This is what the Greek *really* means," and what they say is fundamentally different than the standard translations, run the other way. It betrays an arrogance that makes it impossible, in my opinion, to do good exegesis. :-/

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2022 2:17 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Doom wrote:
I think he jumped the shark a long time ago. I have his translation of the New Testament, the translation itself is not terrible although like nearly every translation done by one person, it makes a lot of weird choices. But I almost didn't read it after reading the preface, in which he insists, at great length, that the New Testament has never been translated correctly, that every translator before himself misunderstood the entire text, and how he was going to make the first real translation. The ego is way off the charts, and the things that he insists the New Testament is "really talking about" frankly seem he was reading a completely different book.

Universalism is all. Everything must be crammed into making that fit.


Surprisingly, that isn't one of the issues he mentions. The one I remember most vividly is the one about wealth, he says that over the centuries, Christian theologians have watered down the Bible message that wealth really is inherently evil, that it really is a sin to be rich or to have a lot of money, even if you are generous with your wealth and donate to a lot of worthy causes, and that poverty really is virtuous in its own right. Given that I have never read that he refuses payment for all his books or that he lives in a homeless shelter, I don't think he really means it, at least not in his own case. He insists that the 'reinterpretation' of Christian (and Jewish) commentators that the real problem isn't wealth but attachment to wealth and stinginess are a dishonest eisegesis of the plain words of the text. But when I read that he considers himself a 'Christian Marxist', suddenly it all made sense.

But, like all supposed 'literalists', he only insists on a literal interpretation when it suits his needs, and then he spiritualizes and allegorizes away all the passages (such as the ones which strongly imply that not everyone goes straight to heave) where a strictly literal interpretation would conflict with his needs.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2022 9:53 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2022/03/80430/

Ed Feser wrote:
it is clear that a concern for distinctively Christian orthodoxy isn’t really what drives Hart in the first place. He tells us that among the influences on his book is the Vedantic tradition in Hinduism, from which Christian thinkers “have a great deal to learn.” Indeed, he allows that “Vedantic Christianity” might be an apt label for his position. In fact, he assures us, “the religion historically called ‘Christianity’ is not a ‘truth’ that exists among and in competition with ‘false’ non-Christian religions.” For in reality, he judges, Christianity is “only one limited trajectory within history’s universal narrative of divine incarnation and creaturely deification, superior in some ways to alternative trajectories, vastly inferior in many others” (emphasis added). “The bodhisattva ideal unfolded in the [Mahayana Buddhist texts] Lotus Sutra and the Bodhicaryavatara” have, in Hart’s view, more to teach us about Christology than many Christian theologians do; “indeed, the latter [work] in some very real sense attests, under the veil of the unfamiliar, to the truth made present in Christ.” And this truth is in Hart’s judgment also more evident from “the metaphysics of classical Vedanta, in either its Advaita or Vishishtadvaita form,” than anything Thomism can teach us.

Meanwhile, Christian tradition and dogma are in Hart’s estimation far from sure theological guides. Tradition, he says, “can serve as a justification for anything” and “boasts an almost limitless plasticity”; and “what we come to regard as ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ are retrospective and (to be honest) transparently ideological constructions.” In fact, doctrinal formulations “rewrite” history, “refashioning the past” rather than codifying and preserving it. For example, the Nicene Council’s claim to be upholding ancient teaching about Christ’s nature was, Hart assures us, “pure fiction” peddled for political reasons. Arius, whom the council condemned, “was in many respects a profoundly conservative theologian” and “a more faithful representative of many of the most venerable schools of Trinitarian thought than were the champions of the Nicene settlement” (even if, Hart agrees, the latter ultimately had better arguments than Arius).


People more brilliant than I will ever be have a different view of Feser's review:

Critique of Fesers Review of You Are Gods

I personally find Feser annoying and mundane:

The Intellectual Vacuity of Ed Feser


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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2022 9:16 am 
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Light of the East wrote:
People more brilliant than I will ever be have a different view of Feser's review:

Critique of Fesers Review of You Are Gods

I don't know whether this dude is brilliant, but I know he doesn't know what he's talking about when he writes this:

Quote:
Feser is simply wrong to say that Hart “collapses” the distinction entirely. Moreover, the very quotations Feser utilizes prove this fact:
Feser wrote:
Parts of You Are Gods read like a compilation of ‘greatest hits’ from the history of pantheism. Echoing the Stoics, Hart tells us that nature stands in relation to the supernatural as “matter to form,” so that “nature in itself has no real existence and can have none” apart from the divine that informs it.

I must say, I find this statement jaw dropping from someone who has spent his career arguing for the distinction of form/matter and existence/essence. By his own standard, Feser himself is a pantheist!

If you know anything about the form/matter distinction, you know that matter as such is not a being and has no nature. Beings (material beings) are composites of form and matter. So to claim that nature is the matter to supernature as form is indeed to destroy any possibility of any reality to nature in its own right, making it simply a co-principle. I haven't and of course won't bother to read Hart's book to try to figure out what he's actually attempting to get at with this talk, but it's clearly pantheist in tendency and the brilliant author you've cited obviously doesn't show otherwise, and doesn't appear to realize he doesn't show otherwise.

Much the same could be said for other arguments in the review. OK, another example:

Quote:
What’s worse, Feser offers Nagel’s bat as a counterexample to the claim that rational agents have a natural end in knowing the essence of the first cause. We might be curious how a bat “sees” via echolocation, but it does not follow from this that it is in our essence to have echolocation. This was a rather shocking claim. Feser has written extensively on Aristotle yet seems to have missed the very obvious Aristotelian epistemology of Hart’s claim. For Aristotle, theoria, the contemplation of the forms, is the highest form of knowledge. To quote scholar Matthew Walker: “As the telos of our rational actions and of our other life-functions, contemplation is, for Aristotle, the main organizing principle in our kind-specific good as human beings.” The forms of things constitute both their fullest actualization and their good. Thus, for Christian authors who adopted this approach, to know God’s essence was the highest form of theoria since God was the Good Itself and actus purus. All of this is far too brief, but hopefully it is clear that knowing a bat’s subjective experience does not constitute knowing its form. And if this is somehow entailed, Feser has in no way made this clear.


I'll admit that I'm not at all sure exactly what is being argued here, but let me walk us through the relevant text from Feser:

Feser wrote:
Hart’s second main objection is that any rational creature would, just by virtue of being rational, desire to know the very essence of the first cause of all things, so that such knowledge would be its natural end. There is a sense in which the premise is true, but the conclusion does not follow.

So here Feser presents an argument from Hart, which says that rational creatures qua rational desire to know the First Cause, and hence this knowledge is the natural end of the rational creature as such. Feser replies that the premise is true, but does not actually entail the conclusion. (Viz: it is true that rational creatures as such have a desire to know the First Cause, but it does not follow from that that knowledge of the First Cause is our natural end.) Then he shows why the conclusion does not follow, by offering an analogous situation as an example where it clearly doesn't:

Feser wrote:
To borrow an example from the philosopher Thomas Nagel, consider that there is an obvious sense in which a human being might desire to know what it is like to be a bat—to fly through the air the way a bat does, to get around via echolocation, and so on. Yet there is also an obvious sense in which it is simply not part of our nature to do these things, so that human beings can live complete lives as the kind of creatures we are without doing them. For that reason, our curiosity about what it is like to be a bat does not entail a sense of deprivation or loss in the way that, say, a missing limb would.


Again, Feser presents a case where we might naturally desire to know P, but where this doesn't make knowing P our natural end. Nor would failing to know P always represent a privation (though of course it is a negation). And having made this straight-up logical move, Feser returns to the specific point at hand:

Feser wrote:
In an analogous way, had human beings been created in a state of “pure nature,” without a divinely imparted orientation toward the supernatural end of the beatific vision, they might in a sense nevertheless wish that they could have a direct knowledge of God’s very essence. But they would also judge that this is simply no more possible for them than it is possible for them to know what it is like to be a bat, and thus they would not feel this impossibility as a deprivation of something they were by nature made for. The indirect knowledge of God that they are capable of would suffice.


So here Feser simply points out that the same logic applies to knowledge of God as applies to other knowledge. But one must take the trouble to notice that this is not an argument for Feser's position. Nor is it a counterexample (as the author says) to Hart's position. It is the rebuttal of an argument for Bentley's position. All the fancy talk about theoria and whatnot is fine and dandy, but misses the point entirely.

Now, the author next almost appears to recognize the logical structure of Feser's argument, because he turns next to a quick attempt to undermine Feser's analogy:
Quote:
Moreover, I suppose one could say that knowing the subjective experience of a bat is, in fact, the natural end of humanity. God knows the world via its participation in His own being. If our destiny is knowledge of the divine essence, one could maintain that this entails we, too, will know the world as it participates in God, perhaps including the subjective experience of creatures such as bats. I’m not saying this is necessary; I offer it only to show that Feser’s argument does not arrive at the conclusion he hopes.


The trouble with this is that it is of course transparently question-begging if this "destiny" of ours is taken as natural, and irrelevant if this "destiny" is taken as wholly supernatural.

Then the author continues:

Quote:
Additionally, Feser seems to create a problem for himself—namely, that ignorance is not a deprivation to a rational being. How he gets around it, I’m not sure, but his example is, again, more of an issue for his position than Hart’s.

So, again, difference between privation and negation not recognized. Don't be so desperate to patch up Hart that you'll accept any criticism of his critics. He's just a dude. He's no genius.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2022 4:15 pm 
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Quote:
So here Feser presents an argument from Hart, which says that rational creatures qua rational desire to know the First Cause, and hence this knowledge is the natural end of the rational creature as such. Feser replies that the premise is true but does not actually entail the conclusion. (Viz: it is true that rational creatures as such have a desire to know the First Cause, but it does not follow from that that knowledge of the First Cause is our natural end.) Then he shows why the conclusion does not follow, by offering an analogous situation as an example where it clearly doesn't:


Isn't this what Augustine said? "“Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." Is there something innate in man that pushes him to know the One who is unknowable? Or does Catholic anthropology teach that the fall has destroyed this entirely?


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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2022 8:10 pm 
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Feser's own response is here: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2022/0 ... s-one.html

Ed, is Feser accurately presenting Hart's views on tradition and on the non-distinctiveness of Christian revelation? If so, do you agree with Hart?

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2022 9:51 am 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Feser's own response is here: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2022/0 ... s-one.html

Ed, is Feser accurately presenting Hart's views on tradition and on the non-distinctiveness of Christian revelation? If so, do you agree with Hart?


Quite frankly, they are both talking about things which I have not studied and therefore am not competent to comment on. For instance, having never heard of it before, I just did a small research on "Nagle's Bat" and the philosophy underpinning this.

I would be completely speaking out of my pay-grade to say anything about this particular discourse between Hart and Feser. Indeed, much of Hart's writings are way above the average person in the pew, which is the reason I wrote the book I did last year, explaining my hope in Universal Restoration from the point of a mere layman.


Last edited by Light of the East on Wed Apr 06, 2022 11:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2022 9:58 am 
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Light of the East wrote:
Quote:
So here Feser presents an argument from Hart, which says that rational creatures qua rational desire to know the First Cause, and hence this knowledge is the natural end of the rational creature as such. Feser replies that the premise is true but does not actually entail the conclusion. (Viz: it is true that rational creatures as such have a desire to know the First Cause, but it does not follow from that that knowledge of the First Cause is our natural end.) Then he shows why the conclusion does not follow, by offering an analogous situation as an example where it clearly doesn't:


Isn't this what Augustine said? "“Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." Is there something innate in man that pushes him to know the One who is unknowable? Or does Catholic anthropology teach that the fall has destroyed this entirely?

Read it again. Feser granted the premise.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2022 1:15 pm 
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Light of the East wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Feser's own response is here: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2022/0 ... s-one.html

Ed, is Feser accurately presenting Hart's views on tradition and on the non-distinctiveness of Christian revelation? If so, do you agree with Hart?


Quite frankly, they are both talking about things which I have not studied and therefore am not competent to comment on. For instance, having never heard of it before, I just did a small research on "Nagle's Bat" and the philosophy underpinning this.

I would be completely speaking out of my pay-grade to say anything about this particular discourse between Hart and Feser. Indeed, much of Hart's writings are way above the average person in the pew, which is the reason I wrote the book I did last year, explaining my hope in Universal Restoration from the point of a mere layman.

Do you think that tradition can serve as a justification for anything? Do you think that Christianity is “only one limited trajectory within history’s universal narrative of divine incarnation and creaturely deification, superior in some ways to alternative trajectories, vastly inferior in many others”? I could care less about laptops and Nagle's bat and philosophy in general, at least as far as this discussion goes. I am far more concerned that Hart seems to be abandoning the basics of Christianity, and it's in that respect that I said that he jumped the shark.

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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2022 7:33 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Do you think that tradition can serve as a justification for anything? Do you think that Christianity is “only one limited trajectory within history’s universal narrative of divine incarnation and creaturely deification, superior in some ways to alternative trajectories, vastly inferior in many others”? I could care less about laptops and Nagle's bat and philosophy in general, at least as far as this discussion goes. I am far more concerned that Hart seems to be abandoning the basics of Christianity, and it's in that respect that I said that he jumped the shark.


If I understand correctly, it is Holy Tradition which guides the Church and should guide our lives as Christians following the Church. "Tradition" (small "t") can be just about anything and could be a justification for anything. Holy Tradition ties us to the Apostolic Church, the teaching of the Fathers, and their understanding of what Christ taught them through the Apostles. So, I guess my answer to that broad question would have to be no.

The sentence you posted does indeed sound like Hart is drifting away from the particular truth of the Christian narrative in favor of a much broader idea of salvation for the masses under any religious theory that they happen to hold. This is alarming, and in some ways, appears to follow the path that Thomas Merton was taking in the later years of his life with his increasing infatuation with Buddhism.

By the way, I had to read that sentence from Hart twice . . . S L O W L Y . . . to get what he was saying. The problem with Hart is that he is used to pontificating as if every man and woman reading him is a PhD level scholar. I had to really SLOG through his book TASBS. I kind of wonder sometimes if he isn't in love with the sound of his own voice. If you are going to write for the masses, speak like the masses.


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 Post subject: Re: David Bentley Hart jumps the shark
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2022 12:56 pm 
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Merton might be a good comparison.

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