New issue, now live
Our special issue on theological books is now live on the website.
Among the highlights: another excerpt from Elizabeth A. Johnson’s forthcoming book on ecological vocation; Bernard G. Prusak on the principles governing the resort to war vs. the principles governing the conduct of it (subscription); and Gabriel Said Reynolds on John L. Allen Jr.’s The Global War on Christians (subscription). Plus, Michael Robbins writes on David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God, an excerpt of which follows:
…[T]he New Atheists ingeniously deny the existence of a bearded fellow with superpowers who lives in the sky and finds people’s keys for them. Daniel Dennett wants to know “if God created and designed all these wonderful things, who created God? Supergod? And who created Supergod? Superdupergod?”—thereby revealing his lack of acquaintance not only with Augustine and Thomas but with Aristotle.
It was Aristotle who wrote that “one and the same is the knowledge of contraries.” Denys Turner, in his recent Thomas Aquinas (which makes a fine companion piece to The Experience of God), puts the matter like this: “Unless…what believers and atheists respectively affirm and deny is the same for both, they cannot be said genuinely to disagree.”
There are, then, a great many people who say “God” and mistakenly believe that they have the notion, at least, in common. Hart is interested in clarifying the notion, and one of his deeper points is that the major theistic religions do indeed have something in common when they say “God.” In a churlish review for Harper’s, Jane Smiley writes that Hart “is robustly convinced that there is only one definition of God, and that is his own.” She then quotes Hart’s “own” definition: “one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things.”
As Hart makes plain, however, and as anyone even slightly familiar with the history of metaphysics is aware, that definition is not Hart’s, but one shared by most major religious and philosophical traditions. It is as much Aristotle’s definition as it is Moses Maimonides’s and Thomas Aquinas’s and Mulla Sadra’s and, indeed, Spinoza’s. It describes equally Brahman and Yahweh. Nor is Hart here proposing a dilution of the real differences among religions, à la Huston Smith; he is interested in what the theistic traditions disclose, a common conception of the ultimate transcendental ground of being.
See the full table of contents for the February 7 issue here.
About the Author
Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.