That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart – how (and why) anyone might profitably engage it!

The appeals made by David Bentley Hart in That All Shall Be Saved were, to me, rhetorically persuasive in a most holistic way.

They were:

1) existentially satisfying, affirming our will to live, suitably contextualizing the very act of our existence in a grand telic adventure;

2) interpersonally sensitive, well expressing our urgent need to authentically belong;

3) aesthetically attuned to & affectively resonant with our most insistent longings & deepest desires;

4) normatively compelling, harnessing our own deep-seated moral inclinations & clearly setting forth the practical implications of competing outlooks, whether by reducing them to absurdity or leveraging them to sublimity;

5) interpretively coherent, calling forth our common sense, logically, and our common sensibilities, aesthetically & morally, marshalling the most ubiquitous & quotidian of our genuinely human instincts, intuitions & inferences; and, finally

6) invitatory, beckoning our deeper participations in divine activities, growing our intimacy with the Christ.

That’s my abstracted precis, bereft of concrete examples & excerpts.

Now, it’s not that, in TASBS, DBH does not acknowledge or advert to or even advance, in part, more systematic appeals, theologically, exegetically, metaphysically, philosophically or anthropologically.

Rather, I’m focusing on DBH’s more informal appeals because I wish to invite all readers to first consider those using the intrinsic authority of their own experience in order to answers questions like –

“Who really feels THIS way?” or

“Who’d really respond like THAT?” or

“Doesn’t this seem existentially nihilistic? interpersonally heartbreaking? aesthetically bankrupt? morally repugnant? practically preposterous? positively incoherent?”

My challenge to a would-be reader or re-reader, then, is to encounter Hart’s concrete examples & informal appeals for yourself and without me urging my own evaluative dispositions on them.

Then, if you do find his appeals existentially satisfying, interpersonally gratifying, aesthetically & affectively attuned with your own, morally compelling, practically achievable, intellectually coherent & just plain inviting, then, dig deeper, systematically (if you’re the type that wants or needs to, for systematics is just another form of storytelling for those of us immersed in various other disciplines, using the terminology of our preferred schools & their audiences).

Now, it is my considered opinion that Hart’s appeal coheres with and can be demonstrated by the data of human anthropology and general revelation, alone.

This is to suggest that — because his core arguments draw, inferentially, on an ineluctable logic of creatio ex nihilo, and, empirically, on the ubiquitously recognizable data of our human experience — his conclusions will flow quite well, prior to any further historical and exegetical analyses of special revelation, and will be accessible to us, informally, simply through our common sense & sensibilities.

For those who desire more, Hart does tease with exegetical tidbits (as otherwise fully fleshed out in his NT translation), with metaphysical references (as treated comprehensively by him in other essays, correspondence, articles & monographs) and with this book’s own cogent account of universal salvation in church history (as it first arose, was virtually buried & has risen again, at least as a -more or less – respectable minority opinion).

In this regard, further insights, as gleaned from special revelation & tradition, and further elucidations, as clarified by any good metaphysic & with a truly scientific anthropology, in going beyond the deliverances of general revelation & common sense, will in no way travel without them!