Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hart on doctrine as winsome apologetics

I presume that a credible defense of Christian rhetoric can be undertaken only from within Christian doctrine: because the church makes its appeal to the world first by pursuing its own dogmatics, by narrating and renarrating itself with ever greater fullness, hoping all the while that the intrinsic delightfulness (and of course, truthfulness) of this practice will draw others into its circle of discourse.

-David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Eerdmans: 2003), 30.

Today, I started reading this fascinating book (a lovely gift). It will be heavy going, but looks very stimulating. His basic question is "Is the beauty to whose persuasive power the Christian rhetoric of evangelism inevitably appeals, and upon which it depends, theologically defensible?" By taking 'beauty' as his theme, a whole way into theology (and evangelism, and philosophy) is opened up that is often overlooked, particularly by Protestants. One of his main points in the introduction is that beauty is not abstract, but is irreducibly associated with particular things in their contingency; the Christian gospel is not a set of timeless truths of universal reason, but is a historical story of such particularity that a modernist is embarrassed.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what people think of the first quote, which comes at the end of the introduction. Is there an intrinsic attractiveness to the good news as it is narrated? Do we believe the good news will strike hearers as good? Is this a repudiation of an apologetics of cultural translation (at least as a first strategy) in which we try to first connect with where people are at and answer the questions they are asking?


michael jensen said...

Well, YES!

Anonymous said...

The substance of the quotation doesn't seem a long way from the kind of charter that YHWH delivered to Israel at Sinai. I suppose that begs the question as to whether it is necessarily appropriate for the children of God under the new covenant.

Drew said...

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

A relevant verse? And perhaps bono too:

Jesus, help me, I'm alone in this world ... tell me the song about eternity, and the way it's all gonna be

michael jensen said...

I love imaging the red-faced modernist!