Author Topic: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble  (Read 9868 times)

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Offline Iconodule

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David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« on: September 28, 2016, 09:45:40 AM »
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...I think it reasonable to ask not whether we are Christians (by that standard, all fall short), but whether in our wildest imaginings we could ever desire to be the kind of persons that the New Testament describes as fitting the pattern of life in Christ. And I think the fairly obvious answer is that we could not. I do not mean merely that most of us find the moral requirements laid out in Christian scripture a little onerous, though of course we do ...Rather, I mean that most of us would find Christians truly cast in the New Testament mold fairly obnoxious: civically reprobate, ideologically unsound, economically destructive, politically irresponsible, socially discreditable, and really just a bit indecent.

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/christs-rabble
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When a time revolts against eternity, the only thing to set against it is genuine eternity itself, and not some other time which has already roused, and not without reason, a violent reaction against itself.
- Berdyaev

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Offline Hinterlander

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2016, 10:28:35 AM »
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Offline Alpo

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2016, 10:33:58 AM »
Reading at halfway now. Seems spot on in that we don't actually want to be Christians.
I just need to find out how to say it in Slavonic!

Offline RobS

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2016, 10:48:52 AM »
Superb article, never read anything by DBH before.

So what do we do? Just become defeatist and say being a Christian is impossible or strive?

One of my favorite parts in the article

Quote
Because one thing in remarkably short supply in the New Testament is common sense. The Gospels, the epistles, Acts, Revelation—all of them are relentless torrents of exorbitance and extremism: commands to become as perfect as God in his heaven and to live as insouciantly as lilies in their field; condemnations of a roving eye as equivalent to adultery and of evil thoughts toward another as equivalent to murder; injunctions to sell all one’s possessions and to give the proceeds to the poor, and demands that one hate one’s parents for the Kingdom’s sake and leave the dead to bury the dead. This extremism is not merely an occasional hyperbolic presence in the texts;
"The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death (μελεπᾷν ἀποθνήσκειν)."

— Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Fragment XI

Modernist thinking and being consists of nothing but uncritical acceptance.

Offline Opus118

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2016, 11:15:59 AM »
Reading at halfway now. Seems spot on in that we don't actually want to be Christians.

Finished it.

I do.
If you cannot remember everything, instead of everything, I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs.  If we have this attitude, we will certainly offer our money; and by nourishing Christ in poverty here and laying up great profit hereafter, we will be able to attain the good things which are to come. - St. John Chrysostom

Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2016, 12:32:00 PM »
Insouciantly.
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
...you can imagine so-called healing services of the pigpen. The books that could be written, you know: Life in the Pigpen. How to Cope in the Pigpen. Being Happy in the Pigpen. Surviving in the Pigpen. And then there could be counselling, for people who feel unhappy in the pigpen, to try to get them to come to terms with the pigpen, and to accept the pigpen.

Offline Iconodule

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2016, 12:33:23 PM »
The guy is so awesomely pretentious it becomes a form of humility.
Quote
When a time revolts against eternity, the only thing to set against it is genuine eternity itself, and not some other time which has already roused, and not without reason, a violent reaction against itself.
- Berdyaev

If you would like a private forum for non-polemical topics, comment here.

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2016, 12:36:24 PM »
The guy is so awesomely pretentious purple.

For someone who criticisms Christian emperors saints so much, this man is certainly draped in a lot of purple.. is cI think when it comes to reading things like this, anymore I approach Carnap's disdain of Heidegger: "Metaphysicians are musicians without musical ability."

How many of these people are ultra cantankerous failed artists?

My guess is I'd have to slog through thousands upon thousands of tortured pages of his quaint German academic folk traditions and customs to find out what he really means by "capitalism", if he means anything at all by it.  Is he talking about economic systems? Is he talking about a critique of secularism?  What does this matter? Does he want a communist theocracy?  Does he want to take a "more hip" version of "The Benedict Option"?

Why is he criticizing someone for using "common sense" in one area, then saying "Christ's words are unambiguous" in the same article?  Saying the "teachings are plain" here, but in other articles points out that ultra allegory and nuance is the way to go?  Dismissing one Church Father in one area, while pointing to desert monks in another?  I'm confused.

And when people start to ask him for clarifications, he just hurls invective after invective on them.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2016, 12:59:44 PM by William T »

Offline Agabus

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2016, 12:48:13 PM »
The guy is so awesomely pretentious it becomes a form of humility.

It was published in Commonweal.
Blessed Nazarius practiced the ascetic life. His clothes were tattered. He wore his shoes without removing them for six years.

THE OPINIONS HERE MAY NOT REFLECT THE ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED ORTHODOX CHURCH

Take a breath, read Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Offline Alpo

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2016, 01:21:46 PM »
Read the latter half too. The first one was better.

His point was interesting and I grant that it's not possible to get through every argument in a relatively short article. Still, wasn't convinced of what I understood to be his main point i.e. according to the NT wealth in itself is a bad thing. He left hyberbola unconsidered and IMO made a too strong contrast between his position and the position that wealth is bad only conditionally. IMO in practice there doesn't need to be that much difference if we took the latter position seriously.

Also, he left the Fathers out. Random references to St. Clement doesn't save that. IIRC the guy's Orthodox so that's pretty weird approach.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2016, 01:23:09 PM by Alpo »
I just need to find out how to say it in Slavonic!

Offline Iconodule

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2016, 01:38:37 PM »
He only mentioned Clement because (according to him, at least) Clement was the first to start mitigating this position on wealth. If he had referenced more of the Fathers after Clement there would probably just be more of the same. But yeah, it would have been interesting to see him bring in Fathers before Clement.

He does seem to mention the possibility of hyperbole and dismisses it offhand due to what he sees as the pervasiveness of these themes in the texts.

I honestly can't say I have the expertise to affirm whether he's right or not.
Quote
When a time revolts against eternity, the only thing to set against it is genuine eternity itself, and not some other time which has already roused, and not without reason, a violent reaction against itself.
- Berdyaev

If you would like a private forum for non-polemical topics, comment here.

Offline RobS

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2016, 01:39:53 PM »
My guess is I'd have to slog through thousands upon thousands of tortured pages of his quaint German academic folk traditions and customs to find out what he really means by "capitalism", if he means anything at all by it.  Is he talking about economic systems? Is he talking about a critique of secularism?  What does this matter? Does he want a communist theocracy?  Does he want to take a "more hip" version of "The Benedict Option"?
Basically what Capitalism holds dear and valuable is totally incompatible with Christianity, as DBH understands it. I don't think you need to read tomes on what Capitalism is, a basic understanding of it should be enough in the context of this article. Christianity becomes the best critique against capitalism but this idea is nothing new.

Quote
Why is he criticizing someone for using "common sense" in one area, then saying "Christ's words are unambiguous" in the same article?  Saying the "teachings are plain" here, but in other articles points out that ultra allegory and nuance is the way to go?  Dismissing one Church Father in one area, while pointing to desert monks in another?  I'm confused.

Because Christ turns common sense on its head. He's right, nothing Christ says is ambiguous at all. Basically he's saying with the Desert Fathers is they took the Gospel for what it is and had no desire to make that conform to whatever society's "common sense" had at the time. The core of Christianity is revolutionary and radical and totally at odds with worldly wisdom. Look at how he describes Christians who stick to the NT and how they would be perceived today, pretty much as lunatics.
"The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death (μελεπᾷν ἀποθνήσκειν)."

— Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Fragment XI

Modernist thinking and being consists of nothing but uncritical acceptance.

Offline RobS

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2016, 01:45:34 PM »
Is this guy pretentious? Maybe, but I thought he was honest about how his translation of the NT led him to different conclusions than when he started. I found a lot of the stuff he wrote about to be very interesting. Yeah some of his words can be silly but I've read some serious try hard academic that put his to shame.
"The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death (μελεπᾷν ἀποθνήσκειν)."

— Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Fragment XI

Modernist thinking and being consists of nothing but uncritical acceptance.

Offline Iconodule

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2016, 01:47:01 PM »
My guess is I'd have to slog through thousands upon thousands of tortured pages of his quaint German academic folk traditions and customs to find out what he really means by "capitalism", if he means anything at all by it.

Nah, you could probably just stick with chapter 1 of Capital and the Communist Manifesto. Seriously, all the basics are in there.

Quote
Does he want a communist theocracy?  Does he want to take a "more hip" version of "The Benedict Option"?

I couldn't answer for him, but I think throwing our arms up and saying, "Well, what's your solution?" is a less than honest way to answer a critique. Just because there aren't ready solutions doesn't mean the problems should be ignored.

Quote
And when people start to ask him for clarifications, he just hurls invective after invective on them.

That's what makes him so endearing.
Quote
When a time revolts against eternity, the only thing to set against it is genuine eternity itself, and not some other time which has already roused, and not without reason, a violent reaction against itself.
- Berdyaev

If you would like a private forum for non-polemical topics, comment here.

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2016, 01:57:40 PM »
Read the latter half too. The first one was better.

His point was interesting and I grant that it's not possible to get through every argument in a relatively short article. Still, wasn't convinced of what I understood to be his main point i.e. according to the NT wealth in itself is a bad thing. He left hyberbola unconsidered and IMO made a too strong contrast between his position and the position that wealth is bad only conditionally. IMO in practice there doesn't need to be that much difference if we took the latter position seriously.

Also, he left the Fathers out. Random references to St. Clement doesn't save that. IIRC the guy's Orthodox so that's pretty weird approach.

I drew that conclusion as his main point as well.  And his prescription seems to be this:  become monks, go out in the desert, navel gaze, and die.  And my guess is, while you are doing that also do sublime allegorical interpretations of text after text and discuss / argue over them with each other  That's what it seems to mean to be a Christian to Hart.  That's a bit smug and self congratulatory to me. This is kind of what I picture as a philosopher gone wild.  It is a philosopher who tells us to be more like....philosophers.  It's the equivalent of the engineer who sees nothing but building bridges everywhere, it's a completely naive and insular view.

Offline ialmisry

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2016, 01:58:22 PM »
Superb article, never read anything by DBH before.

So what do we do? Just become defeatist and say being a Christian is impossible or strive?

One of my favorite parts in the article

Quote
Because one thing in remarkably short supply in the New Testament is common sense. The Gospels, the epistles, Acts, Revelation—all of them are relentless torrents of exorbitance and extremism: commands to become as perfect as God in his heaven and to live as insouciantly as lilies in their field; condemnations of a roving eye as equivalent to adultery and of evil thoughts toward another as equivalent to murder; injunctions to sell all one’s possessions and to give the proceeds to the poor, and demands that one hate one’s parents for the Kingdom’s sake and leave the dead to bury the dead. This extremism is not merely an occasional hyperbolic presence in the texts;
What does he do about the Gospel command to "be as wise as serpents"?
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

Offline ialmisry

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #16 on: September 28, 2016, 01:58:59 PM »
The guy is so awesomely pretentious it becomes a form of humility.
you pretty much hit on it.
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

Offline RobS

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #17 on: September 28, 2016, 02:06:15 PM »
Superb article, never read anything by DBH before.

So what do we do? Just become defeatist and say being a Christian is impossible or strive?

One of my favorite parts in the article

Quote
Because one thing in remarkably short supply in the New Testament is common sense. The Gospels, the epistles, Acts, Revelation—all of them are relentless torrents of exorbitance and extremism: commands to become as perfect as God in his heaven and to live as insouciantly as lilies in their field; condemnations of a roving eye as equivalent to adultery and of evil thoughts toward another as equivalent to murder; injunctions to sell all one’s possessions and to give the proceeds to the poor, and demands that one hate one’s parents for the Kingdom’s sake and leave the dead to bury the dead. This extremism is not merely an occasional hyperbolic presence in the texts;
What does he do about the Gospel command to "be as wise as serpents"?

Sure there's lots of stuff that wasn't included, but so what? He didn't post a book that covered everything. And your  command doesn't really fit with the subject of the article which is more about Christ's admonishing those who pursue earthly wealth and wealth in itself. I don't think there is anything he wrote that was so totally profound either.
"The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death (μελεπᾷν ἀποθνήσκειν)."

— Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Fragment XI

Modernist thinking and being consists of nothing but uncritical acceptance.

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2016, 02:08:34 PM »
Is this guy pretentious? Maybe, but I thought he was honest about how his translation of the NT led him to different conclusions than when he started. I found a lot of the stuff he wrote about to be very interesting. Yeah some of his words can be silly but I've read some serious try hard academic that put his to shame.

That is interesting no doubt, and if he stated that in his article it's honest inquiry and research.  But at that point all that can be said is he has formed an interesting hypothesis that has to be submitted to a broader and larger field than himself.  I personally can't look at the conclusion as much more than that.

Offline augustin717

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2016, 02:14:35 PM »
This is trolling at its best. Watch the usual suspects getting all up in arms when someone takes , uhm, seriously , not those passages they are used to take seriously, but passages they have exegetes the blood out of .
"I saw a miracle where 2 people entered church one by baptism and one by chrismation. On pictures the one received by full baptism was shinning in light the one by chrismation no."

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2016, 02:23:09 PM »
My guess is I'd have to slog through thousands upon thousands of tortured pages of his quaint German academic folk traditions and customs to find out what he really means by "capitalism", if he means anything at all by it.

Nah, you could probably just stick with chapter 1 of Capital and the Communist Manifesto. Seriously, all the basics are in there.

Quote
Does he want a communist theocracy?  Does he want to take a "more hip" version of "The Benedict Option"?

I couldn't answer for him, but I think throwing our arms up and saying, "Well, what's your solution?" is a less than honest way to answer a critique. Just because there aren't ready solutions doesn't mean the problems should be ignored.

Quote
And when people start to ask him for clarifications, he just hurls invective after invective on them.

That's what makes him so endearing.

I think Marx did come up with the term Capitalism, and I've read a lot of Marx (who is not very readable) due to trying to figure out what some of my Marxist philosopher (not economist) friends were on about.  That stated, it's hard to tell from Marxists what "Marx really meant".  And at this point, I think it's just a fact that Marx is pretty much refuted and I'm baffled why so many in the humanities are drawn to Marxian analysis, when it has next to nothing to do with anything.  My guess is because it is a very critical and not very prescriptive method.  If I were to take Marx seriously as an economist, I would just say he is an outdated Ricardian economist. 

And I think this somewhat relates to your second point.  Critical methods like this, on their own are highly problematic and simply play to the philosophers technical trade of questioning things in a very particular and limited way.  To label complex human things as a "problem/solution" category so easily is a methodological error, and in Harts own words " civically reprobate, ideologically unsound, economically destructive, politically irresponsible, socially discreditable, and really just a bit indecent."  So I guess if I dislike that, I'm not Xtian...but for me that is also congruous with me not being a big fan of killing fields, gulags, secret police, reigns of terror (it's amazing how quickly such people will go from a rhetoric of justice to a rhetoric of terror), inquisitions, and so forth.  The way I see "common" moral sentiments that Hart is dismissing, they are ones that would not opt for those things.   What does this have to do with capitalism vs communism and economic systems?  Absolutely nothing, it has to do with a method of inquiry into these things, and Hart's methods on this point seem incorrect to me.  If a Capitalist were to apply economic growth models the same way (as is often the case) I don't expect good results.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2016, 02:25:14 PM by William T »

Offline ialmisry

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2016, 02:37:04 PM »
This is trolling at its best. Watch the usual suspects getting all up in arms when someone takes , uhm, seriously , not those passages they are used to take seriously, but passages they have exegetes the blood out of .
you mean the passages that some like to wrench out of all context?
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

Offline Iconodule

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2016, 02:45:50 PM »
William, do you actually dispute anything regarding DBH's characterization of the early Christian community? I thought the broad outline he provided is pretty generally accepted, even if downplayed as specific to the time. Apart from that you are reading a great deal into Hart that is just not there. Because he hasn't fleshed out some solution, you are filling the vacuum with your own assumptions about what he wants.

I'm not sure what you mean "Marx is pretty much refuted." Marx wrote a lot of things. A lot of his predictions, obviously, didn't pan out and his historical determinism painted with too broad a brush. Dialectical/ historical materialism is fundamentally untrue but, due to man's generally carnal way of doing things, still serves as a pretty good explainer for a lot of our behavior and thinking.

Marx is important in understanding capitalism because he was probably the first economist to treat capitalism as a distinct system with a particular place in history and its own peculiar dynamics. Other economists tended to deal in universal economic laws which more or less held true throughout history.

You say, "The way I see 'common' moral sentiments that Hart is dismissing, they are ones that would not opt for those things." It seems to me "common sense" Christianity, that legitimizes wealth, power, and violence, has allowed for a great many terrible things including colonialism, world wars, genocide, crushing income disparities, etc.
Quote
When a time revolts against eternity, the only thing to set against it is genuine eternity itself, and not some other time which has already roused, and not without reason, a violent reaction against itself.
- Berdyaev

If you would like a private forum for non-polemical topics, comment here.

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2016, 03:05:12 PM »
I think you may be right that I'm reading too much into this and bringing baggage from past disputes I was alluding to.  I was used to disagreeing with Marx as a "pure economist" and as the "New Marxism" of Marcuse / Foucault acolytes (that stuff got really out there, and that's something I have a supreme distaste for). And to point out, my concern isn't a critique of an economic system in favor of another, it was of method of inquiry and certain metaphysical presuppositions that got tied into the whole thing.  I don't have much patience for any libertarian argument I've heard, often times for the same reasons*.

But yeah I agree with you on what Marx was refuted on (that and value theory, which wasn't his but central to his thesis), and that was what was chiefly on my mind.  And you would be right to say that there is value in saying that he may have been the first to spot a peculiar dynamic, that is definitely a contribution.  I guess any other conversation on this would have to start from square 1 on a new thread because it is a complex subject and I'd have to spend a considerable amount of time to prepare a more concise argument or position.

As for "common sense" Christianity doing those things - once again it would take work to see where each of us are coming  from.  But if we can point to something that should be easy to latch onto, if we are talking about a lot of the politics / Christianity in America or Russia today or the 16th-19th century missionary work of a lot of colonial powers, or specifically condemned heresies of "orthodox" nationalism / 3rd Rome; I agree it is very pernicious and troublesome.  I think we are, once again, just approaching it from a different angle.  And I'll add I'm not used to thinking of that first and foremost, because I'm used to dealing with a whole different set of people and arguments "from the other side".  That may be a huge problem on my part when trying to communicate to a general audience.  In my life, I've dealt with far more bohemians, radical philosophers, etc than I have with religious fanatics. And at this point I may be being overly "meta" as well.  I wasn't actually thinking about Christian moral sentiments in particular, but how moral sentiments work in general, and how critiques of moral sentiments or establishment of "new" moral sentiments by many of the more radical philosophers tends to be problematic.

As for how the early Christian community acted:

I won't dispute whatever the main consensus is.  I guess I have a hard time imagining that the average Corinthian, Thessalonian, etc didn't have property and lived as pure communists, but if they did, fine.  I mostly picture Xtians living wothin the norms of any given community. And outside of the book of acts, I don't know if there were any laws (such as in the Didache) specifically requiring the average Christian to live in communistic communities. In my Roman history books, they state that the early main base of gentiles that were Christians were patrician class women and many "middle class" / merchant class / artisan people.  I guess I pictured that in my head, but I'm not married to the idea and it doesn't affect me one way or the other.  I was also under the impression that the main "pagan" hold outs were provincial farmers and a few academics, and that the word "pagan" means something like "country bumpkin", once again I'm not married to that notion, it's just a fact that flew by me at some point.

* I will however defend Ayn Rand as a top tier pulp fiction writer on one or two of her shorter works that don't have crazy manifesto speeches.  Marx was a horrible poet, but certainly a better economist and philosopher than Rand, who ought not count as a philosopher but rather a Cult leader like fellow pulp novelist L Ron Hubbard.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2016, 03:39:51 PM by William T »

Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2016, 08:23:42 PM »
Quote
...I think it reasonable to ask not whether we are Christians (by that standard, all fall short), but whether in our wildest imaginings we could ever desire to be the kind of persons that the New Testament describes as fitting the pattern of life in Christ. And I think the fairly obvious answer is that we could not. I do not mean merely that most of us find the moral requirements laid out in Christian scripture a little onerous, though of course we do ...Rather, I mean that most of us would find Christians truly cast in the New Testament mold fairly obnoxious: civically reprobate, ideologically unsound, economically destructive, politically irresponsible, socially discreditable, and really just a bit indecent.

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/christs-rabble

The natural will seem unnatural in an unnatural society. I know this is trite, but I wonder if any band of the Christian "spectrum" has really considered it in relation to Christ the Teacher. Some exegetes imply he was a poet, some a subtlist, some a reprover, some a revolutionary. What if he taught what was necessary to restore balance, to return Man to its natural and fruitful way of living?
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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Alpo

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2016, 01:44:34 AM »
He only mentioned Clement because (according to him, at least) Clement was the first to start mitigating this position on wealth. If he had referenced more of the Fathers after Clement there would probably just be more of the same. But yeah, it would have been interesting to see him bring in Fathers before Clement.

He does seem to mention the possibility of hyperbole and dismisses it offhand due to what he sees as the pervasiveness of these themes in the texts.

I can't help feeling that the article is not too far from Sola Scriptura. He's smart and probably wouldn't agree with it but it really does seem like that. One man reading the Bible and taking the opposite approach than that of Fathers' basically because "Well I've read the Bible".
« Last Edit: September 29, 2016, 01:46:07 AM by Alpo »
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2016, 05:22:00 PM »
William, do you actually dispute anything regarding DBH's characterization of the early Christian community? I thought the broad outline he provided is pretty generally accepted...

Is it, though? 

I read the article in the OP and it doesn't seem to address

a) the existence of references to Jesus' wealthy followers who remain wealthy, such as the women in Lk 8.1-3 who seem to be giving a bit more than two mites here and there if they're providing the means for thirteen men to travel all over Palestine, or more certainly Joseph of Arimathea (whom Matthew describes as a rich man) and Nicodemus (who, according to John's description, was able to buy an insane and probably unnecessary amount of burial supplies on short notice);

b) the existence of house churches, which implies (to me, anyway) Christians who own property that is their own and open it up to the use of the community without necessarily turning it into a commune (e.g., Philemon, who apparently has a guest room ready for Paul's use);

c) Paul's collection for the Christians of Jerusalem, for which he instructs each of his Corinthian converts to give "as he may prosper" (which is not exactly "sell everything like Barnabas or die like Ananias and Sapphira");

d) Paul's own ownership of property (e.g., cloaks, books, parchments) which he asks others to bring to him rather than, say, living strictly according to the Lord's teaching recorded in places like Mt 10.9;

and possibly other counterexamples.  ISTM the move from what Hart calls "communism" to something decidedly not "communism" was happening even while the NT texts were being written, and not just around the time of Clement of Alexandria. 

Hart spends some time interpreting Paul's exhortation to Timothy in I Tim 6 in such a way that it confirms his own presupposition, but considering what he has done with the interpretation of James 4.13ff, I'm not sure he can be trusted.  He takes James 4.13ff to be focused on "planning to gain profits", connecting it to 5.1ff, but that passage ends with a reference to Job as an example from which to derive encouragement.  Job, you will recall, ends up wealthier in the end than he was at the beginning, so he's hardly an icon of holy poverty. 

I wasn't very impressed with this piece.   
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Offline augustin717

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2016, 05:36:00 PM »
It's highly unlikely that both Joseph and Nicodemus are historical persons .
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2016, 05:48:18 PM »
It's highly unlikely that both Joseph and Nicodemus are historical persons .

Well that settles that. 
Mor Ephrem is a nice guy.  Just say sorry and it will all be ok. Say I had things that were inside troubling me but I didn't know how to express appropriately. I will not behave that way again but I am seeking help.

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2016, 10:00:35 PM »
Also, he left the Fathers out. Random references to St. Clement doesn't save that. IIRC the guy's Orthodox so that's pretty weird approach.

I can't help feeling that the article is not too far from Sola Scriptura. He's smart and probably wouldn't agree with it but it really does seem like that. One man reading the Bible and taking the opposite approach than that of Fathers' basically because "Well I've read the Bible".

I completely agree with both of your posts and got the same feeling. In fact, he's really really read the Bible! In Koine Greek! And kudos to him for doing so, but it seems quite strange to provide his interpretations so seemingly free of Patristic guidance and Church teaching.


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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2016, 10:19:14 PM »
He does seem to mention the possibility of hyperbole and dismisses it offhand due to what he sees as the pervasiveness of these themes in the texts.

I honestly can't say I have the expertise to affirm whether he's right or not.

It did seem to be, as you wrote, an offhand dismissal. I'm not sure why hyperbole can't be used pervasively. But I similarly have no expertise to say either way.

Despite the criticisms, particularly those Alpo brought up, I do think the article makes some important points about the early Christians and echoes certain observations Robert Louis Wilken made in his book, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Most particularly, that the early Christians weren't viewed as a reasonable, mature, "common-sense" people. Instead, Wilken argues, they were viewed as a superstitious cult, or as "a tiny, peculiar, antisocial, irreligious sect, drawing its adherents from the lower strata of society."

And how this possible reality of the early Christians relates to who we are and what we should be is challenging as well.
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #31 on: September 29, 2016, 11:29:38 PM »
It's highly unlikely that both Joseph and Nicodemus are historical persons .

Well that settles that. 

 :D


Meanwhile back in the non-random tangential portions of the thread, interesting sola scriptura critique, Mor. I see what you did there.

And my apologies for the dreaded hat trick of consecutive thread posts.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2016, 11:32:21 PM by Cognomen »
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #32 on: September 30, 2016, 12:00:42 AM »
... observations Robert Louis Wilken made in his book, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them.

An interesting little polemic, but very short of primary sources. Most chapters reference a small fragment, and then go on to speculate freely. Some chapters even reference a fragment that has no mention of or relation to Christians at all -- the author then follows the tried-and-true academic practice of circularly proving that the Romans thought thus-and-so of the Christians, because the Romans were thus (referencing fragment) and we know the Christians were so (begging the question upon which the chapter then freely expands).

Even if these shortcomings weren't a problem, the books still chooses largely to ignore (as is de rigeur for such "facts-only" investigations) the Apostles' writings; and then also the evidence of what the Church was like in later centuries. This kind of lopping-off analysis is common, but it results in a thesis precariously founded on a shard of what should be a whole. The reasoning, of course, is that the Apostles can't be used because they are too religious and too previous to "real" Christianity -- that is, they floundered amid Judaism and Paulism, not yet a real religion. While the later Church can't be used because it is not early enough to be pure. Therefore, a few bits of Justin Martyr is all that's allowable from the Christian depiction of themselves.

The truth is that a great many martyrs were Roman aristocrats, that influential individuals, well-off or in positions of power, often played major roles in St. Paul's successes, and that the eventual acceptance of Christianity by Rome had much to do with educated apologists, powerful nobility and military, and even Confessors, if not in the direct circles of the Emperors, known to them or even befriended by them.

By this I don't mean to deny that Christianity appealed to the prostitutes as well as the publicans, the houseless as well as those who kept a church in her house. Just that a thesis such as "[Christianity was] a tiny, peculiar, antisocial, irreligious sect, drawing its adherents from the lower strata of society" is sensational rather than useful.

The later portions of the book that delve into the philosophers' and Galen's literary interaction with Christian intellectuals are much better done and more fruitful, but they also don't offer a picture of Christianity in any practical way.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Rohzek

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #33 on: September 30, 2016, 12:46:19 AM »
Christians existed in all sorts of stripes in the pre-Constantine days. One can get a glimpse of them through the works of Tertullian and Cyprian. The former denounced Christian Roman soldiers for merely accepting the crown laurels for their outstanding duty on the battlefield. The latter was mad because many of his flock would eat food from public feasts. Unlike Tertullian and Cyprian, these Christians weren't rabble rousers. However, both considered these actions a betrayal of faith. But is that truly so?

As for David Bentley Hart, I now have the impression that he is supremely overrated and needlessly obfuscating. He has a tendency to be dismissive without explanation, in particular of Analytic Philosophy and of New Atheism. I sympathize greatly with this antipathy towards the latter, but the problem is that he never explains why he disdains it in any great detail. He just says their arguments are stupid in a rhetorical prose that oozes swag. But after the brief period of enthrallment is over with his rhetoric, one quickly realizes that he either doesn't have much of anything of deep substance to say on many issues, or he just wants to wax on and on in the hopes you'll buy his books. I've taken a gander at his books from the library, nothing too deep. But I was profoundly shocked that he gave so few devoted pages to the New Atheists in his book, Atheist Delusions. Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins are barely mentioned. I say this because in his lectures on the subject he talks about them a lot, and then says for deeper arguments look at his book. Not impressed at all.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2016, 12:56:10 AM by Rohzek »
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #34 on: September 30, 2016, 12:51:47 AM »
... observations Robert Louis Wilken made in his book, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them.

An interesting little polemic, but very short of primary sources. Most chapters reference a small fragment, and then go on to speculate freely. Some chapters even reference a fragment that has no mention of or relation to Christians at all -- the author then follows the tried-and-true academic practice of circularly proving that the Romans thought thus-and-so of the Christians, because the Romans were thus (referencing fragment) and we know the Christians were so (begging the question upon which the chapter then freely expands).

Even if these shortcomings weren't a problem, the books still chooses largely to ignore (as is de rigeur for such "facts-only" investigations) the Apostles' writings; and then also the evidence of what the Church was like in later centuries. This kind of lopping-off analysis is common, but it results in a thesis precariously founded on a shard of what should be a whole. The reasoning, of course, is that the Apostles can't be used because they are too religious and too previous to "real" Christianity -- that is, they floundered amid Judaism and Paulism, not yet a real religion. While the later Church can't be used because it is not early enough to be pure. Therefore, a few bits of Justin Martyr is all that's allowable from the Christian depiction of themselves.

The truth is that a great many martyrs were Roman aristocrats, that influential individuals, well-off or in positions of power, often played major roles in St. Paul's successes, and that the eventual acceptance of Christianity by Rome had much to do with educated apologists, powerful nobility and military, and even Confessors, if not in the direct circles of the Emperors, known to them or even befriended by them.

By this I don't mean to deny that Christianity appealed to the prostitutes as well as the publicans, the houseless as well as those who kept a church in her house. Just that a thesis such as "[Christianity was] a tiny, peculiar, antisocial, irreligious sect, drawing its adherents from the lower strata of society" is sensational rather than useful.

The later portions of the book that delve into the philosophers' and Galen's literary interaction with Christian intellectuals are much better done and more fruitful, but they also don't offer a picture of Christianity in any practical way.

Your criticism of Wilken's book, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, is unfair because your not respecting the intentional limited scope of the volume.  If you were looking for a more thorough discussion of the early church that includes some of the sourcing you desire perhaps you should look at his other works that do make use of such material.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2016, 12:52:03 AM by Hinterlander »

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #35 on: September 30, 2016, 01:00:21 AM »
I don't think it's unfair. Too much of his work in the book is sparsely-sourced and highly imaginative. Intent or scope is a separate matter.
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #36 on: September 30, 2016, 01:04:33 AM »
However, both considered these actions a betrayal of faith. But is that truly so?

Yes.

Quote
As for David Bentley Hart, I now have the impression that he is supremely overrated and needlessly obfuscating

The whole breed of litterateurs of our age are puerile and deficient. Mr. Hitchens was much-vaunted; Mr. Buckley, Jr., too, to draw from opposite sides -- but the actual material is often embarrassing. Certainly none can compare well with the essayists of the high modern age or other ages famous for their men and women of letters.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Opus118

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2016, 01:24:37 AM »
William, do you actually dispute anything regarding DBH's characterization of the early Christian community? I thought the broad outline he provided is pretty generally accepted...

Is it, though? 

I read the article in the OP and it doesn't seem to address


I did not find your argument convincing and perhaps you can expand your rebuttal accordingly:

Quote
a) the existence of references to Jesus' wealthy followers who remain wealthy, such as the women in Lk 8.1-3 who seem to be giving a bit more than two mites here and there if they're providing the means for thirteen men to travel all over Palestine, or more certainly Joseph of Arimathea (whom Matthew describes as a rich man) and Nicodemus (who, according to John's description, was able to buy an insane and probably unnecessary amount of burial supplies on short notice);

This is an interpretation and a highly speculative one. The only possible rich person in the first phrase above is Saint Joanna and it is not clear to me that she, in particular, had access to a lot of money. Her husband Chuza possibly, but not necessarily in liquid assets. Is Chuza the "insider" in regard to the trial and crucifixion of Christ? There must have been one. The criticism in any case is that she committed all of her resources to Christ early on and was a safe haven for preserving those resources for contingencies. The same would apply to Arimathea and Nicodemus.  Wells Fargo was not providing unasked for bank accounts back then.


Quote
b) the existence of house churches, which implies (to me, anyway) Christians who own property that is their own and open it up to the use of the community without necessarily turning it into a commune (e.g., Philemon, who apparently has a guest room ready for Paul's use);

I do not get this comment at all. I do not think that Christ was demanding people to be homeless and without shelter in order to become sick sleeping in the rain. If you have a room to spare you give it up. Philemon may have at that time had space or moved someone out to another house to make room for St. Paul.

Quote
c) Paul's collection for the Christians of Jerusalem, for which he instructs each of his Corinthian converts to give "as he may prosper" (which is not exactly "sell everything like Barnabas or die like Ananias and Sapphira");

I did not understand this statement.

Quote
d) Paul's own ownership of property (e.g., cloaks, books, parchments) which he asks others to bring to him rather than, say, living strictly according to the Lord's teaching recorded in places like Mt 10.9;  and possibly other counterexamples.

Are you saying that St. Paul refused to share his cloaks, books, parchments? I am not sure I understand this.

 
My do not understand replies reflects the fact that I did not have the time to look up what you are writing about, at least in part.
If you cannot remember everything, instead of everything, I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs.  If we have this attitude, we will certainly offer our money; and by nourishing Christ in poverty here and laying up great profit hereafter, we will be able to attain the good things which are to come. - St. John Chrysostom

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2016, 05:20:40 PM »
However, both considered these actions a betrayal of faith. But is that truly so?

Yes.

How about no. We're talking Tertullian here. You know, the same Christian who rubbed his hands together with glee when a rich Christian ran out of money to help himself hide and was the summarily executed. You don't become unchristian for putting laurel on your head for a military honor.
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2016, 05:27:39 PM »
However, both considered these actions a betrayal of faith. But is that truly so?

Yes.

How about no. We're talking Tertullian here. You know, the same Christian who rubbed his hands together with glee when a rich Christian ran out of money to help himself hide and was the summarily executed. You don't become unchristian for putting laurel on your head for a military honor.

The Christian Father who has earned the respect of millions of the faithful, you mean. Who shared in the spirit of the Martyrs and Confessors. Who knew that cowardice behind the purse or behind the uniform is not the spirit of Christ. An example of the courageous spirit that eventually stared down even Rome and resulted in (let us pray) your own salvation.
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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #40 on: September 30, 2016, 07:37:37 PM »
I don't think it's unfair. Too much of his work in the book is sparsely-sourced and highly imaginative. Intent or scope is a separate matter.

I don't accept your dismissal of my accusation. Wilkens is intentionally only focusing on a limited set of pagan observers in The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Your criticizing him for not conducting an academic project he didn't set out to accomplish in this particular book. You fault him for not using the writing of the Apostles or the later church when these are outside of his scope.

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #41 on: September 30, 2016, 07:54:17 PM »
I don't think it's unfair. Too much of his work in the book is sparsely-sourced and highly imaginative. Intent or scope is a separate matter.

I don't accept your dismissal of my accusation. Wilkens is intentionally only focusing on a limited set of pagan observers in The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Your criticizing him for not conducting an academic project he didn't set out to accomplish in this particular book. You fault him for not using the writing of the Apostles or the later church when these are outside of his scope.

No that's not what I have been doing. Heartening to see such dogged loyalty from even a minor dabbler's readers, however, who obviously have hearts of gold and no doubt minds of some other metal.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #42 on: September 30, 2016, 10:32:24 PM »
I don't think it's unfair. Too much of his work in the book is sparsely-sourced and highly imaginative. Intent or scope is a separate matter.

I don't accept your dismissal of my accusation. Wilkens is intentionally only focusing on a limited set of pagan observers in The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Your criticizing him for not conducting an academic project he didn't set out to accomplish in this particular book. You fault him for not using the writing of the Apostles or the later church when these are outside of his scope.

No that's not what I have been doing. Heartening to see such dogged loyalty from even a minor dabbler's readers, however, who obviously have hearts of gold and no doubt minds of some other metal.

I think many, even some Orthodox, would disagree with your characterization of Wilkens as a "minor dabbler" in the history of Christianity.  This particular work is from 32 years ago and he has done a lot of scholarship since.

In The Christians as the Romans Saw Them Wilkens sets out to do the following:

Quote
This book is a portrayal of pagan criticism of Christianity from its beginning in the early second century to the time of Julian in the late fourth century, a period of almost three hundred years. I base my discussion on what pagan observers themselves said.

p. xvii of Introduction

Wilkens is not making this decision on sourcing because he dismisses the other Christian sources from the Apostles or from later Church history. This is exactly what you claim in your original critique of this book:

Quote
Even if these shortcomings weren't a problem, the books still chooses largely to ignore (as is de rigeur for such "facts-only" investigations) the Apostles' writings; and then also the evidence of what the Church was like in later centuries. This kind of lopping-off analysis is common, but it results in a thesis precariously founded on a shard of what should be a whole. The reasoning, of course, is that the Apostles can't be used because they are too religious and too previous to "real" Christianity -- that is, they floundered amid Judaism and Paulism, not yet a real religion. While the later Church can't be used because it is not early enough to be pure. Therefore, a few bits of Justin Martyr is all that's allowable from the Christian depiction of themselves.

He obviously makes abundant use of Christian sources in his other works that have a different purpose and scope.

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #43 on: September 30, 2016, 10:45:27 PM »
My posts in their whole lay out my ambivalence with the book. I think it's curious that you apparently sense a duty to shut me up.
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Offline byhisgrace

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Re: David Bentley Hart: Christ's Rabble
« Reply #44 on: October 01, 2016, 02:05:46 PM »
I read the whole article. So, is Hart's main point is that all Christians should become monks/nuns, like the Desert Fathers?
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