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Thursday, January 07, 2010

David Bentley Hart on death

I came across a talk (mp3 file) by David Bentley Hart from 2006 on end of life issues, given at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and titled An End to All Endings. You can download the file for free at their site, but I thought I'd transcribe just a tiny bit from his talk (sorry for any transcription errors) ......


[...] Having departed from the garden of our first innocence, as I called it earlier, we're called not to become disenchanted realists, content to dwell here under the dominion of death, looking for rationales for why there is death, why this person died, refusing to acknowledge the sheer idiot hideousness of death, refusing to recognize death as a thing that is evil but instead learning to be wise and at peace with it -- no! We're summoned, rather, to enter into the city of a second and higher innocence which knows death only as a shadow and a falsehood overcome by infinite love ........

If I had lost my child ... I would want the absolute evil of my son's death to be acknowledged. To be told that it was God's good Will or part of God's plan would be obscene to me and would, of course, make either hate my comforter or hate God or hate both .... when it comes time to say something, say nothing that suggests, and this is both fidelity to the Gospel and compassion to someone who's suffering, say nothing that suggests that the death of that child was anything but an absolute and damnable evil. Do not ask people to find comfort in such things or to see a deeper meaning in them or accept them .... many Christians ... rationalize death in a way that may be comforting but I don't think Christian.


The talk in its entirety is interesting -- Hart mentions his book The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami? -- and he answers some questions at the end.


Blogger Fran said...

What an interesting sounding talk - you provide a provocative excerpt Crystal, thank you.

3:18 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Fran,

It was hard to choose what part to put in the post - I kept changing it :)

12:38 PM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

One thing I NEVER do in my work at Seattle Children's Hospital is to suggest that it was God's plan or anything resembling that. I just say flat out that I don't know why children die, and that that will be the first question I ask God after I die. Somewhere not long after that I'll usually affirm that I do believe we have a good and loving God who does love children, but I admit honestly that I don't understand it.

Thanks for the post.

3:25 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


If I were a parent whose child had died, I'm sure I would appreciate you telling me that you don'y know wht stuff like that happens - the acknowledgement that such an event seems incopatible with a loving God, a God of the living, seems both honest and compassionate.

5:46 PM  

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