“The infinite wellspring of all actuality”

February 4, 2011

I recently recommended this essay, written a couple of years ago, to someone with whom I was discussing Christian faith and atheism. My interlocutor wondered why David Bentley Hart was getting so worked up by Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell—as if Dennett’s harmless little book were hardly worth the attention that an intellect so fierce as Hart’s lavishes upon it. As someone who argues passionately about the nuances of The Gilmore Girls, I’m unsympathetic with that view.

I like this paragraph especially (even though, yes, I had to look up a couple of words):

Certainly the Christian should be undismayed by the notion that religion is natural “all the way down.” Indeed, it should not matter whether religion is the result of evolutionary imperatives, or of an inclination toward belief inscribed in our genes and in the structure of our brains, or even (more fantastically) of memes that have impressed themselves on our minds and cultures and languages. All things are natural. But nature itself is created toward an end—its consummation in God—and is informed by a more eminent causality—the creative will of God—and is sustained in existence by its participation in the being that flows from God, who is the infinite wellspring of all actuality. And religion, as a part of nature, possesses an innate entelechy and is oriented like everything else toward the union of God and his creatures. Nor should the Christian expect to find any lacunae in the fabric of nature, needing to be repaired by the periodic interventions of a cosmic maintenance technician. God’s transcendence is absolute: He is cause of all things by giving existence to the whole, but nowhere need he act as a rival to any of the contingent, finite, secondary causes by which the universe lives, moves, and has its being in him.

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