It takes time to absorb David Bentley Hart’s sprawling and difficult book, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Eerdmans, 2003). Most reviews that I have read are full of qualifiers, noting that there is far more to this book than can be captured in a summary, and often admitting candidly that the reviewer has not yet mastered the material.
Part of this is because of Hart’s writing style. He is not difficult in the way that many academic writers are difficult; his writing is not sloppy or intentionally obscure. Indeed, there is often a poetic, soaring and persuasive quality to his prose. His sentence structure sometimes rivals the apostle Paul’s for complexity, but when pondered everything he says is clear. He is difficult because he is holding so many strands of thought together and because he is in dialogue with such a wide variety of thinkers.
The book begins with an introductory section in which Hart helpfully defines his terms and outlines his project. He begins with a question: “Is the beauty to whose persuasive power the Christian rhetoric of evangelism inevitably appeals, and upon which it depends, theologically defensible?” The book can be understood not only as an attempt to answer this question but as an attempt to justify the centrality of the question for Christian theology.