Perry Robinson’s response to David Bentley Hart

I recently posted a link to David Bentley Hart’s presentation, “God, Creation, and Evil” given at the University of Notre Dame, along with a transcription of part of his presentation. For those of you interested in reading a rebuttal to Hart’s argument, fellow Orthodox Christian scholar, Perry Robinson, has this to say:

Note: Perry’s words were written as a Facebook comment, which is why there are occasional informalities.

He gets Maximus wrong, probably because he has just read Balthasar’s account of him. That is at least the way it smells. The natural will is not the person, it is the power of willing the person uses. His gloss on the natural will ignores the hypostatic employment and the fusion of the mode of willing with the telos of the natural power. More importantly, he ignores or seems unaware of the role that the metaphysical plurality of the divine energies plays in satisfying the AP condition on freedom for Maximus. Fixity in virtue is not incompatible with choosing between a plurality of objects, which was the crucial point against the Monothelites.

Seems unaware of the shift convicting Origen of in fact rejecting the resurrection of the flesh, among other errors, vindicating his critics over the last twenty years. Apparently I can read Studia Patristica and monographs on Origen but he can’t. Is completely clueless about the discussion by Libertarians on the nature of freedom…for the past forty years. This idea that Libertarians are committed to some absolute voluntarism is absurd and the product of gross ignorance. A natural telos of the good is only incompatible with libertarianism if the good is absolutely simple and singular. He is simply reading 17t-18h century Enlightenment conceptions of freedom into….everyone.

Mistakenly thinks that Gnome is permanent, which runs counter to Conciliar Christology. I suspect he gets this from reading Barth because he sure as hell didn’t get it from reading anything in Maximus scholarship…over the last century. Rejects an ecumenical council of the church, imperial or not, it is still dogmatically binding. And that council dealt with a lot more than just Origen.

Trots out the usual Thomist understanding of freedom (which is also Augustinian btw #moreirony) that is Stoic and Plotinian where freedom is construed in terms of efficacy of the will in accomplishing the end, completely ignoring that a determined and/or unfree will can be perfectly efficacious as well That certainly isn’t the notion of freedom in the Cappadocians, Athanasius, Cyril, et al. See Ennead 4 on the determined yet free fall of the souls.

It is entirely irrelevant that Analytic philosophers do not “own” such terms. What is relevant is if he can say why the standard glosses on them are mistaken in some way. Transcendental causality doesn’t get you out of determinism simply because the efficient causation isn’t temporal. So what he has to say about the nature of freedom is irrelevant.

It is highly ironic that the whole, don’t be hatin’ Augustine crowd talks about how wrong Augustine is on a number of issues in the comments of the original post, who simply historicized Origen. They “hate” Augustine when it suits their purpose in glowing ad hoc style.

It seems strange (aka wrong) to speak of necessity in God with respect to the Triad of persons when Athanasius and Cyril both deny necessity and contingency in the Father willing the Son.

He can’t seem to figure out that Universalism doesn’t solve the problem of Hell so it is a non-starter. Either it is the case that the truth of U is contingent or necessary. If the former, if divine goodness is incompatible with an eternal hell, then divine goodness is a contingent fact, since there is some logically possible world where hell is eternal. How does sacrificing divine perfection represent an advance here? In this way Open Theism and Universalism are alike in sacrificing a traditional Christian portrait of deity.

If it is necessary, then we are back to a compatibilist/soft determinist set of conditions on freedom/moral responsibility. hello, Calvinism writ large.

And nowhere do any of the participants point out exactly where the Church teaches universalism as an article of Faith or of the Apostolic deposit.#becausetheycan‘t.

Other than that, his comments seem just great.

I have my own reservations  about what both Hart and Robinson have to say, and perhaps I will write up a response in the near future. For now, though, I thought it right to present another view of this issue in the spirit of intellectual honesty.


3 thoughts on “Perry Robinson’s response to David Bentley Hart

  1. This isn’t just a response to Hart’s Notre Dame piece (Hart doesn’t expound on Maximus at all in the latter) but to something more. Any idea what particular sources Perry is referring to? Or is he just criticizing Hart’s general views and published work?


    • Perry is responding to Hart’s work in general. He has been debating Hart (directly and indirectly) on issues such as free will, St. Maximos vs. St. Augustine, etc. for going on a decade now.


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