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The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Paperback – March 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Soon after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December, Hart penned two essays, one for the Wall Street Journal and another for First Things, concerning the question of theodicy-how a powerful, loving God co-exists with evil and natural disaster. This book expands on the essay's theological thesis that "what God permits, rather than violate the autonomy of the created world, may be in itself contrary to what he wills." Hart, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, wants to rescue God from predestination. The book begins with an elegant description of the geological factors leading to the earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Hart then admits that, upon learning of this devastation, "we should probably all have remained silent for awhile." But since few did, he joined the chorus in an effort to counter some upsetting arguments given to help people understand God's role in the disaster. Writing in a sophisticated, academic style-highlighting the philosophical and theological writings of Voltaire, Aquinas, Dostoyevsky and Calvin-Hart asks Christians to allow themselves to be moved and horrified by violence, natural or human-made, and, at the same time, to acknowledge that God can and someday will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. It's an eloquent and persuasive stance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Outstanding" The Wall Street Journal "This eloquent statement of a Christian facing, once more, the devastations of what is too easily designated "the natural order" is a lucid exposition of what may and may not be said in the name of Jesus Christ about personal and corporate human suffering." Douglas John Hall "In a lifetime of struggling both personally and pastorally with the problem of evil and suffering, I have come across no brief study more immediately relevant than this one... Hart mounts a searing attack on all accounts of horrendous evil that allow observers to offer packaged comfort while contemplating the suffering of others from a safe distance. His critique of the Reformed tradition should be required reading for those of us who have been shaped by it. Above all, in his "rage against explanation," he shows us how we can be true pastoral companions to those who suffer." Fleming Rutledge "Although David Hart is by training a theologian (one of America's finest), he is also a man of letters. In the terrible wake of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami -- and in the face of a world looking for, even demanding, answers -- his is precisely the voice that is needed, a voice as articulate, incisive, and ultimately inspiring as that of C. S. Lewis." John Betz --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802866867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802866868
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Bentley Hart is the author of several books, including In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments and The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. He lives in Providence, RI.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the best work on theodicy I've ever read; and I mean book ON theodicy instead of a book OF theodicy-- Hart's main thesis is that any attempt to reconcile God's infinite goodness with the evils of the world by nature goes against the Christian revelation of the Father who is all light, in whom there is no darkness, in the face of an exceedingly dark world which has separated itself from God. I thought throughout some parts of the book that it would be better if he would expand a bit (as C.S. Lewis in _The Problem of Pain_ and others did) on how it was possible for Adam (created with no inclination towards evil, and certainly no corrupted gnomic will in the sense that we have one) to choose self over God and thereby create a rift between God and man. However, I realized by the end that to do so would be to trivialize-- it is wrong to cooly explain away evil when one should instead attack it and call it out for what it is. Nevertheless, more mentions of the fall, I think, would have made an already fantastic book even better (as, without the fall, the spiritual battle between God and the devil becomes mere Manicheanism. This was, however, addressed a few times in the book, though perhaps not in terms that a theologically illiterate reader could understand or even pick up on.)

I recommend this book to anyone, Christian and non-Christian... I don't understand why Hart is not better known among American theologians, and particularly in the English-speaking Orthodox world, which should be rejoicing that we finally have our own C.S. Lewis-like theologian, instead of just pretending that Lewis was ours. :)
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By G. Kyle Essary on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Bentley Hart is unquestionably one of the most brilliant theological and philosophical minds in America today. This is a fine introduction into his thought through the medium of an important topic.

The purpose for writing this book was to expand the thoughts of a NY Times article that Hart was asked by a friend to write following the tragedy of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami. The monstrous event was followed by hasty responses from people of various philosophical and religious traditions. From one perspective, some atheists wrote that this was clear evidence that God does not exist, as though the multitudes of religious believers worldwide had never considered the gravity of evil in the world, and the implications for such a reality on their belief. From another perspective, some theologians were claiming that God predestined such a catastrophe and that the piles of infant and children bodies were somehow a testimony to God's sovereignty and glory. In light of these seemingly polar opposite arguments (despite their similar theological view of god), Hart responds by expounding on the Christian intellectual tradition against these two opposing views. Hart clearly reserves his greatest criticism for those theologians who distort the Christian tradition to portray God as not subversively working against such tragedy, but willing and using such tragedies.

Hart discusses Voltaire's response to the Lisbon earthquake (a similarly tragic event), positioning it within its historical context, highlighting Voltaire's disdain for the typical theological answers offered to him by those who had a heightened sense of theological optimism and claimed that every evil had a good purpose.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By R. Furlong on September 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Do not be misled by the title. Hart provides the most sensible and satisfactory logic on the role of God in creating and disposing of tragedy. He disposes of Mackie's famous "if God is indeed omnipotent, he manifestly is not good, and if he is good he manifestly is not omnipotent. En route he deals with Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Calvin, fundamentalists, original sin and many other ideas. I have read it twice and I will go back to learn even more. Not a hard read but you must pay attention.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Derrick A. Peterson on May 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Christian theodicy (that is, its defense of an all good, omnipotent, omniscient God in the face of the nihilant evil and suffering of the world) in its variegated forms has the unfortunate tendency to be cold, sterile, and hopelessly esoteric. Hart's book provides an illuminating critique of standard theodicic rebuttals within the world of Christendom, but also a staunch and unrelenting deconstruction of standard atheistic aggrandizing of the "failure" of the Christian system due to misunderstood theological tenants on both sides (that is, both Christian and atheist).

Hart views with a critical eye the notion that the world process as it stands, evil and all, is part of some diligent calculus on God's part, some equilibrium of the "best possible world," or a necessity for God to show his grace. In this brushtroke of his mighty pen he chastizes epigones of Leibniz, Calvin, and others by working through the complaints of Voltair, Dostoevsky, and Mackie. Hart points out that if this were the case, that God has either made this evil for the greater good, or that evil actually has in itself a higher purpose, God would not be the God he is without the evil of this world. His Goodness would necessarily be reactionary, comparative, not essentially good or pure, always caught in the undulating dialectic of good/evil where God, though champion over evil, is the Good Savior only in reference to evil. Rather Hart points out that a truly biblical conception names no purpose to evil, superimposes no grant of life to death. Evil is in fact the ultimate meaninglessness of sin, and has no instrinsic purpose.
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