I pre-ordered Hart’s most recent book as soon as I discovered it would be released. I like Hart’s work and I found his New Testament translation to be mostly helpful despite its many shortcomings. His new book is thought provoking and contains at least three hard to beat arguments for apokatastasis (the doctrine that God will redeem every last living soul in the end). I’ll write about it in the future. To be honest, I’m nearly convinced.
But this book helped be realize something else about Hart that I had only ever had intimations of, but never quite verbalized.
Hart’s verbal invective is something I used to excuse as the result of reading so much rhetoric from the eras he studies most, a fun way to be in an otherwise stultifying and boring life: academia. I took his rudeness as a sort of acquired by study version ancient honor-shame culture that men of great ambition used to utilize to make important points. Teddy Roosevelt made awesome insults, so did Seneca, Jesus, Augustine, the puritans, etc.
So when people complain about Hart’s verbal abuse, I’ve always taken them to be thin-skinned. If Hart is too mean, then isn’t Jesus?
But thinking back through it, Hart treats scholars with whom he shares 99% agreement as imbeciles if they do not agree with even his most obscurantist viewpoints. This is not mere rhetorical flourish, but an inability to empathize with other viewpoints. More importantly, they give them impression of being the angry lashings out of somebody who feels bullied. Now, who feels bullied by slight disagreements? Typically the physically unthreatening or inept. The man who feels rejected by the physical culture of other men fells that his only weapons are words. Men like this have no other way to hurt people they feel misunderstood by. I’ve met a lot of academics and quite a few of them have this problem. May Hart’s compassion for those who misunderstand him grow in proportion to his belief in God’s grace.