I like to try and read beyond the confines of the classic Reformed tradition and so I thought I'd have a go at Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite. Its a weighty 448 page volume and while I hardly ever fail to read a book right to the end, I got stuck on page 44. That was about a year or so ago and the bookmark hasn't moved since. It's not as if I have an aversion to big books. In my 20's I read Berkhof's Systematic Theology from cover to cover. I even finished Kevin Vanhoozer's tightly printed, 488 page The Drama of Doctrine and I'm making good headway with his latest offering, Remythologizing Theology. But when it came to The Beauty of the Infinite I had to admit defeat. It was Part 1: Dionysus against the Crucified that did it. Have a read of this:
In this sense postmodernity would be merely the dialectical completion of the metaphysical project, the homecoming not of Geist but of a protean and capricious god for whom creation and destruction are as one. With the disappearance of the Idea, the flux of unlikeness does not abate, but overflows its banks; an ephemeral Parmenides yields to an everlasting Heracletios; the intricate achitectural ingenuity of Apollonian violence exhausts itself before the unmasterable pandemonium of Dionysian violence; Socrates drinks hemlock, but Athens remains - forever at war. (p. 39).
Comprende? Not me. The effort of typing out that excerpt didn't help either. I left school with a Classical Studies 'O' Level - Grade C, and therefore have a nodding acquaintance with Homer. Yet Hart's text is so packed with Classical allusions that I can't follow what he's trying to say. That might well be my fault for being so ignorant, but I'm still stuck on page 44 and can't see myself coming unstuck anytime soon. This is a shame as the author can write with great bite, clarity and verve when it suits him. Have a look at this article in First Things for a rather more accessible DBH, where he lays into the "New Atheists". HT Gary Benfold.
Which books have defeated you?