Thursday, August 19, 2004

Salvation According to David Bentley Hart

"1. Salvation occurs by way of recapitulation, the restoration of the human image in Christ, the eternal image of the Father after whom humanity was created in the beginning; thus salvation consists in the recovery of a concrete form, and in the restoration of an original beauty." (The Beauty of the Infinite, 318)

Well, this sounds a lot like the very thing Dean was emphasizing in response to my last point. Salvation not so much as salvation from, but salvation for. What we've got going on here, among other things, is a debate on to what extent and in what way the doctrine of creation is related to the doctrine of salvation. For Hart, salvation seems to be a salvaging (although he chooses the words recapitulation and recovery, and may believe the term salvage too strong or wrong-headed).

Let's say a painting exists that has, over time, become so covered with soot and dust that it is darkened and covered up beyond recognition. Underneath, the painting is as beautiful as ever before, but the conditions under which it has been stored have brought it to this unrecognizable state. Another artist comes along, seems underneath the soot and dirt, cleans the painting, and restores it to its original beauty.

But there is another painting, and soon after its having been painted and dried, it gets near a candle and is burned beyond recognition. The artist is saddened by this loss, and so decides to become the painting itself. In the process, the artist enters into the burnt work of art, and bursts forth from the burnt painting and all its burnt-ness, establishing a new work of art that is certainly part and parcel of the previous painting, but is also something more- the new piece of art contains marks of the burning, but in such a way that the artistry is enhanced, the painting is the old made new, but in a way that makes the old even more than it was before, and the new something more beautiful than could have possibly been imagined even when the beholder was looking at the old painting and had called it very good.

Do these two stories help us distinguish issues around the relationship between creation/redemption/salvation and the language of recapitulation vs. new creation?

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