David Bentley Hart is a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy with a recent Ph.D. in theology from the University of Virginia. This volume, his first book, is a much-revised form of his dissertation. Given the scope of its references and sheer intellectual flair, I can think of no more brilliant work by an American theologian in the past ten years—a remarkable beginning for a theological career. But be forewarned—this is tough going, distinctly not the book to take to the beach.
Three thinkers seem Hart’s most important influences: John Milbank, Gregory of Nyssa and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Let me use the occasion of this review to try to explain aspects of the work of three very complex theologians and then talk about how Hart ties them together.