Thursday, June 7, 2012


This post is an extension of my previous post, picking up where it left off. The very next passage in The Beauty of the Infinite elaborates on the idea that Christianity, properly understood, is not a retreat -- spiritual or physical -- to some far-off world, but is rather a joyful celebration and affirmation of God's good creation, made possible by the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. While Nietzsche sees in the Dionysian the joyful embrace of life -- in all its terrible, majestic power and splendor -- that Christianity rejects, Hart wishes to instead pit Dionysus against The Crucified using a typology of wine, and the riposte is brilliant.

"Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God" (Mark 14:25; cf. Matt. 26-29; Luke 22:18)—wine clearly appears here as the perfect and concrete emblem of the beauty of creation and the joy of dwelling at peace in the midst of others: not the wine of Dionysus, which makes fellowship impossible, promising only intoxication, brute absorption into the turba, anonymity, and violence, but the wine of the wedding feast of Cana, or of the wedding feast of the Lamb. The wine of Dionysus is no doubt the coarsest vintage, intended to blind with drunkenness […] the wine repeatedly associated with madness, anthropophagy, slaughter, warfare, and rapine. The wine of Scripture on the other hand, is first and foremost a divine blessing and image of God’s bounty (Gen. 27:28; Dt. 7:13; 11:14; Ps. 104:15; Prov. 3:10; Isa. 25:6; 65:8; Jer. 31:12; Joel 2:19-24; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14; Zech. 9:17) and an appropriate thank offering by which to declare Israel’s love for God (Ex. 29.40; Lev 23:13; Num. 15:5-10; 18:12; 28:14; Deut. 14:23); it is the wine that cheers the hearts of men (Judg. 9:13); the sign of God’s renewed covenant with his people (Is. 55:1-3); the drink of lovers (Song 5.1) and the very symbol of love (7:2, 9), whose absence is the eventide of all joy (Isa. 24:11); it is moreover the wine of Agape and the feast of fellowship, in which Christ first vouchsafed a sign of his divinity, in a place of rejoicing, at Cana—a wine of the highest quality—when the kingdom showed itself “out of season.” Of course Nietszche was a teetotaler and could judge the merit of neither vintage, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that his attempts at oino-theology should betray a somewhat pedestrian palate. (pp. 108-109)*

Just like Hart to punctuate an insightful, eloquent theological discourse with a devastating polemical right hook!  Vintage Hart, if you'll excuse the pun.


*This is a shortened version of the passage, in order to make it blog-friendly, but if you're so inclined you can read the full version at Google Books.


  1. Does Hart have anything to say about the suffering of innocents in his book?

    1. Hey Karl. Hart's short volume 'The Doors to the Sea' is exclusively about that topic. In TBOTI he discusses the 'violence' of being, as constrasted with the Christian ontology of peace, but 'Doors' deals with the issue in more concrete specifics.

  2. Thanks, Nathan. I read the original article in First Things which the book is based on. It struck as the best and most honest exploration of the problem I've ever encountered. I really must get hold of TBOTI as soon as possible. And the news of Hart's NT translation is tremendously exciting. Thanks for being the bearer of Good News:-)