[Question: why the apparently necessary connection between human moral failure (in the Garden of Eden) and so-called ‘natural evil’ (i.e., tsunamis and cholera)? Here David Bentley Hart touches on an often overlook aspect of patristic theological anthropology which explains this necessary connection].
“Nevertheless, and disturbing as it may be, it is clearly the case that that there is a kind of “provisional’ cosmic dualism within the New Testament: not an ultimate dualism, of course, between two equal principles, but certainly a conflict between a sphere of created autonomy that strives against God on the one hand and the saving love of God in time on the other. It is a patristic notion (developed with extraordinary profundity by Maximus the Confessor) that humanity was created as the methorios (the boundary or frontier) between the physical and the spiritual realms, or as the priesthood of creation that unites earth to heaven, and that thus, in the fall of man, all of material existence was made subject to the dominion of death” (David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea, pgs 62-63).
“Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) –a morally problematic figure, admittedly, but not to be dismissed–was largely correct in thinking that the modern West excels at evading the mystery of being precisely because its governing myth is one of practical mastery. Ours is, he thought, the age of technology, in which ontological questions have been vigorously expelled from cultural consideration, replaced by questions of mere mechanistic force; for us, nature is now something “enframed” and defined by a particular disposition of the will, the drive toward dominion that reduces the world to a morally neutral “standing reserve” of resources entirely subject to our manipulation, exploitation, and ambition. Anything that does not fit within the frame of that picture is simply invisible to us. When the world is seen this way, even organic life–even where consciousness is present–must come to be regarded as just another kind of technology. This vision of things can accommodate the prospect of large areas of ignorance yet to be vanquished (every empire longs to discover new worlds to conquer), but no realm of ultimate mystery. Late modernity is thus a condition of willful spiritual deafness. Enframed, racked, reduced to machinery, nature cannot speak unless spoken to, and then her answers must be only yes, no, or obedient silence. She cannot address us in her own voice. And we certainly cannot hear whatever voice might attempt to speak to us through her” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, pp. 311-312).
“Much of what passes for debate between theist and atheist factions today is really only a disagreement between differing perspectives within a single post-Christian and effectively atheist understanding of the universe. Nature for most of us now is merely an immense machine, either produced by a demiurge (a cosmic magician) or somehow just existing of itself, as an independent contingency (a magical cosmos). In place of the classical philosophical problems that traditionally opened out upon the question of God–the mystery of being, higher forms of causality, the intelligibility of the world, the nature of consciousness, and so on–we now concern ourselves almost exclusively with the problems of the physical origin or structural complexity of nature, and are largely unaware of the difference.
The conceptual poverty of the disputes frequently defies exaggeration. On one side, it has become perfectly respectable for a philosophically illiterate physicist to proclaim that “science shows that God does not exist,” an assertion rather on the order of Yuri Gagarin remarking (as, happily, he never really did) that he had not seen God while in orbit. On the other side, it has become respectable to argue that one can find evidence of an Intelligent Designer of the world by isolating discrete instances of apparent causal discontinuity (or ineptitude) in the fabric of nature, which require the postulate of an external guiding hand to explain away the gap in natural causality. In either case, “God” has become the name of some special physical force or causal principle located somewhere out there among all the other forces and principles found in the universe: not the Logos filling and forming all things, not the infinity of being and consciousness in which all things necessarily subsist, but a thing among other things, an item among all the other items encompassed within nature” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, pgs 302-303).