Why I am Not a Universalist: Against David Bentley Hart’s Intellectually Obligate Universalism (if that’s what it is?)

Daniel Heck
24 min readOct 10, 2019
Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

Cards on the Table

I’d like to start by clearly laying my cards on the table with respect to the latest dust-up over Christian universalism in Christian theology-land.

I’m not a universalist. Or a conditionalist. Or an annihilationist. Or an English-language Eternal Conscious Tormentist. Or a hopeful universalist. At least not any more. Not after reading and meditating on (according to my eReader) 63% of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall be Saved.

Still, my wife is a faster reader than me, and she’s told me more about the rest of the book and she’s real smart, so I’m pretty sure I’m more equipped to respond to this book than most of David Bentley Hart’s critics.

So what am I?

Well, I’m a future liver, who advocates and practices (when necessary) what we might call ‘non-violent civil disobedience’ like that practiced in the US Civil Rights movement, and in many other movements around the world since then. I understand this ‘disobedience’ as a higher obedience that takes the form of enacting a future social structure that I hope for in Christ, even when it is deemed illegal. This includes, of course, being willing to eat with the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. It also includes being willing to heal the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

See Luke 6 if you’d like to know where I’m going with this. Or this Gospel presentation if you’d like to hear the Gospel according to Daniel Heck.

And I think even more importantly, I’m a joyful solidarity with the poorer, who believes that everybody is given choices between joyful solidarity with the poor and suffering (which goes beyond charity), and the pleasures of wealth and power. Where we choose solidarity, we get joy, often now. At least enough to keep us going. And we also get a joy that endures from age to age and on into the age of ages. Where we choose the pleasures of the world, we may get some of that if we’re ‘lucky.’ But that’s all we get.

Also of equal importance, I’m an enemy lover: I follow the tradition of the first 300 years of the church and of Jesus, Stephen, Peter and Paul, in taking up enemy love as a complete replacement for violence.

And also of equal importance, I’m a reconciler, not a skittering accuser or a Flat Earther: I think that the way of reconciliation that Jesus teaches is foundational to science, an essential part of any competent answer to the demarcation problem which carves out science from psuedo-science. But of course reconciliation is also much more than that: it provides a way of dealing with injustices within ourselves, our families, our nations and our world, through apology, learning, concrete amends, and character change. Reconciliation is an indispensable treasure and gift that equips us to journey together into truth in every sense: scientific, moral, aesthetic. It is the path of peace.

I’m also a positive, identity-based corrector: I like to call people names like “fig tree” and “fresh water spring” and new person, to deal with behavioral problems. It works like this: You’re a fig tree. What are these thorns doing on you? That doesn’t make sense. Please stop poking people. That’s not who you are.

I’m into that.

And I’m a foundationalist: I think it is worthwhile to think hard about the foundation that Jesus tells us to build on in Luke 6, and to build our lives on that. It isn’t that people should feel ashamed or embarrassed wherever they’ve failed to do that. It’s just that whatever we build, in my view, simply won’t last unless it is based on the gracious foundation we find here.

Oh, and I’m also a total nobody. So it goes with people who think the San Damiano crucifix talks to them.

Or more accurately, I’m a hopeful version of all of these things: I hope to remain a nobody, for starters. But all of those other things, too.

It is because I’m so busy becoming all of these things, by the grace of God, that I don’t have much time to worry about being a universalist. Or an ECTer. Or an annihilationist. Or a hopeful universalist. I’m so very un-interested in all of these opinions that the Imperial Court Theologians worry about sharpening and poking each other with. I’m much more interested in practicing reconciliation.

Ah the Imperial Court Theologians! Let’s talk about them, and why I consider David Bentley Hart’s book to be one of the very best examples of one of my very least favorite kinds of writing: Imperial Court Theology.

Against Imperial Court Theology

I’d like to invite you into a simple thought exercise.

Imagine that you are a person who identifies with Eternal Conscious Torment: your Christian identity (or even your non-Christian one, for all I care) is wrapped up in the notion that the cosmos is ruled by a being who will torment some group of wicked people forever after death, and rescue others. By the power vested in you by your imagination, now you’re an ECTer.


Justify shooting someone in the head, as an ECTer.

Go ahead, whether you’re actually an ECTer or not, and figure out how you’d do this if you were one.

Think about it as long as you like. Here are some justifications that you could easily find:

Is it that God will sort them out? Is it that you’re not doing anything so bad as God? Is it that they may lead others into endless perdition, and so to kill them now is to save others from endless torture? Is it something else? Take your time. I imagine you can come up with rationales for a good long time. You may even venture into the humorous. Those who engage in evil are certainly no strangers to humor! Is it that you want to meet them there in your turn? Is it that anything’s better than this? Is it that it’ll be a spicy-a-meatball-a? We can go all day. (To speak of a wee aion.) And we can do it daily. (To speak aioniously.) I wouldn’t recommend it. There are better aionios practices like Centering Prayer which I’d recommend instead.

Now, do the opposite of justifying violence:

How would you justify, as an ECTer, a complete rejection of violence in all forms, and its replacement with enemy love as not only your own personal practice, but one which you devote your life to training others in?

Go. Come back when you’re done. Here are some rationales you may have found:

Is it because no taking of life can be justified, against the backdrop of such horrible possible suffering? Is it because you trust that you, yourself, will be placed at risk of hellfire for your abandonment of grace and of faith, understood as complete enemy love? Is it because no trial or difficulty is enough to move you to abandon any of the foundational teachings of Jesus? Is it because you see a spiral of violence opening up which will surely draw you and others into endless torment? Is it because you’re engaged in a genocide and your priest has stood up in the church and looked you in the eye and reminded you of the torments of hell, which you are surely choosing for yourself if you don’t drop your gun? Is it because you have chosen to proclaim the Gospel in the face of violence instead of choosing violence yourself, in the hopes of rescuing yourself and any who you might rescue along the way?

Ah. This, too, we can do all day. Even daily, if we like. For your soul, this would be a somewhat better practice than the one rationalizing violence.

Now imagine that instead of believing in torment in hell, you’re an annihilationist. You think that some people will ultimately be destroyed, but not tormented endlessly. They’re just dead and gone. Now, pretending to be an annihilationist, justify killing. Then justify pacifism. Both easy enough.

Now, imagine that instead of either, you think that all will ultimately be saved.

Justify killing as a universalist. You can surely find plenty of options.

Is it that they will ultimately be saved anyway? Is it that you’re free to do whatever you like now, and can gladly bear the shorter term consequences, because of the warm assurance of ultimate salvation? Is it that God is so wonderful that you don’t have to worry about being even good? Is it that you feel so morally righteous about your purity and clarity of ultimate moral vision that it would purify any activity you engage in? Or is it any number of other things you might come up with?

Now, justify complete pacifism.

Is it that you’re free from any of the grotesque obligations to kill, and are free to fully emulate God’s merciful righteousness even if it comes to your own death, where you will pray with your Lord, “Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing”? Is it that you’re filled with a desire to emulate the grace of God as a clean movement of grace from first to last? Is it that you’ve long trained in joy by meditating on the absolute goodness of God, and so you’re equipped to carry even the heavy burden of martyrdom if it should come to that? Or is it any number of other things you might come up with?

And of course, you can do the same with whatever permutations of ‘hopeful universalism’ you might come up with.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not arguing that any of these rationales fully check out, or fail to check out, in any particular way. Once we get practical, these niceties about the ultimate status of an argument (which usually just designates a point of human exhaustion anyway) are of little relevance. And I’d add that the more remote the arguments become, the more room to play opens up, and the more it becomes clear that more thought doesn’t tend to button things down so much as whirl and bob away. Those who have tried to really button down things that should be quite obvious in even basic logic and math have long since succeeded in showing the impossibility of the exercise. If even basic formal logic unfurls into this astonishing horizon of endless opening, when we seek our foundation in logic itself what do we suppose we’ll find at the bottom of our much looser theological speculations?

And also when it comes to justifying the shooting of heads, who cares about any of this? After all, any of these rationalizations are more than good enough to get the job done: you can rationalize opposite behaviors quite easily with any of them.

In other words, these views about the grandest and most ultimate things people can imagine are, in fact, quite powerless to even demarcate a specific behavior. These grand thoughts about heaven and hell seem so very strong. They are in fact so very weak.

This is the poverty of philosophy.

This is the heart of the weakness of Imperial Court Theology, which concerns itself primarily with our opinions rather than our faithfulness, and which seems to care most passionately about our opinions on speculative matters.

Where philosophy embraces its poverty it is free to become what it is meant to be, as all who embrace their poverty are free. No longer burdened with the heavy weights that no thought could ever hope to carry, thought can dance or model or play or scurry off to some happy and intimate place to do whatever it is that thoughts do to give birth to new thoughts, new hopes, and new kinds of life.

Where philosophy does not embrace a simple and direct joyful solidarity with the poor and suffering, through its own weakness and poverty, we end up with what I call Imperial Court Theology. We might speculatively trace its birth to 330 and the founding of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, or to the functional Manicheism of Augustine (Mani, too, was a man who understood imperial courts and the value of a dualism that could rationalize brutality) or to Eusebius’s replacement of Jesus with Constantine, or to some other place. Like David Bentley Hart, I’m not doing history here. I’m doing philosophy, and so my point here will stand (however little weight it can carry) even if I’m wrong about the history.

The point for now is to help define an ideal type that may be of some descriptive use, as long as we mutate all the mutatey bits as needed. The point of calling people Imperial Court Theologians must, ultimately, be to point out that they are not, in fact, Imperial Court Theologians in the depths of their hearts. And contra Augustine, this true identity will not legitimate their wicked behavior, but cause them to abandon it. Or you may even structure some historical work with the gentle help of the ideal type I’m sketching here. Whatever the case, let’s understand that I am unashamedly and gladly in the business of drawing out ideal types at the moment.

Once we have the ideal type of the Imperial Court Theologian, capitalized to emphasize that it is a form rather than a particular group of people, the poverty of their philosophy raises a hard question: What use does an Imperial Court Theologian have for these sorts of speculations about things that no one could hope to truly know? Or more properly, what use could real live Empire have for such speculations that are so incapable of defining, let alone motivating, proper action? Why bother with the sort of unaccountable claim that some shall be tormented, or that all shall be saved, or that some shall be annihilated, or that all may be saved?

Clearly, all of these ideas can easily be conjoined with the most vicious brutality. And they can also be conjoined with the greatest gentleness. Clearly (and contrary to the hilarious fears of some who think that evangelism would cease without the right one) these thoughts are impotent things all around. But Imperial Courts are greatly concerned with potency. What use do they have for a Mani or an Augustine or a David Bentley Hart? (Because they do have use for them! David Bentley Hart least of all, but maybe that’s only because his day in the Imperial Court is yet to come.)

I’d suggest that the use of this sort of work is simply this: moral phantasmagoria like this, or of any sort at all, can form identity groups by selectively activating our moral foundations, and by defining in-groups and out-groups. So dear Emperor you want a tidy little war for any reason whatsoever? Here you will find a recipe for a true schismatic smorgasbord. With precise enough tools we can justify any war, great or small. 40 years or more. Troubles of all sorts. It is as simple as saying that those monsters hold to ECT or annihilation or universalism or miaphysitism or they hate freedom or they hate order or whatever. For all of their dizzying variety, they are interchangeable enough as far as the Imperial Court is concerned: it knows full well that the variety conceals a bland and weak sameness under it all. The bland sameness that Empire craves is just this: the illusion of righteousness through opinion, which creates a motivational vacuum to be filled by the bribes and threats of Empire. The poverty, taken up in Empire, is a feature and not a bug, because it can provide an opportunity to justify whatever outgrouping and ingrouping the Empire wishes.

Ah, but what if the views should be expressed with enormous moral courage, with great beauty and wisdom, with excellence and with care? That is a fine sort of Imperial Court Theology fit for the nobles and the leaders. The peasants can enjoy their Fox News. But the nobles need nicer things. At least they used to.

I suspect that if you aren’t actively and directly training people to do the Jesus stuff that you’re probably doing Imperial Court Theology of some sort or another. The Empire is quite happy to have you do anything, as long as it is not the thing that is needful: gently tear out these stones, and put flesh there instead.

What I love about the first 63% of David Bentley Hart’s Book About Everybody Being Saved

At this point, I guess I’m so embarrassed and unequipped to write this that I have to stop shouting into the general darkness, and start just talking to you directly, David Bentley Hart.

In terms of the arguments themselves, I have nothing to critique. I think they’re fantastic. I’m not sure they lead to such strong conclusions, but little matter. Easy enough to adjust that down a bit, if it turns out context is a thing that impacts your arguments. I’ll leave that to the smart people to figure out. They can see what Gödel has to say about it, if anything, and so on. I don’t know man, I’m just throwing old stuff at the wall here to see what sticks. It seems like the thing to do.

Still, the critique I have to offer stands even if this view is totally buttoned down. And the substance of the critique is this: who cares? A universalist can still easily rationalize abandoning enemy love. And an ECTer can still rationalize embracing it. Or vice versa. I’ll take a single, courageous enemy lover over an army of universalists, whatever their opinions on all of this.

However, in terms of the much-worried-about-tone, I also have nothing to critique about what is present in your work here. (Only what is absent.)

But to defend what is often being called “tone” or something similar, I think a basic distinction is of huge importance. You aren’t insulting people. You’re expressing moral outrage. Big difference.

And you know what? We need to be able to call morally horrifying things morally horrifying, otherwise how are we supposed to have meaningful moral discussions at all? And we need to be able to name moral blindness and morally cretinous behavior in just the same way.

It is worth being aware that we are usually moral cretins to out-group members, and moral geniuses to in-group members. So activating moral wisdom is a simple matter of juggling group perception through identification and imaginative exercises. No grand arguments are needed.

So as men who are so very wise, David, I think that it is our job to teach the cretins and not to mock them. Tomorrow, or today, we will have our own cretinous moments.

And so for those who are interested in learning, I have a thought exercise that might be of a great deal of use. Also, I think it will help illustrate why you have all been taking entirely the wrong approach toward utterly destroying David Bentley Hart and subjecting him to the humiliation and torment that are surely his due. I’ll get to that shortly.

Okay, back to you, David. I think that for those who are clutching their pearls about your scandalous decision to call evil evil, when you should instead call it “mildly troubling,” this small thought exercise should be more than adequate to activate the moral genius who Christ has put in them, so that the moral genius who they truly identify with can do away with the moral cretin in them. A wise man like you or me would never leave someone in the moral cretin bucket, now would we? If we did that, they’d come and trample us and make us drop the pearls that we, too, are clutching.

This is what wise men like us do instead:

First, let’s find a basic moral proposition that I hope we can all agree on easily.

For example:

(M) It is good to murder people for the thrill of it.

Now imagine, my morally wise friends, that a scholar wrote a book that lavishly praised the thrill of murder.

Imagine it is a 2,650 page book, with more than 6,000 sources and 7,000 footnotes, and all of the trappings of the very best scholarship. Imagine that it not only praises (M) and argues for its utter moral necessity, but it also elaborates many theories about the ways in which the enemies of truth have conspired to obscure the deep truth of (M) throughout the ages. Imagine that this work makes the case that (M) is not only the basic practical insight that underlies all true science, which is the thrill of discovery at any cost, but that it also argues that (M) is the pinnacle of beauty. All art worthy of the name owes its merit, as art, to its hidden or clear reference to the ultimate transgression of (M) into the absolute otherness of true beauty. And imagine that the scholar then goes on to teach us how (M) is the true heart of human morality, the secret truth that beats within us all just waiting to be let out. Imagine that this scholar went on to detail the lives of serial killers and their victims in the most precise, scholarly, ‘loving’ detail, lavishing praise on them as the highest exemplars of humanity, the noble heroes who truly know, the ones who all of us should learn to emulate in whatever ways we might, large or small.

Imagine such a work.

Would you want an academy that responds to the work with a capacity to say, “This is an evil and twisted work that does not belong here, and at a minimum the author should apologize and retract it.” Or do you want an academy that doesn’t use such nasty language?

And what would you think of a culture that responded to someone calling such a thing evil and twisted not by joining in the chorus against the twisted and evil work, but with great outrage at the one who dared to say such a mean thing about the nice professor?

Dear wise hearts, please stop before you try to tell me that this analogy doesn’t hold. Perhaps, if we’re talking about endless torments, it holds just a bit better than you’d care to admit? But even if it doesn’t, take a moment to notice the flow of the argument. What I am trying to establish here is no broad analogy, but a very specific point:

Aren’t there things that you, as a non-moral cretin, and we, as non-moral cretins, all want to identify as morally wrong in the strongest possible language?

If you agree to that, then you can’t have a blanket censure of people who use strong moral language.

You have to ask a different sort of question when someone calls something morally abominable.

You have to ask: “Well, is it morally abominable? Or does the claim at least warrant our sympathetic attention?” And you have to at least give heed, if you think that (M) is morally abominable, to a person who argues (cogently, I might add) that ECT is also morally abominable in much the same way. But that’s another argument. And for the annihilationists out there, I’d consider that serial killers don’t torment people endlessnessly. They torment them for a bit, and then extinguish their lives.

But don’t mistake that possible discussion for the more basic, central point I’m making here, which is more than enough to exonerate you, David Bentley Hart, of all of the blanket denunciations you’re suffering for using clear moral language.

At the risk of being pedantic, I want to make sure this sinks in. Listening or reading are hard on topics like this. So I’m going to say this again, another way, for the learners here. Little Danny two times is gonna say it two times.

Fundamentally, the main thing I want to establish here is that if you want to be able to say that (M) is morally abominable, then we need to understand that we’re all allowed to say that some things are morally abominable.

Actually, let’s formalize that a bit, so we can reference this important idea very simply in the future:

(M’) If you want to be able to say (M) is morally abominable, then we need to be able to say that some things are morally abominable.

I’m not sorry for any damage that my appeal to your own moral capacity may have done to your inner moral cretin. I’m not sorry if (M’) frees you from the defensive dismissal of David Bentley Hart’s clear moral arguments as an inappropriate and unhinged sort of thing, in general.

You’re not moral cretins.

So stop acting like them.

And David:

You’re not a fool who would end a moral discussion by identifying the old person and the new person, and then leave someone to think he is one of the ‘old people.’ Actually, at a few points buried in the book (so I’m told) you apparently suggest that those who embrace ECT aren’t moral cretins at all, just curiously unaware. But why would you bury that in a book, instead of underlining it and closing with it? You know, as well as I do, that your audience is going to be so flooded with adrenaline that they’re going to need a lot of time to settle down and receive any kind of invitation to correction.

Give them that opportunity, if you want to win some of them.

You’re no fool.

So stop acting like a fool.

Draw the line. Then draw out the good identity. This is how you extinguish the bad.

You’ve read Luke 6 and James 3 and Ephesians 4.

You know how this works. Why leave critiques and statements of your own opinion hanging out there at the end when you could instead speak a powerful word of correction, or invite someone into a joyful process of reconciliation? (Or maybe that’s what you do at the end of the book. I’m not there yet. But hey, at least I’ve paid attention to the parts I’ve read so far! Cool stuff. Tell me if that’s how the book ends. Apologies in advance if this is all totally off base.)

Does this seem like a complex, multi-part argument to anyone? Try some kids ministry some time. This is what we do all day. Sometimes, somebody has to walk into a conflict, get a grip on at least part of what’s going on (although they’ll never know fully) and help each of the kids learn and grow by seeing what they might contribute to preventing future problems like this.

Which is also how I know what needs to happen next:

Everybody, Let’s Learn to Apologize

How have we gotten to a place where humanistic scholars, and especially Christian ones, are so astonishingly incapable of walking each other through a simple reconciliation process?

I do have a hypothesis:

I think that Imperial Court Theology is to blame. Here you will find men who talk all day about the doctrine of the atonement and sharpen to the very finest points the distinctions that can be drawn within the meaning of “justification,” to take just one example of many. Their theological swords are ready for a king or emperor to call the other Presbyterians (or whoever) heretics, based on the sharpest of distinctions that can be drawn. Little matter that there’s a “crisis in (Imperial Court) Theology” because the market has dried up for this brand of ideology. But they’re out there, working to divide and scatter churches, urging us to salute some new conclusion that all of us have missed. And they’re ready, waiting for the call of the King or Emperor who needs a fresh schism to justify his war. Or, these days, a petty pastor looking to set up his own tiny fief.

But what good is any of that for those seeking to do the simple thing Jesus asks? Reconcile, and teach reconciliation: teach practices that repair schisms rather than making them. Nobody has ever had a schism because they worked too hard at learning to check their own work, apologize for failures, listen well to understand their impact, forgive, make amends, and be reconciled to one another. We might ask for apologies or help with our splints, but the hard work of correcting our mistakes mainly falls on each of us in the end. And if you can discern the fig tree in a person, that might help them drop their thorns. You can praise the fresh water springs, befuddled at the salty water coming out of them, until the salt is washed away. See the new person. Watch the old person die.

So how has it become so difficult for two Christians to sit down, side by side, and each pray concretely and in detail: “Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”?

I could understand if we were talking about Reformed Southern Baptists who were taught the Sinner’s Prayer instead of the Lord’s Prayer when they came up for the Crusade. Maybe they have been taught that reconciliation is a matter of talking to God about some schismatic systematic theology, instead of being reconciled to their brothers and sisters through apology, listening to understand their wrong, making amends, and then reform their character. No one told them that this is the grace of God. It is easy enough to understand why a denomination founded in slaveholding would want to avoid truth and reconciliation, whether personal or in the form of a national commission. (Ah, but even there in the heart of whiteness, here and there, you’ll find the most unlikely Kingdom fires burning!)

Still, it is also not hard to understand how a denomination founded on a schismatic defense of Byzantium might also form someone to fail in this way.

Such a person might, instead of pursuing the basic kind of reconciliation that is even freely available in the scientific community without patriarchs or Magisteria, invite someone to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy because it is perhaps the only way they can imagine asking for a process of reconciliation (including possible apologies, retractions etc). Perhaps. I don’t know for sure, but maybe that’s what’s going on in the beautiful and stunted little attempt at reconciliation at the end of this article. Is that the head of a crocus in spring that I see in the invitation into Eastern Orthodoxy, where an invitation to reconciliation could be? Of course it is. I can’t wait to watch it burst out.

I do think it is very useful to understand how the sciences benefit from the reconciliation practices that I think they learned from the church, but which the Imperial Court Theologians so widely abandoned in favor of schism-producing speculations.

It is almost as if the scientific community are now, in some sense, the elect. And maybe their task has become to help save the Imperial Court Theologians who have been given over to the most embarrassing sorts of failures to practice what they preach: their manifest inability to engage in basic reconciliation practices. That’s okay, for now. It won’t last forever. Those who continue to act this way will pass away, and the new people will remain and endure. The aion over which these things repeat aioniously until the end appears to be the Generation. (See Matthew 24–25).

The strange election of the scientific community as our teachers of reconciliation among people and Creation is for our own good: they are here to teach us, and how provident that we’ve all been given over to sin and folly so that God might have mercy on us all. If we want to learn more about how to stop acting like Flat Earthers, and become reconcilers, we can read this.

Or there may be another way in, one which fits the sort of rough and tumble discussion that the boys around here seem to like these days.

One of the things I’ve learned from scientists is the value of forming communities of people who DELIGHT in discovering that they’ve made a mistake, and who cherish constructive (if very direct and critical) feedback on their work. For humanists, of course, this also requires a capacity for moral critique that is direct and clear and meant not to shame, but to help us do better work.

So if anyone here would like another way into that delight, I’ve been trying to find a polite translation of this proverb that might be permissible in our humanistic culture, which might enable us to envision a kolasis that is both loving and received as love. A “scientific” kolasis. But it’s not the sort of thing that is admissible these days:

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but whoever hates correction is stupid.”
(Proverbs 12:1, NIV)

But then I search for more polite wording, and I just get a lot of this:

New International Version
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

New Living Translation
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.

English Standard Version
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

Berean Study Bible
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

New American Standard Bible
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.

New King James Version
Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.

King James Bible
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.

Christian Standard Bible
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid.

Contemporary English Version
To accept correction is wise, to reject it is stupid.

Good News Translation
Any who love knowledge want to be told when they are wrong. It is stupid to hate being corrected.

International Standard Version
The person who loves correction loves knowledge, but anyone who hates a rebuke is stupid.

NET Bible
The one who loves discipline loves knowledge, but the one who hates reproof is stupid.

New Heart English Bible
Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
He that loves discipline loves knowledge, and he that hates reproof is a fool.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Whoever loves discipline loves to learn, but whoever hates correction is a dumb animal.

JPS Tanakh 1917
Whoso loveth knowledge loveth correction; But he that is brutish hateth reproof.

New American Standard 1977
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Whosoever loves chastening loves knowledge, but he that hates reproof is carnal.

King James 2000 Bible
Whosoever loves instruction loves knowledge: but he that hates reproof is senseless.

American King James Version
Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge: but he that hates reproof is brutish.

American Standard Version
Whoso loveth correction loveth knowledge; But he that hateth reproof is brutish.

Brenton Septuagint Translation
He that loves instruction loves sense, but he that hates reproofs is a fool.

Douay-Rheims Bible
He that loveth correction, loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is foolish.

Darby Bible Translation
Whoso loveth discipline loveth knowledge, but he that hateth reproof is brutish.

English Revised Version
Whoso loveth correction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.

Webster’s Bible Translation
Whoever loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.

World English Bible
Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

Young’s Literal Translation
Whoso is loving instruction, is loving knowledge, And whoso is hating reproof is brutish.


Nobody is allowed to call anyone stupid beasts around here anymore. I’m on thin ice trying to save moral language. Stupid beasts are two bridges too far.

AH, here we go!

The Message

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it —
how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Or for you, David Bentley Hart, I’d like to offer you a totally unauthorized and barely informed penance. It is based on the notion that we are parts of all kinds of extended bodies, and that we have a remarkable power to help remove planks from the eyes our own extended bodies as well because they, too, are us.

Just in case this is the sort of kolasis that might delight you, I offer this as a thought about what to do, instead of Imperial Court Theology:

For you, David Bentley Hart, I’d love to see you play less Imperial Court Theologian without an Empire or a Court, and instead figure out how to start a real Kingdom of God brushfire within the Eastern Orthodox church.

Maybe Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You would be of some use in helping us have an Indian independence movement within Eastern Orthodoxy that can overthrow the deep root of Empire over there in Eastern Orthodoxy, that precious spiritual seedbed of Indian independence?

That’ll be awesome. Do that for me, and we’re square.

Bless you.

(Actually, I’ve already forgiven whatever there is to forgive. We’re square. Let’s work on awesome.)



Daniel Heck

Community Organizer. Enemy Lover. I pastor and practice serious, loving and fun discourse. (Yes, still just practicing.)