I listened to a lecture by Orthodox philosopher Dr. David Bentley Hart who almost essentially and bizarrely reduced the Nietzchean proclamation of the “death” of God in the West to a more or less “understandable” reaction against the absurdities of the old Dominican-Jesuit polemics regarding the Sovereignty of grace versus (?) the Free will of man. Hart insists we did not wake up one day to find ourselves in a nihilist world, but that Western theology itself paved the way for it by its demolition of human liberty. I thought his presentation a grotesquely reductive approach to nihilism, to the exclusion of all other factors.
We may not have collectively woke up one day in nihilism, but the French Revolution and its guillotine was eloquently opposed to freedom in the matter. And hundreds of years before, Martin Luther launched a successful attack on all of Christendom and told Erasmus he was practically an idiot for believing God did not “will” it.
Moreover whatever futility the Dominicans showed in trying to resolve freedom and God’s sovereignty, even those Dominicans conceded far more real liberty of will to man (Who is truly summoned by God) than Luther and Calvin showed in their diatribes regarding the total “bondage” of the will. So to this extent, Dr. Hart caricatures the Tradition of the Church.
And he ignores here the Jesuit response to the Dominicans and that of many others, Saints and Doctors included. And the fact that the Popes of that and subsequent eras refused to either interfere with the debate or to take sides in it, since the relationship between grace and real freedom must of necessity involve the most sublime mystery inaccessible to the human intellect. They only insisted that both grace and genuine, true freedom—both of which work for the salvation of all human beings— must be affirmed; and that man’s freedom is no illusion. Which is why Catholicism with one voice vigorously opposed Luther and Calvin in their denial, belittling and mockery of freewill.
Luther began assaulting Christendom and ended in assaulting even the Protestant reaction to it, since Protestantism, employing Luther’s own principle of interpretation of the private interpretation of Scripture, swiftly dissolved into utter incoherence.
Meanwhile Orthodoxy largely sought to remain above history and its stuggles, and so has little to say credibly, it seems to me, about history beyond the old polemics.
— Expanded slightly 2/25/17