Reformation Day Special: Protestantism is the Antichrist

Jason Micheli —  October 28, 2014 — 5 Comments

Untitled31David Bentley Hart (heretofore: DBH) was one of my first professors of theology back when I was a college student at UVA. He was just completing his PhD whilst I had about 24 months of being a Christian under my belt.

Standing in front of a huge wave that knocks you on your ass on the beach, you get up realizing the ocean is a whole hell of a lot bigger than you thought. That’s how I felt with DBH. He left me feeling for aches, knowing the Christian intellectual tradition is richer, deeper and broader than I could imagine. For those of you who will feel about DBH as I did back in the day, I offer you this precis.

And since Reformation Day is upon us, I thought I’d offer you some DBH quotes on the ‘Protest’ that continues to sever Christ’s Church.


The first cut is the deepest. Here, DBH lays the fault of contemporary atheism and the rise of the ‘Nones’ squarely at the feet of Protestantism, in particular the Calvinist god it unleashed.


“In detaching God’s freedom from God’s nature as Goodness, Truth, and Charity — as this theology necessarily, if not always intentionally did — Christian thought laid the foundations for many of those later revolutions in philosophy and morality that would help to produce the post-Christian order. It was inevitable after all, that the object of the voluntarist model of freedom would migrate from the divine to the human will, and that a world evacuated of its ontological continuity with God’s goodness would ultimately find no place for God within itself. And, in early modernity, when the new God of infinite and absolute will had to a very great degree displaced the true God from men’s minds, the new technology of print assured that all Christians would make the acquaintance of this impostor, and through him come to understand true liberty as a personal sovereignty transcending even the dictates and constraints of nature.

Moreover — more crucially — the God thus produced was monstrous: an abyss of pure, predestining omnipotence, whose majesty was revealed at once in his unmerited mercy towards the elect and his righteous wrath against the derelict.

And he was to be found in the theologies of almost every Protestant school: not only Jansenism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism).

That modern Western humanity came in large measure to refuse to believe in or worship such a God was ineluctable, and in some sense extremely commendable (no one, after all, can be faulted for preferring atheism to Calvinism.”

Here, DBH points out that in an attempt to be more biblical, respecting the 1st commandment and stripping the Medieval altars, the Reformation violated that most basic of implications of the 1st commandment: God is not a god within the universe.


“The [Protestant] mysticism of bare and unadorned worship (which idolatrously mistakes God for some object within the universe that can be lost among other objects), and other tendencies to imagine the soul is purified by being extracted from the life of the senses or that God is glorified by the inanition of the world…

such thinking offends simply by being unbiblical, insufficiently chastened or inspired by the doctrine of the incarnation.

It’s unable to grasp that the trinitarian God is already full of fellowship, joy and glory, and requires no sacrifice of worldly love- the world adds nothing to God.”

And now for a definition:

Analogy of Being =

{The analogy of being presupposes that there is a similarity between God and his creatures. God of course does not exist as his creatures exist. He is infinite, eternal, and non-contingent. Nevertheless, he can be said to exist, as can his creatures even if there existence is profoundly different. Hence there is an analogy of being existing between them. Moreover, God’s attributes (wisdom, power, goodness, etc.)though infinite and eternal, can be observed as existing in analogous manner in creatures who also possess them. There is a similarity with a still greater dissimilarity between God’s reality and his creatures. Such a claim about God allowed the ancient Church Fathers to claim that their statements about God’s nature were realistically true, while at the same time allowing for divine mystery. The rejection of the analogy of being has been one of the chief tenets of Protestant Christianity.}


Let the quotes resume…


“The rejection of the analogy of being has the very effect so dreaded: it reduces God to the status of a mere being, in some sense on a level with us. To state the matter simply, the analogy of being does not analogize God and creatures under the more general category of ‘being,’ but is the analogization of being in the difference between God and creatures.

Apart from the analogy of being, the very concept of revelation is a contradiction.

Only insofar as creaturely being is analogous to divine being and proper to God’s nature, can God show himself as God, rather than in alienation to himself; there would be no revelation otherwise, only legislation.”


Because I love Karl Barth, I love this quote. DBH, like Barth before him, is not afraid to throw some elbows.



“If rejection of the analogy of being were in some sense the very core of Protestant theology, as Karl Barth believed, one would still be obliged to observe that it is also the invention of antichrist, and so would have to be accounted the most compelling reason for not becoming a Protestant..

All things in creation- all the words of being- speak of God because they shine within his eternal Word.

Jason Micheli


5 responses to Reformation Day Special: Protestantism is the Antichrist

  1. You’re baiting me with this.

    The problem I have with the “analogy of being” is that it offers a relation to God that can only be externally construed. It delimits God’s relationship to Creation as having to do with relating to God’s works (per accidens) rather than his person. It starts with creation and created effects (Christ being one of them) rather personal, involved, Father of the Son.

    I don’t see how DBH gets around that.

    • I did think of you as I scheduled it to post! I think he gets around it by insisting that the analogy isn’t one of created effects, but that the analogy of being begins from the belief that being itself always already differs, that the ‘other side of creation’ (as Barth puts it) is literally nothing at all. It’s the assertion of creation from nothing, creation as gift and creation as expression of and contained within the trinitarian love. The problem then that I have with rejecting the analogy is that it denies that creation is an act of grace that really expresses God’s love.

  2. It doesn’t deny ex nihilo at all. It just does not delimit our speech about God the way the analogy of being inevitably will (at least I think). Even though he denies an analogy of created effects, his Christology is still a bit more amorphous (delimiting) than I’m comfortable with (which leaves the door open for analogia per accidens) because “love” is defined by the Creator behind the back of Jesus rather than the truth of God’s creating love coming to us first on its own authority and self-sufficiency as it is given by the Father through the Son of the Holy Spirit. I attribute this to the pneumacentrism of Eastern O theology.

    Thus, ex nihilo is not subverted but simply has a supralapsarian Christology a priori to give positive content to the Trinitarian life “in the beginning.” Just as Athanasius held, God *has always been* Father and Son by the Holy Spirit. That being said, I think this is a better option for thinking about God as Creator *trinitarianly*; that God being Trinitarian means being a Creator is new. We preach the positive content of “who God is” before we preach “what God does;” otherwise without such positive content, we cannot really attribute any negative content about who God is; and as a good Thomist, you know that all evil has no cause because is strictly negative content– defection.

    • I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t Hart’s Christology is amorphous at all nor is it defined behind Jesus. Rather his (and Milbank’s) whole project is to secure a vision of God (and an ontology) that corresponds to the non-violent love disclosed to us in Jesus Christ.

  3. Yeah I’ve read you say that before. And to be clear what I’m saying isn’t that DBH’s Christology is absolutely amorphous but that it is inappropriately amorphous in juxtaposition to an analogy of faith (meaning I don’t think it’s unorthodox– just that there are better options).

    For instance, because DBH’s project (as you describe it) still firstly relates to the works of Jesus (which are, of course, non-violent), it still comes across as relating to God externally; because then non-violence becomes an ontological manner. Despite its seeming piety, my problem is that he seems to divide the agency and honor for salvation between God and human beings. This is partially why I have problems with DBH; his mutualism.

    This, of course, does not negate non-violence as a worthy Christian practice/commitment (I am after all committed to non-violence), but neither does it idealize it the way many mutualists have tended to.

    The many different ways the Reformed/Lutheran tradition has delta’d (gone many ways from one stream)– as Barth has become more commonplace in Reformed/Lutheran theology– have (mostly) all attempted to contrast this “theology of glory” that seems to always rise up out of natural theology time and time again; which is the charge Calvinist and Lutheran scholastics often bring against Eastern O and Arminian theology; that their theology of glory puts the responsibility of salvation back on the backs of poor depraved sinners.

    As Barth wrote in CD, “Self-sought suffering has nothing whatever to do with participation in the passion of Jesus Christ, and therefore with man’s sanctification…Borne in participation in the suffering of Jesus, it will cease at the very point to which the suffering of Jesus points in the power of his resurrection, and therefore to which our suffering also points in company with his.” Barth upholds a theology of Union with Christ but, like Calvin, holds to the asymmetry between Christ and the Christian.

    Is this antichrist?

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