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The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  704 ratings  ·  112 reviews
As news reports of the horrific tsunami in Asia reached the rest of the world, commentators were quick to seize upon the disaster as proof of either God's power or God's nonexistence. Expanding on his Wall Street Journal piece, Tremors of Doubt, published the last day of 2004, David Bentley Hart here returns to this pressing question: How can the existence of a good and ...more
Hardcover, 109 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
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Kyle McManamy
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Here is a book that deserves three readings: once to get the overall picture and experience, twice to get into his argumentation, and thrice to engage his arguments thoughtfully. As a friend was recently told about another of Hart's books, you might want to grab a dictionary. The book is beautiful, hard, engaging, and important.
Daniel Bastian
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
This earlier book by D.B. Hart, of Eastern Orthodox notoriety, is an undeniably well-written but, at the same time, woefully underwhelming book. The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? is a rejoinder to a problem perhaps as ancient as humanity itself, the philosophical problem of evil. This brief Christian apologia is a specific reaction to the tsunami disaster which thumped the island of Sumatra of western Indonesia in December 2004, laying waste to a quarter million people, 40% of ...more
Andrew Van Os
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The doors of the sea bulldozed what was left of my crumbling reformed/neo-calvin theology. DBH presents an effective response to the questions of brothers K, and also offers a pointed (and humorously disdainful) treatment of typical protestant views of the atonement and sovereignty.

I fear I must prepare my official letter of resignation from the college church/reformation celebration etc... club.

I'm sorry Brad Dog. Please forgive me.

Perhaps one day I will return to the fold

(PS Mom, if you are
Reid Belew
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Hart’s theodicy is indispensable. I finished this book filled with gratitude and more tears than I expected a book was capable of.

Hart’s answer for suffering in light of a good God is personally revolutionary, and I would recommend it to anyone searching for God in tragedy.
Bradley Dowell
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
pre·ten·tious /prəˈten(t)SHəs/ (adjective) -- attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, apologetics
After working my way through The Beauty of the Infinite by David Bentley Hart and being incredibly impressed, I sought out more of his books. He wrote a short book , The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami, on the problem of evil and suffering in light of the 2004 tsunami in Asia that killed thousands. Hart seeks to defend Christianity from its secular critics, but along the way he also argues against a divine determinism that makes God the author of suffering. He brings in a lot of ...more
Tom LA
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Brief essay about the problem of evil by David Bentley Hart, Orthodox Christian theologian. Some parts I really liked, some others went too much in the detailed, technical philosophical reference for my taste and level of knowledge.
William Bradford
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any Christian
Shelves: theology
Hart is an Eastern Orthodox Christian and writes from a perspective that is a little different than what we usually hear. The book is rich is philosophy, theology, and literary references, and will sometimes take a second or third reading of a passage to understand. Hart interacts extensively with the writings of Voltaire and Dostoyevsky in building his theodicy.

Although Hart states that he is not trying to make Reformed theology "the bad guy", he freely admits that certain elements of Reformed
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hart is not completing a theodicy here, but instead reacting to the idiocy of the theodicy of others. I appreciate it is a severe rebuke to some Reformed talkers who uphold a certain divine sovereignty and thus make God the author of evil for some alleged higher good. It is a sophisticated conversation, I do wish he could have said more about Dostoyevsky (I will have to reread the Brothers Karamazov now) and many other things that he just hints at, but his description of the unreality of evil, ...more
Soren Johnson
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, theology
Wow. This little book is a categorical expander. Hart elucidates the Christian view of the "cosmic situation" and shows how evil fits into that understanding. A Christian specific theodicy. Very good, if only to expose yourself to Hart's mode of thinking.
Mike Joyce
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An emotionally powerful work that makes one seriously question the determinist theology of Calvinist pastors/theologians like John Piper. A must read for all those interested in the theological/philosophical implications of Christian belief.
Douglas Wilson
This brilliant man wrote a painfully inadequate book.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I'll probably end up re-reading this at some point. It was enjoyable to chew over some very, very dense sentences, reading them several times to try to think through the ideas he presented. But having to do that with paragraph after paragraph had me lost in the weeds and difficult to try to capture his overarching points. After finishing the book, I'd be hard pressed to put together a short summary of how he himself would answer the question he puts in the title. My best guess would be that he ...more
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ever wondered why there is suffering in the world? This short little book introduces the reader to the historic Christian answer to that question.
Reed Fagan
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Doors of the Sea was written by David Bentley Hart in the two months following the

December 26, 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. Perhaps more than two-hundred-thousand

people died in that tragedy. He writes that the book’s aim was to elucidate “what [he] understand[s] to be the true

scriptural account of God’s goodness, the shape of redemption, the nature of evil, and the

conditions of a fallen world” in order to show where many arguments, anti-Christian and Christian,

dealing with the problem
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best reflections on evil and God's victory in Christ I've ever read. It's not theodicy proper, as he offers no "explanation" to justify God's ways to man in the face of evil, death, and destruction (epitomized in the 2004 Tsunami in India). Hart brilliantly and with gloves off engages "village atheists" often found in the media decrying God in the face of natural disaster after natural disaster (or man-made disasters and evils, like climate change or school shootings). However, Hart ...more
Hannah Arnold
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: theology students
The Meaning(lessness) of Evil: A Review of The Doors of the Sea
In 2004, a tsunami of nearly unprecedented force struck Asia, devastating the lands surrounding the Indian Ocean and killing over a quarter of a million people. “Where was God in the tsunami?” was a question heard echoed around the world from the mouths of skeptics and believers alike. It is also the subtitle of theologian David Bentley Hart’s 2005 book on the subject, The Doors of the Sea. The tsunami, which acts as the iron that
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it
DBH attempts to answer the difficult question of suffering in this short book—sort of.

He writes in the introduction that the most appropriate response to tragedy and suffering is silence. When tragedy strikes, as it always does, responses pour forth from all persuasions—atheist, theist, agnostic—viewing the catastrophe as vindication of the truth they knew all along, saying: see, this just shows…
Even though these responses lack compassion, it shouldn’t be surprising that events like the Tsunami
Roy Howard
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
David Bentley Hart is an Orthodox Christian and theologian, who also writes extraordinarily well. It's a pleasure to read him in part because of his vocabulary - I'm always learning new words - and in part because of his capacity to dissect an opponents argument with uncanny precision. He has done those most famously with the more militant new atheists, Dawkins, Harrris and Hitchens. He deploys the same skills in this book responding to those who claim a secret providence explaining God's active ...more
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Zachary by: Dr. Nelson
Shelves: non-fiction, theology
This is a great book - but, let me warn you, his vocabulary is quite extensive. I think he either really likes the thesaurus function on his word processor, or he's just a nerd. But a smart one - which is cool in my book. I would recommend having a pretty deep dictionary at hand when reading this, and I would definitely suggest making sure you've read some other less deep theology and philosphy before undertaking this deep (albeit very well written) work.

That said, this is a great book. If
Alex Stroshine
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Although I found David Bentley Hart's first book to be inscrutable, "The Doors of the Sea" was straightforward enough. This book isn't so much a work of apologetics as a response to secular critics who contest belief in a good and all-powerful God is inconsistent with the presence of evil (particularly the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami) and Christians (mostly Calvinist and Catholic) who try to neatly explain that mystery away. Really good stuff, especially in the second part, although ...more
Kenneth E. Hines
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The best discussion of the problem of evil and the existence of God that I have ever read. Hart writes with masterful theological and philosophical precision. His answer to the problem is at once supremely empathetic to anyone who has suffered loss or injustice. He carefully defines what the Christian concept of evil and leads us toward a solution with a precise distinction between God's decretive will and His permissive will. Hart dispels other Christian attempts to give an explanation for the ...more
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a really excellent and well-written book that provides a very helpful and essential angle on the problem of evil: namely that God is not at peace with evil but is overcoming it in Christ. Nobody writes theology like this guy. However, I think he is pretty uncharitable toward Reformed theology, which shows considerably more sophistication on this matter than Hart allows (since when does RT fail to acknowledge the difference between primary and secondary causality?), The Christus Victor ...more
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
There's a lot of good in this book despite it feeling a bit rushed and at times a little pretentious in language. Good primer for those with little understanding of the history of theodicy, which apparently includes many people who call themselves priests and pastors. Nothing too surprising in here for those that do, but that's not really the intended audience for this anyway.

I'm a fan of Mr. Hart and think his style is very effective when he holds back just a little in his desire to be
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Have a dictionary on hand when you read this book because Hart will go out of his way to find the most remote and least used word to make his point. I mean come on, Alacrity? Risible? Umbratile? Fecundate? Gelid? Vituperation? Paroxysm? Bring it down!

But after you finish cursing Hart for making the road so torturous, you'll thank him for penning this small but powerful presentation of God and Evil. Very thoughtful. Not easy reading, and not your standard deterministic explanations. Curl up for a
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dr. David Bentley Hart has quickly become one of my favorite Christian philosophers. While I don't believe he designed this book around the average Christian, or those that are not Christian at all...the overarching points he describes in this book are amazing. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants insight on reconciling death with an all-powerful, all-knowing "good" God. He doesn't explain everything away, but he certainly gives you some things to think about. Ivory tower language ...more
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very short, but effectively and sensitively argued case for the mystery of created freedom, not the sovereignty of God, as the source of metaphysical evil. According to Hart, Christians must recognize that suffering (of itself) is meaningless, not an integral part of the divine plan, but something that this plan has come to wipe away. And this recognition, rather than causing us to question God's omniptence, should be a comfort. Hart does his usual trick of almost simultaneously ...more
Matthew Reed
Jun 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Where Was God in the Tsunami? Not an easy question. In fact, I normally am against books that have subtitles like that. But this book--a critique of atheism, of reformed theology, of self-righteous theodicy, and of explanations--gives profound, beautiful, and moving insights into the question, from one of America's best theologians. If you think that theology is not relevant to contemporary life or that it is boring, perhaps you should try this book...

(Just keep a dictionary handy, as his prose
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A stellar, small volume wherein Hart describes the classical, Catholic (Eastern and Western) understanding of theodicy and the origin and nature of evil. A much needed book in today's climate, as theologians and Christian leaders (especially in the west) often construe God to be the source of evil, for reasons they believe to be valid, but still a morally questionable, if not reprehensible, stance.
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Written in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Looks at the question of God and suffering. The author is an Eastern Orthodox theologian and philosopher. He especially batters the idea that God can ever be seen the author or originator of evil. Well worth reading, though be warned that he has a fairly elevated vocabulary. If it's your first attempt to read a book on the topic, perhaps better to roll with the excellent (and more comprehensive) 'Can God Be Trusted?'by John Stackhouse.
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David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion and a philosopher, writer, and cultural commentator, is a fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. He lives in South Bend, IN.
“Now we are able to rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away and he that sits upon the throne will say, ‘Behold, I make all things new.” 8 likes
“A higher understanding of human freedom, however, is inseparable from a definition of human nature. To be free is to be able to flourish as the kind of being one is, and so to attain the ontological good toward which one's nature is oriented; freedom is the unhindered realization of a complex nature in its proper end (natural and supernatural), and this is consummate liberty and happiness. The will that chooses poorly, then - through ignorance, maleficence, or corrupt desire - has not thereby become freer, but has further enslaved itself to those forces that prevent it from achieving its full expression. And it is this richer understanding of human freedom that provides us some analogy to the freedom of God. For God is infinite actuality, the source and end of all being, the eternally good, for whom mere arbitrary 'choice' - as among possibilities that somehow exceed his 'present' actuality - would be a deficiency, a limitation placed upon his infinite power to be God. His freedom is the impossibility of any force, pathos, or potentiality interrupting the perfection of his nature or hindering him in the realization of his own illimitable goodness, in himself and in his creatures. To be 'capable' of evil - to be able to do evil or to be affected by an encounter with it - would in fact be an incapacity in God; and to require evil to bring about his good ends would make him less than the God he is. The object of God's will is his own infinite goodness, and it is an object perfectly realized, and so he is FREE.” 3 likes
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