Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has awarded the 2011 Michael Ramsey prize to Atheist Delusions, by David Bentley Hart.
The book, said Dr Williams, "takes no prisoners in its response to fashionable criticisms of Christianity."
"Needless to say the honour is very great," said Hart in response. "For me, it lies especially in the name of the prize, as I have such a high regard for Michael Ramsey [a former archbishop and scholar], and in its being conferred by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, whose work is among the richest theology being written in English today."
In the book, Hart outlines how Christianity transformed the ancient world in ways we may have forgotten: bringing liberation from fatalism, conferring great dignity on human beings, subverting the cruelest aspects of pagan society, and elevating charity above all virtues.
He then argues that what we term the "Age of Reason" was in fact the beginning of the eclipse of reason's authority as a cultural value. Hart closes the book in the present, delineating the consequences of the decline of Christendom in a culture that is built upon its moral and spiritual values.
Dr Williams described David Bentley Hart as "a theologian of exceptional quality, but also a brilliant stylist. .. [W]hat makes it more than just another contribution to controversy is the way he shows how the most treasured principles and values of compassionate humanism are rooted in the detail of Christian doctrine."
Born in 1965 in Maryland, Hart has degrees from the University of Maryland, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Virginia. He was most recently a professor at Providence College in Rhode Island. He specialises in philosophical theology, religious studies, Asian religions, patristics, and aesthetics. He is also a writer on cultural issues, with an emphasis upon aesthetics.
Hart will receive am award of £10,000 pounds. The Michael Ramsey Prize is intended for theological writing in which freshness and originality change the theological landscape and reinforce the Church’s institutional life.
Baron Ramsey of Canterbury (14 November 1904 – 23 April 1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed on 31 May 1961, and held the office from June 1961 to 1974.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]