More from D.G. Hart

The following is found in Hart’s introduction to his latest work.

“The argument that follows [in the book] is that the mainstream churches, both liberal and evangelical, abandoned large pieces of their Christian heritage by working so hard to make their faith practical and relevant to everything from the personal lives of ordinary citizens to the affairs of one of the most powerful nations in modern history. In a word, by trying to make religion relevant, American Protestants ended up trivializing Christianity” (D.G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism [Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002], xvii-xviii).

8 thoughts on “More from D.G. Hart

  1. I would appreciate to hear from the Theologians out there, but to get the conversation moving, here is my Layman’s view:

    I disagree with Hart’s assertions to some extent. I believe the mistake with his veiwpoint is in equating all Protestant Churches equally with each other.

    I believe Hart is correct on one hand that a large portion of American Christians have abandoned their heritage, but there is a significant portion that have not.

    While focusing so heavily on the problems of those Churches that do change, we easily overlook those Churches that hold tenaciously to the original doctrines of the Apostles and the Confessions of the Early Reformers.

    So, while I agree that we now have a significant split between Protestant ideals that serves to trivialize Christianity in the larger view, I do not agree that this is a uniquely American phenomenon nor reflective of the true Grass-roots Protestant Evangelical movements currently afoot.

    The problem is in creating Two Protestant movements. One that is more liberal and strives to become more relevant with respect to society and therefore more visible in the popular media; and another movement that is more conservative with respect to doctrinal absolutes embracing a renewed confessional focus. Some call themselves “reformed” breakaway groups reflecting a desire to remain true to heritage.

    Our Roman Catholic peers are experiencing a movement to have the American Catholic Churches split off from the Church in Rome, but they have resisted such a split due to strong Papal leadership from the current and previous Popes.

    I also find it interesting that our European counterparts see these new ideas at the forefront of American Protestant movements but are not attuned as much to those of us who remain focused on the fundamentals.

    Likewise, many of us view Europe as a religiously bankrupt continent, when in fact fundamental evangelical movements are alive and well.

  2. Hart does not lump all Protestants together. The point of his book, in fact, is to point out the Protestant groups that have not acquiesced to either “liberal” or “conservative” attempts to make themselves relevant.


  3. Maybe I misunderstand, but the introduction Michael quoted clearly lumps “the mainstream churches, both liberal and evangelical” together.

    I don’t have time to actually read the book prior to this thread being archived, so I very much want to hear from those who have read it.

    My perspective is in viewing two “Evangelical” protestant movements in American. One gets most of the press, while the other flies mostly under the radar at the grass-roots level.

    Consequently we see a return to the usage of terms such as “Confessional” to help is further distinguished between “them” and “us”. The more liberal churches striving for social and political relevance, while the more conservative minded seek to remain relevant to Biblical doctrine and confessions.

  4. I believe Michael posted this in response to my request last week to continue a discussion on a similar topic.

    I hope my initial ramblings haven’t chased everyone off. But I really am interested in discussing the issue of what is, or is not, relevant within the greater Protestant umbrella of churches.

  5. As far as mainstream. I could easily include LCMS in this general definition, considering the size and history of the Synod.

    Or, is there a more specific meanig to mainstream here that I am missing by not yet having read the book?

  6. Well, i guess I had completly missed that new post!!
    In general, and as far as I know “mainstream” in America would define churches like the PC-USA, the UMC or even the ELCA. I’ve noticed that quite frequently, specialists do not know how to handle the specificity of American Lutheranism (for instance, the LC-MS holds to inerrancy: that is pretty non-mainstream but many things would prevent your synod to be aligned with, say, the SBC or even the PCA).
    also, Lawrence, you’ve said “Likewise, many of us view Europe as a religiously bankrupt continent, when in fact fundamental evangelical movements are alive and well.”. What did you mean by that?
    Anyway, I am being examined tomorrow to be ordained as a deacon, so I should rather go to bed. May I ask for your prayers?

  7. So, by mainstream we are really talking about politically correct with regard to the social order, moreso than being solidly in the “main” stream of confessional evangelicalism. I think.

    And yes, J.M., Europe is pretty much viewed as religiously bankrupt. At least from the political side of things. But those of use on intereact with our European brothers and sisters on some basis know this not to be true.

    Our prayers go with you, my friend.

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