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Christ and Culture, Round 3: Darryl Hart

Darryl G. Hart brings his final remarks to the Christ and culture discussion table. Dr. Hart has authored A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and StateDefending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestant, and Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham.

This project is an asynchronous debate in the vein of the Four Views on… books published by InterVarsity Press. We recorded each participant independently over the course of three rounds – swapping recordings to the other participants between each round. These are Dr. Hart’s closing remarks.

Participants: ,


Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Adam Koontz

9 years ago

A lot of what I heard Dr. Hart saying about the ability of unbelievers to do things like drive correctly, write well, and so forth is laid out in Luther’s “Sermon on the Two Kinds of Righteousness,” which I think is from earlier in Luther’s career and is in the American Edition of his works. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis have done a lot of work on this theme and written a book on it, “The Genius of Luther’s Theology.”

I also want to respond briefly to what Dr. Hart said about Lutherans’ understanding of Christian liberty. Lutherans do things in worship like cross themselves, wear albs and stoles, light candles, bow, and so forth because these things are adiaphora, neither forbidden nor commanded by God, and the Lutheran Confessions, especially the Formula of Concord, are clear about how these ceremonies are neither commanded nor forbidden. I think that conversely the Reformed conception of worship, the regulative principle, does not arise out of a question of Christian liberty but rather out of the concern for what God has specifically commanded. So the Formula will talk about “more or fewer ceremonies” being irrelevant so long as a common doctrine is professed, so that a Lutheran minister can wear a black robe and never make the sign of the cross, or he can wear a chasuble and elevate the chalice at the Holy Communion. I think that the Reformed Confessions (I am more familiar with the Westminster Standards) begin with a different question about worship that is more inclusive than the Lutheran question about worship. Lutherans in the Formula but also in the Augsburg Confession and its Apology are concerned with specific worship practice insofar as it affects true faith and true confession. If elevating the chalice or not elevating the chalice or facing the people or not facing the people at the Words of Institution will not denigrate Christ’s merit or harm faith, we are free to do or not do these things.

While I don’t think the Reformed would deny that faith is also their concern, the historical practices of Reformed communions indicate a different and more stringent view of what may be done in worship, and this comes from the question, “What does the Bible command?” I think it’s a more holistic question than the Lutheran question, asking about practice much more than the Concordia does, although I obviously believe that some of the questions that the Westminster Standards answer about worship are not actually answered by the Scripture.

That said, I think Dr. Hart’s disagreement with his interlocutors about what is Reformed will continue so long as the Reformed Confessions ask these very large questions but are subject to 1) revision and 2) selective subscription by ordinands. Not only does Dr. Hart differ with Dr. Kloosterman, who uses different confessional standards; he also differs with those who are also subscribed the Westminster Standards, partly because Rev. Wilson doesn’t seem to accept the American revisions of the Confession of Faith. I don’t know if Rev. Wilson took exception to that particular article at his ordination, but my point stands whether or not he did. Since everyone, including the Anabaptists, claim to be Biblical, confessions serve to delineate true from false doctrine. If all who claim to be Reformed, let alone all who claim to be Biblical, Christians don’t use the same standards of doctrine or use them to differing degrees (quatenus or quia), how could there be agreement on anything from worship practices such as musical instruments or psalmody to what is required of the magistrate?

Tim H.

9 years ago

Dr. Hart,

I appreciate your thoughtfulness on these matters. I agree with you in large part.

However (there’s always a however), I have a hard time understanding what you mean when you want to say there’s no “Christian” way to do law or medicine or plumbing or politics, etc. In part I agree: scripture makes no distinction about which side of the road cars should be driven on. I even agree that unbelievers can often be “better” lawyers, doctors, scientists, rulers, etc. But does that mean a Christian who is in one of those vocations should functionally identical to an unbeliever?

Should my dad (a family physician) not be concerned for the spiritual wellbeing of his patients? Should a Christian history professor completely ignore the doctrine of providence as he teaches his classes? Should a Christian farmer not be concerned that to falsely zero his scale at the farmers market would be an abomination to the Lord? Is the Christian scientists work unaffected by his understanding of Creation?

I assume you speak with hyperbole to make your point (which I agree with in majority), but I can’t imagine that you really believe one’s Christian beliefs have zero affect on ones vocation.

Thanks again.

Phil Larson

9 years ago

I can’t accept a 2K view because I am obligated to love God with all of my being, including my mind. Furthermore, I am persuaded by Romans 1 that depravity extends throughout the human experience, including my driving, arithmetic, and baking. Dr. Hart will probably say that it doesn’t matter when one is a Christian or not, but it’s more complicated than that: social practices are more than brute artifacts–they are managed by moral agents who will either love God in each interaction or they won’t, and, in time, morally-connected social constructions arise concerning every cultural artifact.

Part of the problem is that Americans don’t know what it means to eat and drink to the glory of God, although they might append prayer and Bible reading. But otherwise, this apparently is a meaningless duty. (We’re a bunch of gnostics.) But put us in the institutional church, and we know how to glorify God there.

Possibly a crux here is that I do not regard religious liberty as the highest good; I don’t see Americanism as a component of orthodoxy. It is preferable to persecution, but I desire a POTUS and SCOTUS who “kiss the Son.”

Another problem (and it’s highlighted in Calvin’s view of the two kingdoms) is that “Church” is both “Church-at-worship” (Sundays, for instance,) and “Church-at-work” (Mondays through Saturdays). “Church” doesn’t cease when the minister says “Amen.”

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