Darryl Hart: "The evangelical temperament is inherently progressive"

Over at Books and Culture, Christopher Benson reviews Darryl Hart’s latest: From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism. (Eerdmans, 2011). 

Here is a taste of Benson’s review:

Nevertheless, Hart awakens evangelicals to five factors that put them at odds with conservatism: (1) habitual appeal to the Bible as the prescriptive standard for national affairs, which abuses the Reformation principle of sola scriptura; (2) failure to differentiate the norms and tasks of the “little platoons” in society (e.g., family, work, church, neighborhood association, political party); (3) conflation of ultimate and proximate realities, thus neglecting “an older Augustinian view of the relationship between the City of God and the City of Man”; (4) naïveté about human depravity, beholden to a perfectionist model of sanctification; and (5) an anti-formalist attitude, which regards “the American political tradition’s conventions of federalism, republicanism, and constitutionalism [as] merely formal arrangements that may be discarded if a better option surfaces.”

I hope to get a chance to read Hart’s book.  From what I have seen so far his thesis is on the mark.   Benson closes his review by stating:

With an Augustinian emphasis on the limits of politics, a Lutheran sensibility for the paradox of Christ and culture, and a Burkean wariness about revolutionary change, Hart’s iconoclastic thesis arrives just in time as a presidential contest heats up, tempting many evangelicals with statist ambitions and utopian fantasies.

One thought on “Darryl Hart: "The evangelical temperament is inherently progressive"

  1. I have asked Dr. Hart at his very interesting blog [although he did not engage, and to insist would be trolling] about our predicament: By being born into this here democratic republic, we are citizen-rulers: we do not simply render unto Caesar, we are Caesar, and so here Augustine is unhelpful.

    A disengagement or semi-engagement is an abdication of [God-given?] responsibility. There is no Christian theology demanding abdication of office: instead the monarch or magistrate is to rule justly, presumably in accordance with some God-given natural order.

    It is good to see Dr. Hart come out openly about his project in the very title of his book. Like many of his stripe—liberal and/or Democrat evangelicals—the net effect is that socially conservative Christians are to shut up and let America become Amsterdam.

    Where sola scriptura or Reformed theology demands this, I do not know.

    I got the impression that Benson, in his review, was intrigued but far from comfortable with Dr. Hart's thesis, and is more in line with VanDrunen's on natural law: the history of Reformed theology seems quite congenial to Scholastic political philosophy—and thus even that of some of the pagan ancients—on just government, and where the problem of the citizen-ruler finds an avenue besides impotence or disengagement.

    For the citizen-ruler does have one imperative and guide: he cannot rule in conflict with natural law, by most lights of Catholic or Reformed thought. Hell, even some of the Amish!



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