What’s Paleo About Evangelicalism?

by Darryl Hart on October 31, 2012 · 36 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Philosophers & Saints

seat at the porch

The Baylor University historian, Thomas Kidd, wrote a post recently in his regular column at Patheos about evangelicals who are neither liberal nor comfortable with the GOP. He referred to this group as “paleo evangelical” and mentioned that some of these Protestants “gravitate toward outlets such as The American Conservative or the Front Porch Republic, publications and blogs focused on the conservative themes of local culture, limited government, and ordered liberty.” Kidd goes on to explain that paleo evangelicals are “reluctant Republicans” for three reasons: they don’t care for the GOP’s civil religion, are skeptical about politics more generally, and disagree with specific Republican policies, such a the war in Iraq.

I do not intend to keep evangelicals away from the Front Porch Republic, nor do I mean to question Kidd’s own understanding of evangelicalism (which is learned) or his political convictions. But I am curious about the number of born-again Protestants who identify themselves as evangelical and who regularly read FPR. The reason for wondering is my own understanding of evangelicalism and its ambivalence if not animus to conservatism. In fact, if you look at the expressions that could qualify as paleo evangelicalism, you don’t come up with much overlap between those Protestants who stress religious experience and those conservatives who hang around the Porch.

One instance of paleo evangelicals could be the generation of Protestants who grew up with and supported Billy Graham (who has outlived most of his supporters). This example could prove a little confusing since Graham and his associates during the 1940s originally called themselves neo-evangelical, a term that on tried to resurrect the old evangelicalism of the First and Second Great Awakenings without the baggage of fundamentalism. But this would hardly be Kidd’s example of paleo evangelical — not simply because of changing prefixes but also because most of this generation of evangelicals was solidly Republican. Graham himself generally gave his support to Republican presidential candidates (and appears to be doing so again).

Another group of evangelicals with paleo ambitions could be those who supported Charles Finney and the network of voluntary associations that fueled the Second Great Awakening. But again, these Protestants would hardly classify as conservative since many leaned toward radical egalitarianism and were guilty of immanentizing the eschaton, a conservative no no. Not to mention that evangelicals were overwhelmingly Whig before backing the Republican Party at its founding (especially after the Whigs ran out of hair steam).

That leaves the evangelicals of the First Great Awakening to be the true paleo evangelicals. But even these evangelicals, such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and Gilbert Tennent were no respecters of tradition, forms, and mediating structures. They were so attuned to the free movements of the Holy Ghost that the old rules established by the Reformed, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Lutheran churches no longer applied. Conversion mattered more than church membership, the divine words of the Bible mattered more than man-made creeds, sacraments (even if fewer) were tained by Roman Catholicism, and pastors were no better than laity filled with the Spirit. Because of these changes within Protestantism, some scholars (okay, me) refer to evangelicals as neo-Protestants, that is, Protestants who disregarded the forms, structures, and devotion taught by the likes of John Calvin and Martin Luther. Here is how Mark Noll put the difference between evangelicals and Puritans:

Although Puritans stood against Catholic and Anglican formalism, salvation for the Puritans was still mediated by institutions — family, church, even the covenanted society; in evangelicalism (at least in American forms), salvation was in principle unmediated except by the written Word of God. Puritans protested against nominal ecclesiastical life, but they still treated institutions of church and society as given; American evangelicals created their own communities, at first ecclesiastical, then voluntary. Puritans accepted authority from designated leaders; American evangelicals looked to authority from charismatic, self-selected leaders. Puritans fenced in enthusiasm with formal learning, respect for confessions, and deference to traditional interpretations of Scripture; American evangelicals fenced in enthusiasm with self-selected leaders, individualistic Bible-reading, local grassroots organizations, and intuitively persuasive reason. (Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, 173-74)

None of this means that Kidd’s evangelicals are unwelcome at Front Porch (as if I had the authority of muscle to be the porch’s bouncer). It does, however, raise a basic problem for Protestants who identify with evangelicalism (which has come up here before). If Kidd had wanted to call these folks paleo Protestants, he would at least have had a point because of the differences between Calvin and Edwards, or between Luther and Whitefield. But because evangelicalism has since its beginnings been a religious movement based on calling into question tradition and looking for the most up-to-date ways of promoting Christianity, it is infertile soil for cultivating conservatism.

Postscript: meanwhile, one evangelical who deserves a seat on the porch (whether he knows about Front Porch Republic is another question) wrote the following about the upcoming election:

Moreover, it seems to me that if we really believe the system is broken but we vote anyway, we simply nullify our contention that the system is broken. Now, we may not believe it’s “that broken,” and so we vote. Praise God. I support you if you feel that way. But if you think the farce of national democratic elections has reached an almost irretrievable state of disrepair, corrupted by big money on both sides and fundamentally manipulative and insincere in its presentation of candidates, then to vote could only end in one outcome no matter who is elected–the further entrenchment of the brokenness we decry. The vote becomes a veto. In that case, the ballot is empty and the voice is empty. You can’t decry a thing sincerely and then comply with the thing secretly. We can’t hope to bring change or reform by continuing practices and patterns that are themselves part of the problem. Broken systems call for genuine fixes. . . .

So, what of all this? In short, it means I don’t have a political home and I need to fight to create one. It won’t likely be in either of the two major parties. It won’t be created by checking so much of who I am at the polling curtain and ticking a few blanks out of a vague sense of duty or an even vaguer hope that “this might work.” Home won’t be found as an independent, unhitched to anyone or anything besides my own ramblings. Thus begins a new political sojourn for me. I’m looking for a home with others who’ll leverage their voices and eventually their votes into something that looks, smells, walks, and talks like a Christian view of the good life. I am an idealist and an optimist. Shame on us all if we believe on Christ and we’re not all idealists and optimists.

This is not reluctant republicanism, it’s front porch realism.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Rob G October 31, 2012 at 7:45 am

For a minute there I thought that was Russell Moore. He’d fit in well here, I think.

avatar K H Acton October 31, 2012 at 8:21 am

Evangelical can describe too many different sorts to be really useful. The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) is often considered evangelical, but her presbyteries differ greatly from each other and the diversity is reflected in the ministerial ranks. Some are very anti-traditional (for confessional Protestants anyway), some are very much formal traditionalists, most fit somewhere on a continuum between the extremes. It makes for interesting church politics. The traditionalist presbyteries tend to be located in the Deep South where the PCA sometimes represents THE mainline form of Presbyterianism.

avatar Kevin V October 31, 2012 at 8:23 am

I do not presume to speak for all evangelicals but I certainly do not fit into you characterization (carciture?) of evangelical protestants. Perhaps it’s because my denomination finds its theological grounding in the Puritans or perhaps because I am a reformed catholic. In any event, I’m an euthusiastic front-porcher and paleo conservative.

avatar Alex W. October 31, 2012 at 8:45 am

Evangelical roll call?

Present!

I think you underestimate the draw of The Porch and how many evangelicals actually feel inspired by the kind of talk going on in its forum. Many of us actually sat in classes with Noll and were required to read his book. We learned about the scandal of our minds (that there isn’t much of one) and changed our ways. I think you’d be surprised at how many evangelicals are coming home to roost in traditional structures after years of wandering in the wasteland of non-denominationalism.

Granted, I may not be a typical evanglelical, I’m an Anglican, but I’m also one of the ‘crazies’ who left the Episcopal church when its structure effectively institutionalized theological anarchy. We’ve not left the creeds, apostolic succession and all the rest. Our episcopal oversight is provided by African bishops, and we’re seeking acknowledgment from Canterbury. A bit unorthodox to be sure, but an evangelical spirit of calling present structures to task is sometimes necessary to redirect tradition to its true foundations, and I believe that’s exactly the spirit in which this site is written.

avatar C. R. Wiley October 31, 2012 at 9:13 am

Certainly true in my case–I am a subscriber to, The American Conservative, I read Front Porch regularly–and I am increasingly uncomfortable with calling myself an “evangelical”. (I’m also a Presbyterian–PCA.)

avatar Darryl Hart October 31, 2012 at 11:37 am

Alex, why not call yourself Anglican? What does evangelical add, except for permission to confuse you with a Pentecostal who swallowed — in Luther’s phrase — the Holy Ghost feathers and all.

Kevin, same question to you. Are you the same as Joel Osteen? So why go by evangelical?

avatar Katy October 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Sometimes folks are drawn to paleo-politics, and it just takes longer for their religious confession to follow (understandably, especially if they were raised evangelical. Breaking from one’s fathers’ and grandfathers’ faith is very painful). I usually assume evangelicals with paleo-conservative leanings will eventually subscribe to one of the 16-17th-century confessions/catechisms (Augsburg/Book of Concord, Westminster, Trent, Heidelberg, Thirty-Nine Articles).

avatar JasonG October 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Evangelical present here, and have been reading FPR for over a year. I love the writings of Orthodox Rod Dreher in American Conservative too, and like to think I’m becoming more and more Crunchy Con.

And yes, I’m in the Presbyterian Church in America, in South Carolina, and I take the Reformed Confessions seriously, and often consider many medievalists as having important things to say, regarding civic life.

I have Puritan Paperbacks (reprints, sometimes with updated language, of old Puritan writings), on my shelves at home.

I think former Dutch PM, Abraham Kuyper, with his focus on subsidiary, and sphere sovereignty is very important as well.

I thought a renewed focus on that was what I was getting in 2000 with G W Bush, instead I got Cheney & Rumsfeld. Oh well, live and learn.

avatar Benjamin Nagle October 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm

It is no longer the 1990′s, and the mega-church mentality that lined up with the Iraq War and Bushism is unpopular among the millennial generation. I’m an evangelical, or at least grew up in evangelical circles, and often read The American Conservative or Front Porch Republic or The Distritbutist Review. Many of my friends, who are also evangelicals, voted for Ron Paul, sympathize with his localist and non-interventionist views, and reject their parents more conventionally Republican and nationalist set of political opinions. They feel uncomfortable about the selfish aspect of libertarian dogma. Yet they are skeptical about the state love preached by the Democratic party. This leaves them without options and searching.

I don’t really dig the paleo modifier, whether it comes before conservative or evangelical or orthodox. Not only is it a hard sell, but, as Patrick Deneen once said, it makes you think of a race of creatures with very small brains that once walked the earth and is now extinct. This does not, however, alter the fact that these three things share characteristics that this millennial set happens to find attractive. Many of these young evangelicals are searching for an alternative to their parents form of conservatism, and they arrive at something closer to paleoconservatism. They are cynical about national and international politics but support robust forms of local solidarity. Likewise, when it comes to their theological sensibility, many are attracted to the church fathers. The historical amnesia in evangelical communities has left them wanting to know about the origins of their faith. In the evangelical world, this can lead you to such Paleo-orthodox theologians as Thomas Ohden or Christopher Hall or maybe even Alister McGrath.

Rather than trying to kick us off the porch, or compare us to Joel Osteen, you could, more constructively, take a note from Metropolitan Kalistos Ware. http://ancientfaith.com/specials/lectures_by_metropolitan_kallistos_ware/what_can_evangelicals_and_orthodox_learn_from_one_another

avatar Reader John October 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I suspect that paleo-Evangelicals, if they’re not like unicorns, are on a path like I trod from neo-Evangelical to Calvinist (Christian Reformed, but could have gone PCA) to Orthodoxy. As a Calvinist, I remained equivocally “Evangelical,” and didn’t want entirely to discard the label though I’d discarded dispensationalism.

avatar Alex W. October 31, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Darryl,

Because I think evangelicalism had an important hand in fathering my spiritual convictions and loyalty to my Anglican Church. You are right, evangelicalism is no church, and I’m constantly persuading my non-denominational brethren to at least acknowledge their earthbound calling to embodying Christ’s incarnation in earthly institutions and a real community of faith. Evangelicalism was the spirit which got me there. I was a convert from the Southern Baptist Church, and it was the evangelical spirit I was raised in that that taught me to pursue a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” which, I came to see, meant something deeper than spontaneous prayer and grape juice once a month. It was that evangelical spirit and intense personal commitment that led me to a loyalty to the Anglican Communion and to a pursuit of theology. I must give evangelicalism its due in my life.

avatar Chris Travers November 1, 2012 at 2:35 am

I’d like to bring up the elephant in the room, which is the fact that front porchism is making inroads in what we might think of as the right-wing of Neopaganism,. While we may think of the left wing of Neopaganism as being demotic versions of Hermeticism, such as Wicca, the right wing has typically been localist, and traditionalist. Rather than trying to merge traditions, we try to recreate and own our own.

This of course poses some conflicts. Christians of various types (Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, etc) tend to have an internationalist ideology (“convert everyone” if you will), while we tend to have a nationalist/localist one even down to religion and tradition.

At the same time, I think it is interesting that this approach to life can bring Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, and Heathens like me together where we can discuss issues, sometimes disagree, and yet have a gathered conversation. There is something about the throthfulness (if I may coin a word) of this community which facilitates this sort of thing.

It’s a funny sort of postmodernism that invites us all together, in opposition to most of what counts as postmodernism these days.

avatar Alex W. November 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

Chris,

I think you’re quite right and those observations are very well put.

I would hasten to add that I think most American Christians are looking for a friendly political habiliment that actually values the humility inherent in Christian doctrine. In a culture that thinks of itself as “globalized” we gravitate toward perspectives that respect limits and creaturely humility. While Christians (very rightly) should have a tough time with nationalism, Christian evangelicalism is, at its best, a rather local phenomenon, often seeking to convert next-door neighbors and leave the international scene to the Lord. Not that this makes us any less obnoxious, but at least it’s on a smaller scale. “There’s ol’ pastor soandso trying to convert the middle school science teacher again.”

In a way, localism chastises evangelism and shows its limits, and at the same time, provides very fertile soil for living out the gospel. Even foreign missionaries don’t really go to spread the gospel to “the nations” but embed themselves in particular towns and communities in foreign countries. There’s good evidence to suggest that the pre-Constantinian Christianity was spread entirely by local efforts.

Like you I’m grateful for places like the porch that have successfully elucidated a political forum where we can come together and converse. We Christians are increasingly finding ourselves shut out of national political discourse.

avatar David Smith November 1, 2012 at 9:19 am

I’m yet another PCA’er among this bunch, likely with similar antecedents in terms of my own spiritual journey to this point. Further, as a soon-to-be former Army chaplain, I’ve necessarily been a part of the ecumenical evangelicalism that pervades much of that ministry, from performing services in shorts and Tevas in coffeehouse-type ministries to the more traditional General Protestant services offerred in most military chapels.

For me being an Evangelical simply means I believe in the importance of evangelizing those who don’t know Christ, ala the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. However, I have for a long time now grown wary and even hostile to a great many of the other trappings that have been thrown into the Evangelical bag. While I think there’s a great deal of room for being creative in our appeals to non-Christians, I have a problem with a lot of the “seeker-sensitive” thinking that has characterized much of Evangelicalism, from the Church Growth Movement all the way to some of what we have seen in the Emerging Church. In short, all too often we seem to love change for change’s sake, forgetting that Christianity is an ancient and grounded faith. Furthermore, there is all too often a distinct aspect of vulgarity in some of Evangelicalism, from the idea I believe Pat Robertson had some years ago of creating a theme park (?) at the Sea of Galilee to the mega-churches that seem to aid and abet the anonymous and ugly urban sprawl we see everywhere today.

While I’ll firmly identify myself as a paleo-conservative, the pitfall we have to be ever on guard against is thinking something is necessarily good because it’s old and traditional. Presbyterians, for example, can have – and in too many cases, rightly so! – the reputation for being a denomination for lawyers and accountants, who love straining at gnats, just like those wayward traditionalists of old, the Pharisees. While I decry the arrogance, frequent vulgarity, and even well-meaning ignorance of the innovators in Evangelicalism, I want to be careful that I don’t create idols out of my traditions, an equally deadly sin.

avatar Peter November 1, 2012 at 11:25 am

I grew up with the Evangelical label and haven’t discarded it, but I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the tribal / political positions associated with the label.

avatar Fr. Jonathan November 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I was raised evangelical (Methodist). In college I found my way to the Anglican tradition, quite Catholic theologically and with a tremendous appreciation for liturgy. For a while, I was inclined to avoid the evangelical label. But then I attended an Anglo-Catholic seminary (which I loved) and discovered that, in all sorts of ways I hadn’t fully appreciated, “evangelical” still describes me. Alex seems to be describing a similar experience — to accept the label (in spite of the fact that it sometimes puts me in odd company) is to accept my roots. I may not always be comfortable with my roots… but there is a great deal that I profoundly appreciate as well. So now — as an Anglican priest — I still admit to being something of an “evangelical.”

Oh yeah, and I read Front Porch Republic, which, among other things, encourages me in my efforts to embrace my (sometimes strange and uncomfortable) roots, family, upbringing, and history (including evangelicalism). :-)

avatar robert m. peters November 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I am a sand-hill Southern Baptist from North Louisiana which is a very profound theological statement in its own right, for sand-hill Southern Baptists from North Louisiana baptize in colder water than do clay-hill Southern Baptists from North Louisiana, and we allow deacons to baptize because so many pastors have been lost in quick sand. On the other hand, our clay-hill counterparts have, on the whole, more faith because they baptize in murky water, more often than clear sandy water, fraught with parasites and other critters such as snakes and alligators. Even though baptistries have replaced creeks, churches of the sand-hill tradition generally have colder water than those of the clay-hill tradition; and those of the clay-hill tradition tend to have a somewhat milky water.

We Southern Baptists are of mixed doctrinal and theological heritage. In fact, the convention system developed before we sundered ourselves from other American Baptists reflects an attempt of some right contentious folks to get along for the common cause of spreading the “good news,” i.e. being evangelicals. (One might note to add to the confusion that “being an evangelical” appeared somewhat before the Church herself in the aspirations of Octavian Caesar, wondering thereby if Octavian being an ante-Christian evangelical would frequent the Front Porch.) Among Southern Baptists are disciples of Arminius, that renegade Calvinist who kept irresistible grace which we Baptist have come to call “once saved always saved” but jettisoned absolute predestination for the act of the will. The disciples of Arminius and the disciples of Calvin are battling it out in our little “denomination” right now. Add to that the apostolic folks who believe in the apostolic succession, and one gets a picture of our family feud.

I am in and come from that tradition; yet, I am know to run with renegade Episcopalians and have an affinity for Papists. I am not unlike our one and only President, Mr. Jefferson Davis, who began life as a Baptists, sojourned among the Episcopalians and tended toward Catholicism. What we also have in common is that we do not like Yankee Puritans, particularly those who morphed into Transcendentalists and Unitarians, writing such blasphemous songs a “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I bet that if Jeff Davis were alive, he’d be sittin’ on this Front Porch just like I am. I feel right at home here. All that is missing is a bushel of butter beans to shell while we shoot the bull and chew the fat. (My daddy taught me that one must first shoot the bull before one attempts to chew his fat!)

For the record, given the understanding of my upbringing, I do not like Republicans, do not say the Pledge of Allegiance – Jacobin, anti-Christian and anti-Southern harangue that it is, its “in God we trust” notwithstanding – and hold to a Christian tradition which must reject dispensationalism and the attendant “rapture.” I also think to see the evil of the much-praised, too-much-praised, Second Great Awakening, the greatest outcome of which in my mind is having conjured up the various demons associated with the Arian heresy.

I do hope that y’all will allow me to stay on the Front Porch.

avatar Stephen November 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I think it’s no surprise that so many of the commenters identifying as evangelicals are Reformed. It is indeed hard to imagine how (paleo)conservatives would be comfortable in churches rooted in the Second Great Awakening. However, even though a lot of bad beliefs and practices are common in churches that get called “evangelical,” I think many Reformed Christians think the word “evangelical” shouldn’t just be abandoned, in light of its historic usage (used by the Reformers before the word “Protestant” appeared), as well as its focusing our attention on the gospel, which is the core of our faith.

avatar Katy November 2, 2012 at 9:04 am

I think Stephen is right. However, both “evangelical” and “gospel” have been diluted to describe a broad range of things the reformers never intended. People will compliment a pastor with “thanks for preaching the gospel,” or “what a great gospel message,” when he did no such thing , and the Gospel itself was assumed, not proclaimed. It just becomes synonymous with “I agreed with it” or “you speak a language/use a vocabulary I recognize.” The same could be said for the statement “God is sovereign.” I have blatantly Arminian relatives who constantly talk about God’s sovereignty in every area of their life but salvation.

avatar David Smith November 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm

“That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.

If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

Hopefully, this isn’t too much off topic; however, this quote from one of Spurgeon’s sermons, to my mind, most elegantly deals with the controversy over predestination vs. free will (Loosely, Calvinism vs. Arminianism).

Incidentally, I believe there’s a great deal to be learned sitting on a front porch, shuckin’ beans! There’s time for meditative thought and conversation – so civilized! Thanks for the imagery, Dr. Peters!

avatar Roman November 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Amidst this entire discussion I’d like to add that I am what you are describing! I read those first two paragraphs and thought you were talking about me. The AmerCon website and FPR are the only two sites in my bookmark bar that I visit every single day.

I won’t say much due to lack of time I have here, but I do believe that Protestantism was not negating tradition per se through the Reformation. Quite the contrary, much did deal with preserving the traditions believed to be Biblical. That of course, leads us into the whole Reformation debate and much theology. My point is that tradition wasn’t made null.

I grew up Byzantine Catholic and have a fond nostalgia of my days there. I am Reformed Presbyterian now (not only for doctrinal reasons) but also because of the community-centered life and love for tradition and local history, etc in my small town. And even the doctrinal reasons aren’t all aligned with the denominations belief’s.

The protestantism of mainstream Americanity today is a result of rampant individualism and, in my opinion, very improper theology. Much of it is a product of the Finney-like great awakening teaching.

That’s all for now…

avatar robert m. peters November 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

We humans have a two fold problem: we are creatures who at our very best would have a difficult time apprehending much less comprehending our Creator; and we are fallen creatures, with all of our facilities – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual – blurred by the fall. The dichotomy between free will and predestination is a false dichotomy made polemic by the hubris of the fallen creature who cannot tolerate the ambiguities with which he is confronted. He arrogates to himself the ability “to know,” that original Gnostic sin to acquire knowledge about the Creator and about creation without knowing the Creator and acknowledging Him as such. Thus, we assume that we can figure out how the Creator works and reduce it and even Him to a theory: predestination or free will. Once we have taken “our” position, with all of the attendant plausibility arguments “rationally” arranged, we expect others to follow and to comply or to be anathema.

Deep down, like our father Adam, we do not really want to walk by faith. We want to know and to through that knowledge control, not only fellow humans but God Himself, for if we “know” how He works then we become His masters. The intolerance of ambiguity works to negate faith.

We have to faith our way through the most important aspects of Christianity: the Trinity, the Incarnation; the Atoning Work of the Christ; the Deep Mystery of the Body and the Bride of the Christ – the Church; how Salvation is actually imputed.

What is not ambiguous is what has echoed for centuries in the Creed. We know that as Christians it is our purpose, the purpose of each of us, to glorify God, to edify the Church, to honor our parents, to cherish our spouses, to love and nurture our children, to give hospitality to kith and to kin, to extend charity to the stranger and to love our enemies. It is our task to daily take up our cross and follow our Lord, asking Him each morning, “Domine, quo vadimus?”

False dichotomies can wait, perhaps or perhaps not resolved on God’s Front Porch, of which all good front porches are a foretaste.

avatar David Smith November 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm

One of my frustrations with SOME Reformed folk is the seeming need to explain and “lawyer” everything to the nth degree. God has indeed made many things clear, and we know enough to get on with the business of receiving the salvation He offers by faith. But that leaves a great deal that we don’t know. Does it not say in Deut. 29:29 that the revealed things belong to man, but the things hidden belong to God?

I guess I’m agreeing with you then, Dr. Peters. I am honestly okay with there being mysteries about God and the universe I may never entirely comprehend. It’s really more than I deserve that He knows me, and someday, I will know as I am known.

avatar robert m. peters November 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Mr. Smith,

We do, it seems, agree. Indeed a you quote from Deuteronomy, the revealed things belong to man, but the things hidden belong to God. To deserve to be known by Him and to come to know as one is known by Him is the core of faith and its great hope.

avatar Jon Cook November 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I have always been found in “evangelical” churches in my Christian walk(*), and like Mr. r.m. peters I am a Southern Baptist. I frequent FPR and love the material, for the most part. Peters said enough about Baptists; I often half-joke that if I wasn’t Southern Baptist I’d be Eastern Orthodox, which might give you a hint of my theological leanings. Yes, we evangelicals have our problems, but then so do all the other labeled categories of Christians. For me there are a very few deal-breakers that keep me out of most Orthodox traditions; just a few, but they’re biggies. Yes the mystical Body of Christ, the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is important, but in the end it is individuals who have souls, and it is individuals who will be entered or not into the Book of Life, and it’s not going to depend on what earthly church membership role my name is on. If that makes me evangelical, so be it.

David Smith: Wonderful Spurgeon quote!
Darryl Hart: Osteen? Really? Hmm….well….I’d better bite my tongue now.
(*): This sentence should not be read to imply “church hopping”. I decry the consumer church-hopping mentality that is too prevalent among us. I have been at one church the entirety of my life in my present town (~17 years).

avatar Chris Travers November 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Mr Smith wrote:

“Hopefully, this isn’t too much off topic; however, this quote from one of Spurgeon’s sermons, to my mind, most elegantly deals with the controversy over predestination vs. free will (Loosely, Calvinism vs. Arminianism).”

This is another possible point where the Heathen and Evangelical approaches can provide interesting dialog I think.

In my studies I think the simplest model from a Heathen perspective is that fate itself is a grant of potential, not a grant of the actual, and that it is our responsibility to reach it. As someone says in the Saga of Hrolf Kraki, “if we do not try, we do not know which way our luck will turn.” I find this is interesting because in context it seems to bridge this gap between destiny (one word for fate in Old Norse means “what has turned”) and free will. We have an obligation to try to reach our destiny.

I would be interested in whether those from a Calvinist line here in fact see something similar.

avatar dave walsh November 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for the link to the Pastor’s blog.

avatar Erik Charter November 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I think a lot of evangelicals would say they are conservative in the Fox News sense. Maybe 1 in 20 could tell you who William F. Buckley was and 1 in 100 could tell you who Russell Kirk was, though. Some of that would depend on their age, of course.

avatar sean dennis November 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Dr. Hart,
It shouldn’t take a reading of Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided to come to the conclusion that evangelicals are far from monolithic.
I’ll grant you that we’re outliers, but you may even find a few baptists in Kentucky who agree with your 2k position and think Bill Kauffman should be the next Secretary of Defense. Should you ever get asked to speak at SBTS, skip the visit to the Mohler library. You’ve got an open invitation to drink bourbon on my front porch (bring your own pipe).

avatar Alex W. November 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Erik,

You may very well be right, but the age qualification matters hugely, I think.

avatar dghart November 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Sean, I accept. Please send the invitation.

avatar Kristopher S. Pierce November 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I am an evangelical, and I have been reading The American Conservative, The Imaginative Conservative, and occasionally Front Porch Republic for a few months now.
I discovered Front Porch Republic through Rod Dreher and The American Conservative online publication. I read Rod Dreher’s “Crunchy Cons” and found that it really represented the way I think and live as a Christian. So, when I discovered Rod Dreher’s blog I began reading other blogs and articles at The American Conservative. I discovered that there were other conservatives who had the same conclusions about the GOP’s hawkish foreign policy.

I am a student at my local community college here in California. A few years back, when I was on the staff of the student newspaper here, I actually wrote an op-ed about how I had come to the conclusion that Bush’s war in Iraq did not fit the criteria of the “just war theory”.

I attend a non-denominationl, evangelical church out here in the Central Valley of the Golden State. Although I strongly identify with the Protestant Reformation and the Reformed tradition, I still have one foot firmly planted in the world of evangelicalism.

Politically, I am registered as a Republican. But I think my party should reform. I’d like to see more concern about the environment(seeing environmental conservation as a very “conservative” issue). I would like to see a more “conservative” approach to foreign policy as well–one that exercises restraint when it comes to interventions and wars.

I may not be the norm here, but I do indeed read Front Porch Republic ocassionally…

avatar Confused November 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I am also someone who is newly discovering and maybe finding a home in worldview (although I hate the term) which appears to be expressed by so many at FPR. However, stepping outside of Evangelicalism a moment, I have to ask how such a coalition of traditionalists can work. I am an Anglo-Catholic, but I know that both the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox consider our priest unordained and our eucharist nothing but bread. Those Catholics whom I most admire in terms of political philosophy, traditional liturgy, etc. tend to be traditionalists who love their “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” The most traditionalist Reformed folks still tend to see the Catholics as the Roman Whore. Outside of Americanized Antiochians and OCA, many Orthodox I encounter online are pretty much on the same page. Thus, how does this work? Do we agree to simply like each other, share ideas, and pal around on message boards for the time being with the understanding that no less than 3/4 of us, in the long run, are on our way to eternal flames? I guess I’m trying to reconcile traditionalism and conservatism with any sort of ecumenism. Maybe I’m missing something.

avatar Jon Cook November 8, 2012 at 9:48 am

Dear Confused, the Church, the Body of Christ, is made up of people, not institutions, hierarchies, theologies, or traditions. It is mystical and will not be bound by any man-made constraints. As fellow members of the Church we can interact, relate, and fellowship in love regardless of any teaching coming from the man-made structures around us. I have met Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox, and others who I believe at the end of all things will hear “Enter into the joy of your Lord”, and I have met all of the professed same that I believe will hear “Depart from me, I never knew you.” There are times and places to discuss particulars of our beliefs, and sometimes to call out what we believe are egregious heresies, but it is not everywhere and it does not mean we cannot fellowship with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

avatar Confused November 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Mr. Cook, I appreciate your reply. You write, “the Church, the Body of Christ, is made up of people, not institutions, hierarchies, theologies, or traditions. It is mystical and will not be bound by any man-made constraints.”

I understand this to be the more moderate Evangelical response. However, I wonder how many conservative Reformed, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox would agree. That’s the real question that has me thinking.

avatar Corey November 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Although it seems a lot of “evangelicals” have already replied, I’ll just note that I’ve been reading this site since the beginning, agreeing with nearly everything, and I’m a Southern Baptist who generally has no problem with “mega churches.” One reason for this is that I’ve lived in cities, like Chicago, where the established mainline protestant churches have left scripture and Christian tradition behind in favor of political correctness, so that the very few scripturally sound communities left tend to be large churches with multiple campuses. I would be much more comfortable in a traditional Southern Baptist church, but lacking many strong churches nearby, these seem like the better choices.

I would suspect that a large part of FPR’s readership comes from the south, where tradition and Christ still haunt, and therefore that quite a few of your readers are “pale- evangelicals” like myself. This is why I’ve often been disappointed when FPRs Catholics and some others caricature evangelicals by lumping us all in with Pentecostals, or with Joel Osteen, or with just any non-denominational church. Southern Baptists are the second largest body of Christians in America, and while some of us might shake tambourines, we also have large established seminaries and a long tradition of Spirit-filled worship led by ordained pastors. In fact, many Southern Baptist churches are led by pastors with doctorates, and nearly all are led by seminary graduates. We may identify with calling into question certain traditions, but we certainly do not call into question all tradition. So perhaps it isn’t accurate to lump everyone who would call themselves “evangelical” in with a movement that includes the Joel Osteens, just as it wouldn’t be accurate to lump Patrick Deneen in with a conservative movement that includes libertarians and neo-conservatives.

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