Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Philadelphia Society

Mrs. Miller and I went to the national meeting of the Philadelphia Society (the grown up version of ISI) last week.

The theme of the conference was The Future of Conservatism, but an unofficial theme emerged: ripping on Evangelicals. Adrian Wooldridge (who with John Micklethwaite wrote The Right Nation, summed up here, which understood Conservatism very well, but warned of the GOP becoming too “Southern”), pinned the blame for all the GOP’s troubles squarely on the backs of religious conservatives. Ryan Sager, called for a “new fusionism” which would mean libertarians getting their policy preferences promoted and religious conservative shutting up.

There was an interesting debate over Evolution and its usefulness for conservatives. Larry Arnhart and John West starred on a panel similar to the one at AEI the next week (sans Gilder and Derb).

Saw D.G. Hart speak on the future of Evangelical (EV) politics. He believes that the triumvurate of Wallis-Sider-Warren are replacing Dobson-Falwell-Robertson as the voice of Evangelicals.

This is convenient for Hart because he triangulates himself away from the Evangelical label. Speaking to Evangelicals from the outside (in a book review in Touchstone Magazine), he says EVs should stop “bludgeoning” non-believers with proof texts. He asks if Evs are “people of the book because they have little sense of the legitimate authority that resides outside the divinely sanctioned truths of Scripture.” His calls on EVs to stop being “political junkies” and to recognize with Augustinian “two cities,” Lutheran “two kingdoms,” or Reformed “spirituality of the church” that they should recognize:

that religion and politics operate in two different spheres of human existence, the former eternal, the latter temporal, and so have two different norms, with Scripture governing the spiritual (at least for Protestants) and general revelation guiding the political.

In saying the Bible doesn’t speak to the temporal sphere, he is directly contravening the fundamental tenant of my political worldview.

Hart, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home by parents who attended Bob Jones University, is intellectually embarrassed by Evangelicals and defines himself in his opposition to them. In his scholarship, he divides American Protestantism into three camps: the liberal mainline, the Evangelicals, and the confessing Churches (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, anti-Episcopal Anglicans, Orthodox Presbyterians, and others) of which he falls in the last group.

On one hand, I think this three group classification is helpful–”higher” churches who adhere to the fundamentals of the faith have always worn the title “Evangelical” slightly awkwardly–but I worry about the apparent motives at work. Hart says that confessing Churches (CCs) are already bifurcating their realities like he wishes EVs would do. Basically, this is the conceit of academics: worship at a CC church, play the intellectual game and don’t worry about making your worldview holistic by splitting the world into the temporal and the eternal. I recognize that this strategy will earn you more respect in the academy, but even if aren’t you being “ashamed of the Gospel,” you're being ashamed of many of its adherents.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Dr Noebel has just written articles in Summit Journal (short)and Christian Anti-Communism Newsletter (more detailed) about Wallis-Sider-Campolo that furthur what you are saying here.