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In The Lost Soul of American Protestantism, D. G. Hart examines the historical origins of the idea that faith must be socially useful in order to be valuable. Through specific episodes in Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Reformed history, Hart presents a neglected form of Protestantismconfessionalismas an alternative to prevailing religious theory. He explains that, unlike evangelical and mainline Protestants who emphasize faith's role in solving social and personal problems, confessional Protestants locate Christianity's significance in the creeds, ministry, and rituals of the church.
Although critics have accused confessionalism of encouraging social apathy, Hart deftly argues that this form of Protestantism has much to contribute to current discussions on the role of religion in American public life, since confessionalism refuses to confuse the well-being of the nation with that of the church. The history of confessional Protestantism suggests that contrary to the legacy of revivalism, faith may be most vital and influential when less directly relevant to everyday problems, whether personal or social.
Clear and engaging, D. G. Hart's groundbreaking study is essential reading for everyone exploring the intersection of religion and daily life.
About the Author
D. G. Hart is professor of church history and academic dean at Westminster Seminary in California.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The American Way of Faith
Chapter 2: Confessional Protestantism
Chapter 3: Defining Conservatism Down
Chapter 4: The Intolerance of Presbyterian Creeds
Chapter 5: The Sectarianism of Reformed Polity
Chapter 6: The Irrelevance of Lutheran Liturgy
Conclusion: Confessional Protestantism and the Making of Hyphenated Americans
What People are Saying About This
D. G. Hart’s argument is original, important, and provocative. The book forces us to re-examine our assumptions concerning the fissures that define the history of American Protestantism. It points us toward a fundamental reassessment of Protestantism’s role in the formation of modern American culture.
For those interested in the history of American Protestantism, this is D. G. Hart at his best—intelligent, cranky, and iconoclastic. He writes from the perspective of Old School Calvinism and as an opponent of many Christian historians in the academy.
D. G. Hart's The Lost Soul of American Protestantism is the first book to flesh out the theology of 'Confessional Protestantism,' a concept formerly discussed primarily, if not exclusively, within the ethnic and political confines of 'ethno-cultural' political history. In this remarkable volume readers will encounter a third way in Protestantism that is neither 'evangelical' nor 'liberal,' but a tradition grounded in liturgy and historic creeds and confessions. This is a thoroughly useful, entirely readable, and historically notable volume of interest to scholars and informed lay readers alike. It is a splendid example of innovative argument and has a few surprising conclusions.
D. G. Hart wants participants in, and observers of, American religion to realize that dividing things up between 'liberals' and 'conservatives' is simply too simple. Hart asserts that there is a category of religious believers—he calls them 'confessionalists'—who differ fundamentally from both liberals and conservatives. Who these confessionalists are, and why they are important for all who want to resist the trivialization of religion, is the well-told story of this important book.
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