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The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (American Intellectual Culture) Revised ed. Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742507692
ISBN-10: 0742507696
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Editorial Reviews


Scholarly and important work . . . his [Hart's] warnings about the dangers of seeking to gain the world while losing one's soul should be welcomed by all who sense that something is fundamentally wrong in the way religion appears today on the American scene. (The Weekly Standard)

This book has a provocative thesis that engages the question of the corpus Christianum in a new and engaging manner. Recommended. (CHOICE)

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. (David Watt, Temple University)

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. (Harry S. Stout, Yale University)

Good historical writing calls our attention to something that allows us to ponder it. It may or may not offer a guide for change or summon us to action, but by merely allowing us to look afresh at something we think we know that which was familiar can become intriguing. Such is the service The Lost Soul of American Protestantism provides. In this volume D. G. Hart offers an illuminating new way of looking at the schismatic arena of American Protestantism. (Journal of Church and State)

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. (Mark A. Noll, Wheaton College)

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. (Bruce Kuklick, University of Pennsylvania)

We can thank Hart for opening up a stimulating discussion. (American Historical Review)

Deeply informed. (Theology Today)

Students of church history and American religion can find much food for thought in this volume. (Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly)

Hart offers numerous historical illustrations. . . . Hart's examples provide an interesting and original mix of materials. (Lutheran Quarterly)

About the Author

D. G. Hart is professor of church history and academic dean at Westminster Seminary in California.

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Product Details

  • Series: American Intellectual Culture
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; Revised ed. edition (August 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742507696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742507692
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When we think of Protestantism in the 20th century, we usually think of the dichotomy between liberals and evangelicals. In this book, Dr. D. G. Hart has carefully focused our attention on an overlooked group of Protestants: confessional Protestants such as those in Presbyterian, Reformed, Anglical, and Lutheran congregations. The value and richness of this book is in the fact that Dr. Hart reminds us that confessional Protestants are the true heritage of the Reformation of the Church in the 16th century. Both liberals and evangelicals come from the Pietism and Revivalism of the 18th century that was opposed to confessional Protestants. This will be a welcome edition to your library. It stimulates thought as a history, but additionally it will encourage those American Protestants who long to see the church return to the preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, and an appreciation for the visible church of Christ. I will quote from pg. xxx1. Dr. Hart writes: ...Confessionalism cannot produce immediate results the way pietism promises, through either the imminent inauguration of God's kingdom on earth (the liberal Protestant preference)or the speedy end of human history in divine judgment (the evangelical hope). But confessionalim's longer perspective on the flow of human history, thanks to its understanding of the institutional church, often yields as much wisdom as pietism produces results." Well said!
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Format: Paperback
DG Hart explains how there is more in common between evangelicals and mainline Protestants than confessionalists. He does an awesome job in tracing why confessionalists are less popular but more faithful to historic Christianity than evangelicals and liberals. He's a sharp historian who is slightly out of the mainstream, but demands as much respect as a Noll or Marsden. A must read for thoughtful Christians and those who study religion in America.
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Format: Paperback
Hart argues that American Protestantism lost its “liturgical” and churchly soul by its close contact with and sometimes imitation of the American “market” mentality. He sees the beginning with George Whitefield, whose friendship with Benjamin Franklin provides a “link between Evangelicalism and the emerging markets” (16). By market it is not meant an economic structure, but a system of choosing one thing over another.

From Whitefield (and we will evaluate Hart’s interpretation later) we see a crasser revivalism. What is interesting for the American narrative is that this “revivalism” was itself something very close to a state religion. The most important consequence, however, was that revivalism really didn’t require anything like the sacraments or historic Christian reflection. As Hart notes, “It did not need the formal structures of religion” (17).

Hart counters this rather dismal chapter with an exposition of his hero, Nevin. I am glad that Hart (or Hart’s Nevin) conceded that the Protestant past could not be recovered completely (29). It is interesting to see Nevin contrast Old Calvinism with the New England Puritan faith (31). Do we have here an early reading of Barth’s Calvin vs. the Calvinists?

As a background to Nevin, Hart overviews the Old Side debate. The Old Side could not tolerate the new revivalism because the latter had a deficient understanding of what constitutes faith. The church itself was a means of grace established by Christ to edify the flock, none of which included revivalist measures.

What went wrong?

Revivalism, especially its anti-institutional/liturgical stance, made it harder for the average American to distinguish between historic Christian practices and Romanism (47).
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i like it
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I've not read the book, but as an Eastern Orthodox priest who also moonlights as graphic designer of book covers in order to pay the bills, I'm a bit disturbed to see a "Russian Orthodox cross" on the cover of a book about Protestantism. The fact that this cross adorns the cover is not so much troubling as the fact that it is shown backwards. The "three-bar cross," as is well known among the Orthodox, is a cross that fully illustrates the various points of content surrounding the crucifixion of Christ.

First the middle bar is simply the bar upon which Christ's hands were nailed.

The short upper bar was the bar upon which was displayed the notice indicating who was being crucified and for what reason. In the case of Christ, the sign read "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews".

The bottom bar represents the "footrest" of Christ, where his feet were nailed. On the three-bar cross, the right side points upward toward the thief on Christ's right side who honored Christ and who Christ proclaimed would join Him in Paradise. It points downward on the left side toward the thief who rejected and mocked Christ.

The problem with the image on the book cover is that it is reversed. The "right" side of this cross is actually reckoned as Christ's right side. Therefore, when you are facing a three bar cross from the front, as it should always be represented when placed on book covers, then the side to the left (which would be Christ's right side) would be the side that points upward.

To place such a cross backwards on a book cover displays an ignorance of the image being used and also suggests a lack of understanding of the beauty and theology inherent in the three-bar cross. In this case, it appears that the designer didn't do his research and was ignorant of the issue.
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