A Response to…D.G. Hart?

An individual with the username “dgwired” with an IP address from Hillsdale, MI left the following comment under my post where I review D.G. Hart’s chapter from Engaging With Keller.

Mr. Wells, would you think it odd for a Republican official to help a Democrat get elected? How about a Starbuck’s employee (in uniform) persuading potential customers to take their business to Caribou? I bet you would. So why do you not find it odd for Tim Keller not to show greater loyalty to his own denomination, one that greatly assisted financially the start of Redeemer NYC. If you understood Presbyterianism, you might have a better understanding of objections to Keller’s and your nonchalance about Presbyterian convictions. If you don’t think Presbyterianism is important, fine. Why someone who has taken vows (before God, akin to marriage vows) would not think Presbyterianism important is strange. I’m sure your wife would not be happy if you were that indifferent to the promises you made at your wedding. To explain that you were really only vowing to be faithful to “marriage” in the abstract, would probably not help.

dg

I am not sure if this is D.G. Hart or not, but the tone and content of the comment, along with the username and IP address seem to suggest this is Hart or someone pretending to be him.

Part of me doesn’t know how to respond to this comment, and some would say it doesn’t deserve a response.  However, I would tell this commenter to consider two things.

First, is there not a commitment we make to the universal body of Christ when we are united to Christ?  I know Hart and I would disagree on the debate of ordo salutis and union, but I think the question is an important one.  I raised the issue in my review of Hart’s chapter as to whether he was a true ‘Apostles Creed’ Christian.

Second, wouldn’t a ‘true Presbyterian’ inform a TE’s presbytery if they feared he was breaking vows?  Instead of writing snarky blogs and chapters to books, wouldn’t churchmanship require communicating this issue in a ‘Presbyterian’ manner?

I would also direct all my readers to my review of Hart’s chapter.  I don’t think my concerns were answered by this commenter.

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12 thoughts on “A Response to…D.G. Hart?

  1. Daniel, you are very gracious here, which is to be commended. I still don’t understand why ministers are more loyal to their own “brand” of Christianity than to the overall mission of seeking and saving the lost in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit. That said, I would rather fully understand the Great Commission than Presbyterianism.

    1. Ethan, I know why “ministers are more loyal to their own “brand” of Christianity than to the overall mission of seeking and saving the lost in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit.”

      It is because they value, love, and worship their own “brand” of Christianity more than the God of the overall mission. Does that seem harsh? Does that seem extreme? Does that seem overstated? Dozens of theologians (including Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Chalmers, John Piper, and Paul Tripp, etc. etc., etc.,) would all agree. Our actions are overflows and indications of our hearts. When an alcoholic decides to buy booze instead of feed his family we don’t sugar-coat his problem as “mild preference confusion” or “lack of discernment.” He has major idolatry issues.

      Likewise when a churchman places greater emphasis on loyalty to a denomination than to Christ’s actual body, there is no “lack of discernment” there, there is full blown idolatry and pride.

  2. I have always imagined that ordinal vows were taken to be directed toward God in the name of Jesus for the benefit of the church, not directed toward the church in the name of marriage for the benefit God (as D.G. Hart seems to be communicating).

    The first seems to be holy, the second one seems to be a manifestation of the flesh.

    Bravo for graciousness. I think Christian first, Presbyterian second, or repent.

  3. In response to the commenter’s question: “why do you not find it odd for Tim Keller not to show greater loyalty to his own denomination?”

    This question doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Keller should show greater loyalty to his own denomination than what? Than to who? Is the commenter speaking qualitatively or quantitatively? Does he/she mean “greater” in the sense of more? If so, the analogy of Starbucks/Caribou and Republican/Democrat is quite revealing. Are Christians in competition with each other? What kind of pride is this? Is the PCA in competition with the OPC, ARP, Southern Baptists, and Methodists? How truly revealing this question is. The commenter expects Keller to have “greater loyalty” to his own denomination than to the true Body of Christ; and dare we say ipso facto to Christ?

    What a shocking and foolish comment that is.

    1. Yes, the comparisons Hart gave were very revealing.

      As part of my research project as a teaching assistant, I am sifting through minutes of all the EPC General Assemblies. One thing that stands out is that, from the beginning, the EPC has sought to find partnerships with other like-minded organizations, e.g. the ARP, PCA, and CRC denominations, the National Association of Evangelicals, etc.

      I don’t believe denominationalism is sinful unless it is this me vs. you attitude. If denominations work in partnership with one another toward the greater goal of God’s glory through the discipling of the nations, then that can actually be a beautiful thing. Hence why I like the idea of Together for the Gospel. In Hart’s world, T4G isn’t good enough, because Presbyterians are intermingling with Baptists, Charismatics, etc.

  4. Shouldn’t you verify that the commenter is DG Hart before you post this? Addressing dgwired’s response is fine. But there’s one of two possibilities here. The first as that it is dgwired and he wanted to respond without drawing too much attention to himself. The second is that it’s not Hart, in which case you’ve insulted Hart and raised the profile of the person who made the comments.

    The fact that he chose the initials “dg” would make me suspect that it’s not Hart. It’s not that hard to write like someone in a short response, and if Hart wanted to respond, he wouldn’t give himself away so easily.

      1. Yes I agree. Everyone seems to refer to him/her as “the commenter”. I don’t think anyone is assuming that it is DG Hart.

  5. In my experience, Hart usually identifies himself. However, “DG Wired” seems fairly sympathetic to Hart’s ecclesiology.
    I am personally concerned that influential Reformed Christians are advocating a retreat from evangelicalism. Notoriously,Carl Trueman doesn’t believe that evangelicalism exists! This retreat seems to be motivated by a sense of despair. Anglo-American culture is becoming increasingly secular; the “Young, Reformed and Restless” movement seems to have disappointed some theologians. The proposed solution, so far as I can see, is to retreat into a subculture and assume that God, in his sovereignty, will preserve us!

    I’m also bewildered by statements like “I don’t see what the Reformed have to learn from other traditions”. The Reformed tradition depends on traditions that preceded it and was shaped by traditions that opposed it. That’s one reason to lose the myopia. It is always changing, and is not uniform. Presuppositionalism is part of Westminster Seminary’s tradition; outside Westminster, it seems like a quaint throwback to the 1950s, an antiquated attempt to explain why the American academy wasn’t Reformed anymore. ( Here’s one conservative Reformed response http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/three-grades-of-presuppositonal.html )
    Finally, what often seems unique to our tradition turns out to have precedents elsewhere. Famously, Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff launched a project entitled “Reformed Epistemology” – only to discover that Aquinas had proposed similar views!

    So, the counsel to retreat sounds like hubris. While I would have differences with Keller on many issues, I think he is correct to engage with other traditions. A party spirit seldom, if ever, benefits the Church.

    GV

    1. Thanks for the comment, Graham. You might be right about the identity of “DGWired”, but I tried my best to articulate that the individual is anonymous.

      Your ‘retreatism thesis’ seems compelling. While I love reading Carl Trueman, he seems to be taking a cue from David Wells and others on the culture question.

      Indeed, the Reformed tradition is a catholic tradition. I’m still bewildered by D.G. Hart’s statement in that debate with John Frame over a decade a go.

      Looking forward to some more dialogue in the future!

      Blessings,
      Daniel

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