My friend Peter Leithart recently wrote about the end of Protestantism for First Things, which understandably excited some comment. Another friend, another Peter, provides an excellent and thoughtful rejoinder here. Peter Escalante brings much needed specificity to the question — the end of something as important as Protestantism, if actually pending, will need to be based on more than a vibe. And another very good response by Fred Sanders can be found here.
It should surprise no one who has followed this blog for more than ten minutes that I believe Escalante and Sanders are right on this one, but I do look forward to any response that Peter Leithart might have. I am confessedly a Protestant yahoo, and to such an extent that I am even willing to be on the same side of an issue as Scott Clark — strange bedfellows, surely, and I won’t even complain about how Scott always wants to hog the confessional covers. But that is another subject for another day.
Okay, well, maybe I should just one thing about Clark’s response to Leithart. Reading Clark on this subject is like taking the oil of lucidity and mixing it with the vinegar of dumb mistakes, resulting in the tangy vinaigrette that we have come to associate with the salad bar that is Escondido. Clark gets on the sawn-off stilts of half confessions and then runs through the swamps of factual errors, splashing as he goes.
Back to Peter’s First Things post. I would suggest that all the good things Peter said there — and there were many — can all fit neatly and with room to spare in the storage closets in the mansion of classical Protestantism. Why not just keep them here? Why hoick them across town to put them in some rental unit?
Thanks for this Doug. I read “first” Peter wondering if he wasn’t saying things to simply be provocative. “Second” Peter was not as helpful as Sanders. Your analogy was beneficial. It’s like Leithart wants to clean his bedroom by dragging all the toys and clothes into the living room: “See mom my room is clean!”
Props for the vinaigrette. That’s gold.
Hey Douglas, I’m totally confused by your post. What do you actually think? You link to Peter’s article, then to the two responses and say you agree with what they said. All of it? 50% of it? Do you think Peter’s post was helpful or a hindrance? Just trying to get a clear answer. I’m also confused by your response to Scotty Clark. Metaphors are fun, but I honestly can’t figure how what you meant by them. Are you saying Clark erred? Where? I guess I’m just frustrated since your point is unclear, and that’s part of what… Read more »
Seems to me that most of the respondents have kinda missed the point. Assuming Leithart has not made an enormous shift and that this is of a piece with, say, _Deep Exegesis_, _Defending Constantine_ and _Against Christianity_ (and akin to the latter in tone), the issue is more a matter of branding than anything else — but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Reconstructionism is over, but everybody’s on about worldview and getting a Christian take on everything (except R2K guys, and what’s with them anyhow?) Dispensationalism is over, but you can’t swing a dead cat at a seminary without hitting… Read more »
Reconstructionism is gone? Who knew?
Tim R, there were parts of Peter Leithat’s post I agreed with, of course, but i think the net effect was not help
Helpful, sorry. And I did agree with the two critiques.
My take is that Peter Leithart could have expressed himself in a way that didn’t provide so much hay for his opposition. However, I do not see Leithart as asking us to walk away from our Protestant heritage, or the importance of those historical doctrinal distinctives (many of which are still highly relevant). I agree with Leithart that the term “Protestant” itself increasingly fails to capture or describe the current Christian landscape. What falls under the heading of “Protestant” today is what has left the term almost useless. Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Amish, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn — everything that isn’t… Read more »
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I can’t help but wonder just how many people self-identify as Protestant in the first place. Seems to me to be way down on the list.
Martin Downes wrote: I can’t help but wonder just how many people self-identify as Protestant in the first place. Interesting thought. This could be part of Leithart’s point. If the label “Protestant” is mainly imposed rather than adopted, then we should ask if it has constructive value in categorizing Christians today. Imposing of this label could come about either through a set of “Roman Catholics” wishing to dismiss broadly, or by popular media that just wants to wield scary statistics rather than make insightful distinctions. But if it’s just a check box on a survey, or creating a profile on… Read more »
I think Leithart’s primary point was that we should not so starkly define ourselves by that which we rigorously oppose in Roman Catholicism. This is not to say that Reformed catholics would not BE sharply opposed to her errors. Of course we should, and hopefully would! Rather, the title – which largely defines who we are and what we are about – should more fittingly reflect the reality that historical latin Orthodoxy ain’t all anathema all the time. And the evolution of the Roman church in these past few decades, as expounded by Katecho, does seem to provide at least… Read more »
Hi Doug, your link to “2 Peter” doesn’t seem to work…at least not for me. Not sure if others have experienced the same issue. Try: http://calvinistinternational.com/2013/11/11/reformation-day-critics/
Leithart has read and graciously received Sanders’ criticism and posts a reply over at First Things. He makes it clear that Classical Protestantism was not the target he had in mind, but rather Protestantism as it is all too typically and frequently found in fundamentalist-type churches. I grew up in the type of “protestant” churches which Leithart quite ably and accurately described and remember receiving the impression from these churches that Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (and high-church Anglicans & Lutherans, etc.) were, if not another religion entirely, clearly so far gone they could barely be considered Christian in any sense of the… Read more »