Saturday, May 29, 2010

Darryl G. Hart on If George Washington Gets A Pass, Why Not William Ernest Hocking?

Here. A big taste.

Well, one reason is that Washington was the nation’s first president and the U.S. Capitol has a whole lot of hullabaloo about him as a divine-like being (see the image of Washington’s apotheosis). Hocking, by contrast, was merely a professor of philosophy at Harvard University. As positions go, teaching at Harvard is not too shabby, but it runs well behind the founding president of the greatest nation on God’s green earth.

But when you read the religious statements of each man, you do begin to scratch your head about the relative orthodoxy of George Washington, regarded by most professional historians to be a deistical member of the Masons, compared to the theological liberalism of Hocking, who wrote the controversial report on American Protestant foreign missions, Re-Thinking Missions (you know, the report that led Machen to found the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and to Machen’s conviction and suspension from ministry in the PCUSA).

Here is Washington’s statement regarding a national day of thanksgiving


And here is a statement from Hocking about the aim of missions:


Whatever the merits of either statement, it is curious to note that Hocking at least mentions Jesus Christ while Washington rarely referred to the second person of the Trinity, except when using the conventional language of the Book of Common Prayer. (It is odd, by the way, for evangelicals to cling to the language of formal prayers when defending Washington’s piety when that same liturgical language was and is off limits in born-again worship where sincerity demands extemporaneous prayers and repudiates merely going through the motions of “prayer-book” religion.)

Which leads to the question: if we can make allowances for George Washington’s religious statements, don’t we have to extend the same generosity to Harry Emerson Fosdick, Hocking, and Pearl Buck? In other words, if you show charity to the American founders, don’t you have to extend the same to Protestant liberals? In which case, if we believed in the orthodoxy of the Founders, would we actually have communions like the OPC and the PCA?

What I get from all this: Lillback argues that "social justice" Christianity is not authentically "Christian." Hart properly points out, whatever the failings of "Christian authenticity" of social justice Christianity, it is FAR MORE identifiably and authentically "Christian" than what came out of the mouth of George Washington and many other "key Founders." And Hart is right.

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