Monday, January 02, 2006

Hart, Nevin, and the German Reformed

I have just begun reading John Williamson Nevin: A High Church Calvinist by D.G. Hart. I have only finished the opening sections, but I am already highly disappointed in Mr. Hart. Do not get me wrong. I greatly respect the scholarly nature of D.G. Hart’s work, and have a decent number of his work, but he makes an insulting blunder in his opening. On page 18 he writes,

What is more, the German Reformed Church itself vanished over the course of the twentieth century, going through a series of mergers and church unions that landed the denomination in which Nevin labored for over half of his life in the United Church of Christ.

This is simply false. Yes, the vast majority of the German Reformed Church followed the mergers, but not all did. The Reformed Church in the United States did not disappear, as in fact, I currently serve the RCUS. I am sure that our denomination would be surprised to learn that it disappeared. While, I would not find it hard to believe that laymen would make this mistake, D.G. Hart is a scholar, and should have known that the RCUS still exists today. The German Reformed Tradition is alive and well.

Yet this is more than just upsetting because he overlooked my particular denomination as existing, but because I believe it may affect his analysis of John Nevin the biography. When one reads and learns of the German Reformed Tradition and church in America, Nevin has a high place in it; however, is he a legitimate representative of it is unclear. Hart is already using Nevin interchangeably with German Reformed tradition. This is not correct, or at least has to be defended.

Hart is right that the German Reformed tradition has been overlooked by American Theologians, much to the detriment of church by the way. The RCUS is a church that was mostly immune to the church splits of the First Great Awakening, that stood against the Biblical criticism of the early 20th century, never caved to feminism, and today is still highly resistant to the Federal Vision and other movements in popular Presbyterianism. Hart is wrong about what the German Reformed tradition is, but is right that it needs to be rediscovered.


Fred Carpenter said...

Lee wrote, "The German Reformed Tradition is alive and well."

Which classis in the tiny RCUS is growing Lee? Certainly not any church in the NPC, in fact, I wonder how long your classis will even be around?

Lee said...

Fred, the RCUS is growing over all with the Western Classis leading the way. Also Colorado is seeing an explosion of RCUS churches. The future of the church looks bright. I do admit that the Norther Plains Classis is shrinking, but it will be around for a long long time. We are losing members because in norther South Dakota and North Dakota the general population is shrinking. So we are losing churches in the towns that are disappearing like Lincoln Valley and Hosmer. However, we have a presence that is solid in Aberdeen, Minot, and Watertown. Plus, I do not think that the jobs will always be leaving this area of the country, and the RCUS will be here when they come back.

By the way, even if the RCUS was not alive and well, Professor Hart still should have mentioned that not all of them went into the UCC.