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The ,root of our English word

"culture" is the' Latin

which to the Romans signified
worship of the divine. This reminds
us of the foundauoti of culture'
which is so often forgotten in our
day. As Russell Kirk and others
have noted, "culture arises from the
cult; that is, people are joined
in worship, and out of
theirreligious association grows the
organized human'community,,"
(America's British Culture, p.l)
Culture implies far more than a
common food, dress, or accent. It
implies a common way of life,
common standards, a common
wiirldview if you will. But
thiS commonality Is founded
ultimately not upon
economic status, race or
nationality, but, as our word
indicates, a common faith.
Christopher puts it
this way, "It is clear that a
cOlflmon way of lifeinvolves a
common view of life, commoQ.
standards of behavior, and common
standards of value, and
consequendy a culture is a spiritual
community which owes its unity to
common beliefs and common ways
of thought far more than to any
unanimity of physical
type .... Therefore from the
beginning the social way of life
which is culture has been,
deliberately ordered and directed in
accordance with the higher la.,vs of
life which are religion.': (Ibid., p.2)
AbrahainKuyper, prime
minister of the Netherlands,
newspaperman, educator; and
theolOgian of the early part of this
century,pui its Similarly though far
more succincdy, "Culture is religion
externalized." The most important
factor in the formation of a culture
is the predominant faith of the
people. The foundation of Western
culture is Christianity and in this
country, Protestant Christianity of
the Reformation type. This is the
central issue in the preservation and
restoration of a culture.
The religion of the South which
must be credited preeminendy for
the production of the Southern
culture, was not of the modem,
saccharoid, idiocy that is based on
the latest chill or' hot flash
"reverend prophet" receives, Rather,
it was robust, substantial, bradng,
full of the realities of earth and
heaven, as set forth in God's holy
and inspired Word. It was imbued
with a stoutness, a Weightiness and
true manliness that only eternal
truth can produce. Its noble goal
was to promote truth, justice, and
mercy not to produce "nice" people
who endure treachety and tolerate
ungodly tyranny with a "smiley
This faith reared a generation of
men and women who knew what it
was to suffer without complaining
and to gain victory without
gloating, They understood the
difference between sacrifice and
self-serving indulgence. They knew
by experience what it meant to
maintain their integrity at the price
of their popularity. They knew that
true nobility was founded upon
righteousness not success. [As R.L.
Dabney once said, "It is only the
atheist who adopts success ,as the
criterion of right."] Most of all, they
learned to fear God and
consequendy feared nothing else.
All lessons, which I fear, that have
been long forgotten by many of
their descendants,
This foundation has never been
totally deStroyed. It has always been
present to a greater or lesser degree
66, COUNSEL of Cbalcedon Jnile{July 1998'
in the South, though it has waxed
and waned The high level of
faithfulness in the early 17th
century was lost sometime in the
latter part of that century but was
revived during the Great
Awakening of the 18th, under the
majestic preaching of George
Whitefield. By the 1790's however,
the faith had waned again. So much
so that at the beginning of the 19th
century the South could be called
one of the most "unchurched"
sections of the country, only one
southerner in ten was a church
member. Religious apathy and
spiritual declension characterized
the region,
But this all changed as
the 19th century
progressed. God revived
the true faith again and by
the 1830's the South had
become the most strongly
evangelical section of the
country. The Second Great
Awakening was not especially noted
for its orthodoxy in the Midwest
and Northeast (and even some
sections orthe upper South), but it
took on a different character in the
South as a whole.
Charles Finney's humariistic
revivalism which dominated the
Midwest and the Northeast never
found ready reception in the South
at large. The Southern Christian
leaders were of a different sort
altogether than Mr. Finney and his
Ohio brethren. Daniel Baker,James
HenleyThornwell, Benjamin
Morgan Palmer, Robert Louis
Dabney, John Holt Rice, Thomas
Peck, Moses Drury Hoge; and
many, many other great and faithful
men held reins of the Southern
revival and by their sound
instruction and expository
preaching prevented the movement
from being corrupted by the
unscriptural practices and
fanaticism that dominated the
Northern revivals. True revivals,
they said, were God-sent not man-
produced as Finney and his
followers insisted. Revivals could
not be planned or scheduled, nor
could they be prolonged by
artificial means. They could only be
gratefully received and rejoiced
These two contrasting views
ought not to be dismissed as
insignificant or irrelevant. The one
focused upon man's ability to
manipulate God and thus produce
reform by his own efforts. The
other insisted upon man's utter
dependence upon God and
produced men who trusted in God
to bring about reformation in the
world. The Southern men
advocated faithful adherence
to the Word of God,
recognizing that nothing
could be accomplished apart
from His blessing. These two
contrasting perspectives
would bare quite different
fruit for each region. Dependence
upon God and strict adherence to
God's means as set forth in His
Word, became characteristic of
Southern Christianity. Political
coercion in the name of God
became the hallmark of the North.
The orthodoxy of the South
contrasted in quite a few other ways
from the prevailing spirit of the
North. The rationalism of the
Northern Unitarianism with its
detached, Stoic propriety and the
polite, lecture-like quality of the
sermons was quite different from
the warm-blooded preaching and
affection for the Savior that this
preaching produced across the
The contrast was manifest to
travelers in both regions. A writer
in the Presbyterian Advocate in
1830 gave this comparison between
the preaching in New England and
that of the Southern states:
'There [Le., in New England]
the preachers write their sermons
and read them to their
audience; ... [the style] is chaste,
argumentative, but wanting in
animation. The style [in the South]
is unequal, often incorrect, but
animated, vehement and
powerful...Which on the whole are
the most useful it is difficult to
decide. For instruction the former
excel; for delight we would listen to
the latter." (Ernest T. Thompson,
Presbyterians in the South, va!. I, p.
William Plummer, pastor for
many years at the First Presbyterian
Church at Richmond, was replaced
after his departure by a northerner.
The northern replacement, we are
told, had a good and highly
cultivated mind and his sermons
instructed and pleased, but says
Moses Hoge (who was a student in
Richmond at the time and faithful
attendant at First Presbyterian),
"they were not Southern sermons."
There were no "bursts of passion,
no involuntary emotion, no sudden
and splendid inspiration, bearing a
man away from his manuscript and
from his commonplaces as in a
chariot of fire." "Yankees," said
Hoge, "seem to say good things
because they have studied them.
Southern men say good things as if
they could not help it." (Quoted by
Anne C. Loveland, Southern
Evangelicals and the Social Order,
There was a reason for this
"animation" of Southern preachers.
They believed themselves to be
dying men speaking to dying men.
They were setting forth matters of
life and death. Who can be
. detached and professional when
dealing with truths which have to
do with life and death? The passion
of these men often made
Northerners feel out of place.
William Henry Foote wrote of
George Baxter, who was President
of Washington College at the time,
"I have never known any minister
of the gospel who so often shed
tears in the pulpit. It was very
common for his voice to falter, and
become tremulous from the
swelling tide of his strong emotions,
especially when speaking of the
suffering of Christ, or when
warning sinners to flee from the
wrath to come." (Thompson,
Presbyterians in the South, p. 220)
The truth of God so could not be
spoken as if it were bare
statistics or a report of some
business that had been
carried out in a foreign land.
Moses Hoge having
listened to a number of
Northern sermons, longed
for the good old fire of Southern
preachers. In the same letter
previously quoted, he went on to
say the he longed to hear Dr.
Plummer preach again, "I am
hungry to hear him roar once more.
I wasn't to see his eyes glare and his
hair stand up on end. It will refresh
me to see him foam at the mouth
again." (Ibid.) I dare say, this would
have been something rarely seen in
New England.
Sermons in the South were not
dry, abstract disquisitions on the
latest philosophical speculations
that might have cropped up in the
fevered brains of corrupt and self-
important men as you might have
heard at the North. Northern
sermons were calculated to platter
the intellect. Southern sermons
sought to change the heart. Not that
Southerners ignored the intellect,
they didn't, but they realized that
unless a man's heart is changed, he
will ignore even what his mind is
convinced is true. One historian has
J u n ~ u y 1998 TIlE COUNSEL of Chalcedon 67
noted, "Every sermon, whether
Presbyterian, Methodist, or Baptist,
preached both doctrines and duties
and was addressed not only to the
underStandings but to the hearts
and consciertces of the
congregation.' (Ibid., p. 42)
William Hill, long time pastor in
Winchester, VA, "stormed the soul
through the passions, and overawed
the judgment by the force of his
appeals.,.His views of things were
vivid. .. his gush of feeling
overwhelming .. .!n public bodies
and in private circles, by his
powerful appeals to the strong
passions, by his wit and humor, by
his confident and yielding manner,
Mr. Hill would make his hearers
feel that what was uttered by him
was the voice of their own heart
and judgment, perhaps in sweeter
terms than they had ever before
heard .. (Ibid.)
The preaching of the Word was
viewed as the "chief means' by
which men were changed. Not
legislation and social movements
but the Truths of God proclaimed
faithfully to the consciences of men
were the instruments of reform.
Arid reform always began from
within man by grace, not outside of
him by force.
The South believed the Bible to
be the very Word of God written. It
was infallible, inspired,inerrant, and
authoritative in all area.s of life and
thought. Benjamin Morgan Palmer
(long time pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church of New
Orleans) echoed the widely
accepted notion that the minister is
a "messenger from God' whose
duty, said Palmer, was "to speak
only the word that is put into his
mouth.' That is, the job of the
minister is not to tell us of his latest
dreams and imaginations, or of his
opinions of world events nor is it to
display his grasp of current
piobleIIlS. He has but one job --.: to
expound and apply the Word God
has given to us. "His sole care, said
Palmer, "must be tb inquire what
God the Lord will say." He is "to
study God's Book; to expound its
doctrines, to enforce its precepts, to
urge its motives, to present its
promises to reCite its warnings, to
declare its judgments.' (Ibid., p.
Southern ministers spent their
energies in explaining and applying
the great truths of Scriptures, the
sovereignty of God, the depravity of
man, the divine election of grace,
the atoning death of Christ, the call
to repentance and justification by
The doctrines palatable in the
North, however, were quite
different than those received in the
South; The old Calvinism which
proclaimed a sovereign, majestic
God who ruled over all and gave
mercy to whom He pleased was
anathema in the North where the
sovereign God had been replaced
with the sovereign, sinless man.
Harriet Beecher Stowe once
remarked that in Boston, "the only
thing worse than an atheist was a
Calvinist.' The biblical teaching of
human depravity which Uiuminates
the lie of humanism old and new,
was equally offensive to the modern
Northern sensibilitIes. Man was
basically good, they believed. "Sin'
so called, was the consequence of
inadequate education and unseemly
surrourtdings, not some defect in
man himself. Thus, you see, man's
problem was not seen as located
inside of him but outside, in
society. Man was not saved by grace
but by social and political reform.
These views, as we now know,
produced quite different political
sentiments in the two regions. The
South, influenced more and more
by the old orthodoxy, believed that
God was sovereign. He alone
possessed unlimited authority and
68 THE COUNSEL of Chalcedon Juue/july 1998
He alone could be trusted with such
authority since He was spotlessly
holy, just, and good. They believed
therefore that God had ordained all
human institutions with strictly
limited authOrity and that if society
was to prosper each institution
(family, Church, and State) must
abide within the limitations set
forth by God..
Further, the South believed that
man was basically sinful. Thus, his
need was the grace of God not
political and social reform.
Salvation w,," achieved py man's
efforts but mercifu,lly and freely
given by God on the basis of
Christ's work in the place of
The North, rejecting the'
doctrine of man's depravity,
believed that the chief need of man
was social and political reform -
precisely the sort of reform the
South opposed. Reform beC)mJ.e the
"religion' of the North. Prison
reform, the abplition of capital
punishment, socialistic
experiments, the feminist
movement, the government school
movemel,lt,_ the temperance
movement, the movement to reform
working conditions and of course,
the abolition movement. The North
was "movement mad."- And, if '
persuasion didn't work(and it
seldom did) they freely resorted to
political and governmental force -
salvation would come whether men
liked it or not.
The fact that the ConStitution
forbade the Federal government to
act in these ways made little
difference to tnese "promoters of
progress.' lfthe literal language of .
the Constitution does not allow it,
the "spirit' of the Constitu,tion does
allow it. These men who had for
some time refused to interpret the
Bible faithfully in accordance with
its original intent, saw nothing at all
wrong in interpreting the .
Constitution the same way.
The growth of Unitarianism in
the North would also have an
impact in the political sphere.
Clearly the departure from historic
Christianity would cause the
growth of a faith in man and his
goodness which gave much favor to
a radically democratic form of
government. But here I want to
focus upon the rejection of the
doctrine of the Trinity.
It is only within God Himself
that we find the solution to the
ancient question of the one and the
many. God is both one and three.
Both unity and diversity are equalJy
ultimate in Him. In Christian
cultures therefore, there has always
been a place for "oneness" (unity,
structure, form) and a place for
"manyness" (individualism and
diversity). Only in the Triune God
can we have find unity that does
not annihilate legitimate diversity
and vice verse. Only in Him and
His covenant can there be real unity
which preserves legitimate
diversity. Thus, only in a Christian
culture can you have unity AND
diversity, unity and freedom. In
imitation of the Triune God, there
is a unity of faith and purpose and
yet there is no demand for
uniformity of personality. There is a
unity without the assimilation of
the individual into the whole.
In unitarian and atheistic
cultures, you find just the opposite.
There is usually a demand for a
stifling egalitarian conformity in
order to preserve unity.
Unitarianism views God not as a
Person, but as an impersonal force.
There is and can be no selfless
"love" within God (since His
monism makes such love
impossible) and thus, the culture,
reflecting this view of God,
becomes cruel and heartless. A
culture that refuses to recognize the
loving Trinity, seeks unity by force
(totalitarianism and statist
egalitarianism) and thus tends to be
characterized by harshness,
bitterness, and cruelty (as Islamic
and communistic cultures are and
ever have been).
This gives us some additional
insight as to why the Unitarians of
the North, hated and sought by
overwhelming force to destroy and
remake the old South (where this
Trinitarian principle of unity and
diversity was honored). Unbelievers
demand uniformity in faith. They
are threatened and frightened by
divergent beliefs and thus sooner or
later resort to force to bring about a
True unity is founded not upon
impersonal or bureaucratic force
but upon the love and grace (the
personableness) ofthe Triune God.
Where this is lacking, there can
never be freedom, peace, or
This orthodoxy which pervaded
the South prior to the war was the
reason for the political views which
dominated the region as well. The
concepts of limited constitutional
government, a union made of free
and independent states, a hearty
distrust of democracy, strict
adherence to the Constitution, the
doctrine of the separation of
powers, the rules of justice, all these
distinctives and many more which
distingUished our nation in its
founding are rooted in Christianity.
But even more important than
Christianity's influence upon our
political theory is the fact that it
molded a citizenry that was wilJing
and able to preserve this system of
liberty. The people who sat under
the preaching of such noble men as
Dabney, Hoge, Palmer, Thornwell,
Peck, and others were molded by
the Truths of God's Word. The
South became not just a
conservative region, but a
distinctively Christian region. There
was reverence for God and the
Scriptures; marriage and family
were held in high esteem. The
region was characterized by
Christian generosity and hospitality;
honesty and integrity; and resp<;:<:t
for law and lawful order.
It was this "rock-ribbed" faith
that pervaded the men who fought
in the War for Southern
Independence later on. This faith,
produced the fierce love of liberty
and freedom. And this is what we
have so tragically lost in our day. R.
L. Dabney in an address to the
students of Davidson College in
1868 said this: "A brave people
may, for a time, be overpowered by
brute force, and be neither
dishonored nor destroyed ... But if
the spirit of independence and
honor be lost among the people,
this is the death of the common
weal...Dread, then, this degradation
of spirit as worse than defeat, than
subjugation, than poverty, than
hardship, than prison, than death."
(R.L. Dabney, "The Duty of the
Hour", Discussions, vol. IV, p. 116)
Because of our loss of the
historic faith, we have lost what
Russell Kirk has called our "cultural
continuity." The culture cannot
remain if the faith that supports
that culture is destroyed. And when
this cohesive faith is lacking, there
is little point in engaging in political
tinkering. Politics is not the
ultimate answer for a man who has
lost his soul. The battle we face will
not be won merely by political
measures. We are in a battle for the
permanent things. Until we realize
this, we will never deal the death
blow to the Revolution of unbelief
that has engulfed our country. And
further, we wilJ never have the
foundation which is able to support
and maintain a godly culture.a
u n ~ u l y 1998 IRE COUNSEL of Chalcedou 'I' 69