Do Christian Colleges Undermine Orthodoxy?

Evangelicalism, the Coming Generation, by James Davison Hunter (University of Chicago Press, 1987, 302 pp.; $19.95). Reviewed by David K. Winter, president of Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California, who holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and Sociology from Michigan State University.

James Hunter’s book Evangelicalism, the Coming Generation, is an excellent example of both the value and the limitations of examining the body of Christ through the eyes of a sociologist.

The study was based on questionnaires completed by some 2,000 students from nine colleges within the Christian College Consortium, 850 questionnaires completed by students at seven evangelical seminaries, and several other smaller surveys. Most of the surveys took place in 1982.

The book’s subject is evangelicalism as a religious or cultural system. For Hunter, a University of Virginia sociologist, the term “evangelicals” refers to theologically conservative Protestants, and includes a wide range of people from fundamentalists to “neo-evangelicals.” Sociologists understand the significant role of beliefs and behavior in maintaining the viability of groups. Thus by learning the attitudes of students toward the symbols and rules of the evangelical heritage, Hunter believes we can learn something about the possible future of evangelicalism.

In comparison with “evangelical spokesmen” quoted in the book, Hunter finds there is a significant liberal trend among the students, which he sees as an accommodation to the secular world. The beliefs and behavioral expectations that earlier set conservative evangelicals apart from our society are less strongly believed in and practiced by ...

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