America is “in the midst of a monumental cultural war,” according to sociology professor James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia, a war being waged over “differing concepts of moral authority.”

In his keynote address at the February 22–23 seminar “Evangelical Higher Education: The Coming Generation,” held in Pittsburgh, Hunter identified the major combatants in the cultural war. Traditional orthodoxy, he said, holds a transcendent view of moral authority, as expressed in Scripture, the Roman Catholic magisterium, and the Torah. What Hunter called a “progressive” view of authority, based on Enlightenment thinking, is grounded in human, rational discourse.

Hunter contended that advocates of the new way of thinking are winning the war. While allowing that “evangelicalism is the most vibrant form of [American] religious expression,” he said there is no evidence to support the oft-stated assertion that the evangelical faith is in the midst of revival. Instead, Hunter said, “[Evangelicals] are increasingly becoming strangers in a strange land theologically and sociologically.”

Hunter lamented that so little money in the evangelical community is available for the development of serious, culturally relevant scholarship. He said evangelicals have helped put themselves in a cultural “ghetto” by giving in to the urge to popularize in an effort to sell more books.

Christian Education Considered

The seminar was jointly sponsored by the Pittsburgh-based Coalition for Christian Outreach, the Christian College Coalition, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Hunter was invited mainly because of his book Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, which, though published in 1987, is still making the rounds among Christian higher ...

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