President Obama's election and inauguration has accelerated a long period of evangelical navel-gazing. The quest to define evangelicalism is a long-standing if quixotic tradition. But during this tumultuous first decade of the 21st century, evangelicals have published volumes of literature and convened myriad conferences to discuss the crisis of this age: How should evangelicals relate to the American culture that surrounds them?
Even the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) feels the tension that raises this question today. The Louisville, Kentucky, school was founded 150 years ago as a beacon of biblical truth amid a culture that valued pastoral ministry. In pockets of the South, evangelical churches retain respect. But SBTS is a school with a national and global vision, and American culture has shifted. How should churches and theological education thus respond?
This was a key question during discussion and lectures at the "Southern Seminary and the History of American Christianity" conference, held February 18—19 at SBTS. Grant Wacker and Russell Moore took the lead by answering this question in their presentation during the session on "Religion and American Culture in the 20th Century." Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke University, presented "Billy Graham's America," also the title of his forthcoming book. It's no surprise that Graham was a focal point of the conference: No Southern Baptist in history is as famous as Graham. Having preached live to 215 million people in 185 countries and territories (not to mention the millions who watched or heard him through electronic media), he is the natural namesake for the SBTS School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth.
And yet Graham's evangelism ...1
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