James Davison Hunter has done some wonderful work over the years; I fully support what he has done at the University of Virginia. I particularly applaud the way he has trained other scholars and been successful in having them teach in the secular academy.
We have had some differences, differences that are one of the subjects of To Change the World. But I don't think that the differences are that great. In my estimation, the differences between Hunter's and my view of culture and cultural change are, in many important respects, more apparent than real. They are hardly irreconcilable. Changing people's beliefs and influencing elites are not mutually exclusive. One can affirm both the need for charismatic leadership and the importance of social networks.
Where I do take issue with Hunter is with his juxtaposition of what he calls "faithful presence" and efforts at cultural change. Obviously, I'm not against "faithful presence." Christians must bring their faith to bear in all aspects of life—as I have attempted to do and preached that others do. And I know first-hand the difficulties of public witness in an increasingly pluralistic culture.
My question is: What is the alternative? I ask this knowing that what Hunter is describing has been conscientiously advanced over the years by many Christians, most notably the Anabaptist traditions.
Yet the kind of disengagement he is describing seems to me like an abdication of responsibility. When I was first converted, I began reading the works of Francis Schaeffer and was deeply impressed by his arguments about the relationship of Christianity and culture, and the obligation for us to fulfill our cultural commission to defend the truth in the marketplace of ideas. In fact I went to ...1