In Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, Professor James Davison Hunter looks at this conservative Protestant movement by focusing on the “coming generation”–those who will be the lay and professional leadership of Evangelicalism in the next decades.
Hunter’s work is based on a national study of students and faculty at sixteen institutions of higher learning, a sample that represents the very heart of mainstream Evangelicalism. Each institution–nine liberal arts colleges and seven Evangelical seminaries–is committed by charter to the maintenance and propagation of core theological and religious tenets of the Evangelical worldview. Although the students and seminarians in Hunter’s sample represent a generation that will define the symbolic universe for the Evangelical movement in the future, his analysis goes beyond this group to study the broader Evangelical population and culture.
While taking account of the social and historical context of this cultural movement, Hunter surveys trends in conservative Protestantism’s encounter with the modern world in the following areas: its ideal of the family; its view of work, morality, and the self; its principal theological tenets; and its political culture. Changes have begun to take place in all of these areas, Hunter concludes, so fundamental that the world of the coming generation of Evangelicals may bear little resemblance to the Evangelical world of previous generations.
At one level, Hunter argues, these changes signify a decline in religious orthodoxy; at another the changing definition of orthodoxy. His provocative analysis of the changing cultural milieu of conservative Protestants is situated in the long-standing debate over the future of religion and of American hegemony in the contemporary “world order.” As the form of religious orthodoxy to confront modern life longer and more intensely than any other, the case of Evangelicalism sheds new light on how “traditional” religions survive the constraints of modern life.
Evangelicalism offers a much-needed study of a major religious force in America. Its accessible prose and illuminating arguments will make it essential reading for anyone interested in Evangelicalism, in religious traditions, and in the dynamics of cultural change in America.
Peter L. Berger, author of Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, praised the book saying, “This book firmly establishes Hunter’s standing as the most astute sociological observer of American Evangelicalism. This is the sociology of religion at its very best.” As did Robert N. Bellah, author of Habits of the Heart, saying “Hunter gives us a vivid profile of a diverse and changing religious community. The book punctures many of the stereotypes that mar the discussion of American Evangelicals.” And Os Guiness, author of The Dust of Death and The Gravedigger Files, “Hunter has written a landmark book on America’s earliest and today’s most controversial community of faith. Carefully documented, trenchantly analyzed, this is an incisive portrait of the unraveling of Evangelicalism. Not only for religious specialists, this is important reading for intelligent believers and for all thoughtful people who understand the religious contribution to the future of the republic.”
Distinguished Book Award 1988 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
Selected by “Choice” as one of the outstanding scholarly books of 1987
“We have here an excellent picture of what is happening inside a large and important American subculture. We can see the inroads being made by modernity, and we can wonder with Hunter whether orthodoxy is even possible where the canons of doubt and toleration reign.”
- Nancy T. Ammerman, Contemporary Sociology
“Hunter’s book … is a superb piece of work, pioneering in its nature and exemplary in its execution … This is a major contribution to our understanding of a segment of contemporary evangelicalism. It is thoroughly researched, clearly organized, and cogently written. It deserves, and will sustain, serious study.”
- David Wells, Christian Scholar’s Review