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Patrick Henry President Addresses Francis Asbury Society

December 3rd, 2008

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

PHC President, Dr. Graham Walker

“Far too many Christians are rhetorically captive to relativism,” Patrick Henry College President Dr. Graham Walker cautioned his audience. “We use words and concepts that are essentially relativist, even if we are not entirely captive in our hearts and actions.  But our words put our hearts at risk.”

Dr. Walker’s keynote address, entitled “Captive to the World: the Lure of Evangelical Relativism,” was delivered recently at a conference of the Francis Asbury Society, named for the man commissioned by John Wesley in the late eighteenth century to spread, throughout North America, the message of the Holy Spirit’s power to reform human life.

Detailing the web of “rhetorical sand traps” in which evangelicals can bury themselves, Walker explained how evangelicals often use terms like “Christian values,” with the best of intentions. They don’t understand that, to the postmodern listener, these terms mean something entirely different.

For instance, while the oft-heard phrase “Christian values” is meant to convey a set of objectively true standards by which Christians live, the word “values” stands as such a vague and subjective term that it undercuts the premise altogether.  Asked Dr. Walker: “If all they are is ‘values,’ then what makes ‘Christian values’ any more valid than ‘Buddhist values’ or ‘feminist values’ for living life?”

Walker continued: “The word ‘values’ is an artifact of nineteenth century German social theory, which separated ‘facts’ from ‘values,’ and defined values in affective terms.  Used in this sense, it comes down to what Christians ‘want’ and ‘desire’ and ‘feel.’  It is not objective.”

Similarly, while the term “Christian worldview” has its legitimate use, according to Walker, “it now frequently diverts us from stating the truth plainly. When we speak of a ‘Christian worldview,’ we are often staying inside our own worldview bubble.  The Bible presents the ultimate, absolute truth, and is applicable to all things.  It’s not just ‘our worldview’.”

Francis Asbury Society members expressed their appreciation, as did one attendee who, according to Dr. Walker, said “he wanted his daughter to visit PHC before making a final decision on college.” Some of the leadership of the Society have followed the progress of Patrick Henry College for several years, and had been praying for Walker even before they met him.

Dr. Walker, a long-time educator and Christian academic who formerly served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, OK, is a frequent speaker at Christian and scholarly conferences nationwide, speaking to the influence of postmodern philosophy on Christian higher education.  His first book, The Ethics of F.A. Hayek, was published in 1986.  His second book, Moral Foundations of Constitutional Thought, was published in 1990 by Princeton University Press.  He has also published a variety of essays and chapters in academic journals and books, along with essays in publications including The American Spectator, the Los Angeles Times and National Review Online