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Harvey Cox to deliver Baccalaureate address

Harvey G. Cox

Harvey G. Cox, who holds the oldest professorship in America in the Hollis Professorship of Divinity at Harvard, will deliver the Baccalaureate address at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 20 for the Class of 2007 and will receive an honorary doctorate at Lehigh’s commencement exercises the next day.

“Professor Cox has proven himself to be an exceptionally insightful guide to those seeking to understand the complex currents of religious thought and life in America and around the world,” says Lloyd Steffen, University Chaplain and professor of religion studies at Lehigh. “He has contributed enormously over the years to explicating our ever-changing religious situation, and we are honored to have so distinguished a scholar with us this year for our Baccalaureate event.”

The national acclaim for Cox can be traced to the 1965 publication of The Secular City, an international bestseller that “celebrates the progressive secularization of the world as the logical outcome of Biblical religion,” according to Newsweek magazine.

The Secular City was selected by the University of Marburg as one of the most influential books of Protestant theology in the 20th century. The book spawned a cottage industry of response to Cox, which prompted Time magazine to describe him as “one of the nation’s most radical and respected young Christian thinkers.”

In the ensuing decades, Cox continued his research and writing in the areas of religion, culture, and politics, earning both popular acclaim and scholarly respect for his examination of religious developments in the contemporary world. He has written and taught on such topics as religion and urbanization, theological developments in world Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations and current spiritual movements in the global setting, particularly Pentecostalism.

Cox has also focused on the rich diversity of religious expression in the world, and his research has led him to leave his role of observer and become a sometime participant. In fact, one observer described him as having “whirled with the Sufi dancers, ‘sat’ and chanted with the Hare Krishnas, stood on his head and breathed deeply with Yoga practitioners, intoned a Mantra with Hindu religionists and worshipped, also, with Benedictine monks and Tibetan Buddhists.”

Most recently, Cox has been researching contemporary Muslin spirituality.

A highly sought-after lecturer and frequent media commentator on religious matters, Cox is a prolific author, whose books include The Feast of Fools (which earned him a National Book Award nomination); The Seduction of the Spirit, Religion in the Secular City, The Silencing of Leonardo Boff: Liberation Theology and the Future of World Christianity, Many Mansions: A Christian's Encounters With Other Faiths, Fire From Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and The Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century.

His writings have been highly honored and are widely read in America and around the world. To date, The Secular City has to date been translated into 13 languages, most recently Russian. His most recent books are Common Prayers: Faith, Family, and a Christian’s Journey through the Jewish Year; and the 2004 release, When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today.

Born in Malvern, Pa., Cox was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received honors in history; at Yale Divinity School, and at Harvard University, where he earned his Ph.D. in history and philosophy of religion.

Ordained in the American Baptist Church, Cox was the Protestant chaplain at Temple University, the director of religious activities at Oberlin College, an ecumenical fraternal worker in Berlin and a professor at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. He has been a visiting professor at Brandeis University, Seminario Bautista de Mexico, the Naropa Institute and the University of Michigan.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2007

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