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Harvey Gallagher Cox, Jr. (born May 19, 1929 in Malvern, Pennsylvania) is one of the preeminent theologians in the United States and served as Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, until his retirement in October 2009. Cox's research and teaching focus on theological developments in world Christianity, including liberation theology and the role of Christianity in Latin America.
After a stint in the U.S. Merchant Marine, Cox attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1951 with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He went on to earn a B.D. degree from the Yale University Divinity School in 1955, and a Ph.D. degree in the history and philosophy of religion from Harvard University in 1963.
Cox was ordained as an American Baptist minister in 1957, and started teaching as an assistant professor at the Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. He then began teaching at the Harvard Divinity School in 1965 and in 1969 became a full professor.
Cox became widely known with the publication of The Secular City in 1965. It became immensely popular and influential for a book on theology, selling over one million copies. Cox developed the thesis that the church is primarily a people of faith and action, rather than an institution. He argued that "God is just as present in the secular as the religious realms of life". Far from being a protective religious community, the church should be in the forefront of change in society, celebrating the new ways religiosity is finding expression in the world. Phrases such as "intrinsic conservatism prevents the denominational churches from leaving their palaces behind and stepping into God's permanent revolution in history" (p. 206) were viewed as threatening to the status quo by some, or seen as an embrace of the social revolution of the 1960s.
In Taylor Branch's history, Parting the Waters, Branch notes that Cox hosted a dinner at which Martin Luther King, Jr. was introduced to people who would become some of his closest colleagues and advisors as a civil rights activist.
Cox retired in September 2009 in a well publicised ceremony and celebration. His new book, "The Future of Faith" was released to coincide with his retirement. “The Future of Faith’’ explores three important trends in Christianity’s 2,000 years. He views the religion’s first three centuries as the Age of Faith, when followers simply embraced the teachings of Jesus. Then came the Age of Belief, in which church leaders increasingly took control and set acceptable limits on doctrine and orthodoxy. But the last 50 years, Cox contends, welcome in the Age of the Spirit, in which Christians have begun to ignore dogma and embrace spirituality, while finding common threads with other religions.