Unfocused but frequently brilliant disquisition on Christianity in relation to society. Berger (Institute for the Study of Economic Culture/Boston Univ.) starts from the premise that Christianity ``is not of this world.'' Transcendent in origin, it is necessarily in opposition to the ``wisdom of the age,'' the cultural norms of any given century and civilization. How, then, can Christians come to terms with society? The effort is ``difficult, frantic, and more than a little ridiculous.'' Yet it must be made, for we are children of our age. Berger counsels a middle path between rejection of the world (evangelical Protestantism) and surrender to it (secular society). He scorns ``cognitive bargaining'' with nonbelievers, warning that ``one needs a very long spoon indeed if one is to dine with the devil of doubt.'' In America, Berger discerns a new middle class, ``the knowledge class,'' which will forge new compromises between state and religion. He sees great opportunity for revitalization in religious pluralism, noting that every part of the globe is ``furiously religious''—with the curious exception of Western Europe—but he urges Christians to adhere to their fundamental values. The best interreligious dialogue is ``contestation,'' for ``truth resists relativization.'' As for what Christians believe, Berger ruminates on the first words of the Creed (``I believe in one God''), and finds in them an affirmation of individualism, ``faith in the ultimate benignness of the universe,'' and the reality of a God who encompasses ``plenitude'' and ``emptiness.'' Too much crammed into too little space, but most of it caviar. The flowering of American neoconservative religious thought (see also Richard John Neuhaus's Doing Well and Doing Good, below), notorious for its acumen, wit, and cockiness, continues unabated.
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