RELIGION IN THE SECULAR CITY: Toward a Post-Modern Theology by Harvey Cox

RELIGION IN THE SECULAR CITY: Toward a Post-Modern Theology

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Readers of The Secular City (1965) and a good deal of Cox's later work may be pardoned if they mistook him for a classical academic-liberal theologian as he celebrated, à la Bonhoeffer, the Christian possibilities of an increasingly religionless world. Now, almost 20 years later, Cox (Harvard Divinity School) is affirming his small-town (Malvern, Pa.) Baptist roots, acknowledging the revival of religion here and abroad, and trying to formulate ""the religious basis for a postmodern civilization."" As before, Cox's ventures onto the socio-theological scene show no great originality, and he's given to dubious generalizations; but his writing has unusual clarity and energy, and he raises a host of crucial issues. Cox begins with Jerry Falwell and Ernesto Cardenal, who symbolize two radical (though utterly incompatible) movements challenging modern Christian thought: fundamentalism and liberation theology. The first is soon dismissed as (among other things) hopelessly compromised by its links with capitalism, while the second is the authentic wave of the future. Just as the postmodern world is emerging from the favelas (but not from Bell Labs or ITT?), postmodern technology will grow out of the comunidades de base in Latin America, Asia, and Europe, with their vision of a Dios pobre, their popular piety (Guadalupismo), and their egalitarian ethic. Cox writes about the liberationists with engaging warmth and immediacy--he has been visiting and studying with them for years--but he fails to address the oft-voiced objection that liberation theology is really just a religious metaphor for Marxist revolution. Still, Cox's critique of the modernists has a certain balance: though he faults them for speaking mostly to a bourgeois elite of skeptical intellectuals, he insists that their legacy must be ""appropriated and incorporated."" And he complains that Spanish-speaking liberation theologians ignore non-Christian religions. The book remains, however, a strongly committed partisan statement that, fortunately, is as readable as it is debatable.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster