THEOLOGIANS IN TRANSITION: The Christian Century by James M.--Ed. Wall


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Twenty Christian liberals (plus Evangelical Carl Henry and novelist Elie Wiesel, who don't seem to belong here) discuss the impact of the last decade or so on their thought, religious and otherwise. This collection, reprinted from The Christian Century, contains no autobiographical gems, but the writers are all big names in the field (Peter Berger, Langdon Gilkey, John Hick, JÜrgen Moltmann, Harvey Cox, etc.) and so their views have a certain intrinsic interest. One of the recurrent themes is surprise over the ""reappearance of the religious"" (Gilkey): many of the contributors had adjusted, more or less comfortably, to the ""secular city,"" only to feel its foundations jolted by waves of resurgent religious feeling (the new fundamentalism, cults, spread of Eastern religions, mistrust of atheistic/agnostic humanism). Several theologians describe how their minds were broadened by encounters with non-Christian religious experience. Hick probably speaks for most of his fellows when he insists that Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist religious experience must be allowed the same truth value (""presumption of cognitive veridicality"") as that of Christians. On political and social matters a number of the pieces sound rather pessimistic: after the Sixties had made theologians aware of ""the non-necessity of the present order"" (Gustavo GutiÉrrez), the Seventies deepened their sense of ecological havoc, impending nuclear catastrophe, and the difficulty of doing anything about it. Hence David Tracy finds that the route to trust in God must now be ""far more circuitous, tentative, and even potholed than I had once hoped."" One could wish that the authors had spoken more of their personal experience and less of their published work. But this sampling of opinions from high theological (and mostly academic) places provides a clear and sometimes arresting self-portrait by the chaplains, so to speak, of the Liberal Establishment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Crossroad