In this issue ofZygon a distinguished sociological analyst of our culture brings us an unusual message from a profession where almost every sociological thinker [during the first half of this century] expected religion to disappear by the onset of the twenty-first century. In an original essay on the complex problem of religion Daniel Bell brings us new insight into its nature and why, and perhaps how, it will persist as a necessary element of human sociocultural nature in spite of the radical secularization of social structure and the profanation of culture since the eighteenth century.
J. Robert Ross provides a different but parallel analysis of the secularizing impact of eighteenth-century thought, where philosophers and theologians interpreted the spread of the scientific or empiricist world view as bringing about a final divorce of religious truth in the Christian tradition from its insecure marriage with empirical, historical, rational truth. He then assesses the theologian Wolfbart Pannenbergs attempt at a radical program for reconciling religion and science by showing that we can base religious faith on historical knowledge in a fashion consistent with a coherent philosophy of science—a philosophy in part derived from Karl R. Popper but applied primarily to the data of human, especially religious, history.
From the end of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century almost every Enlightenment thinker expected religion to disappear in the twentieth century. The belief was based on the power of reason. Religion was associated with superstition, fetishism, unprovable beliefs, a form of fear which was used as protection against other fears—a form of security one might associate with the behavior of children—and which they believed in fact had arisen in the childhood of the human race.
Religion, in this view, arose out of the fears of nature, both the physical terrors of the environment and the dangers lurking in the inner psyche which were released at night or conjured up by special diviners. The more rational answer—we owe the start of course to the Greeks—was philosophy, whose task was to uncover physis or the hidden order of nature. The leitmotiv was the phrase which occurs first in Aristotle and is resurrected later by Hegel and Marx, the realization of philosophy. For Aristotle nature had a telos, and within it man would realize his perfected form. For Hegel this telos lay in History, in the marche générale of human consciousness which was wiping away the fogs of illusion and allowing men to see the world more clearly. The criticism of religion, Marx said, ends with the doctrine that man is the highest being for man. …¹ …
¹ Karl Marx, Toward the Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Law: Introduction, Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, trans. and ed. Loyd D. Easton and Kurt H. Guddat (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1967), p. 257.
Daniel Bell is professor of sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.
Historical Knowledge as Basis for Faith by J. Robert Ross
The fight really started hundreds of years ago, the separation occurred in the eighteenth century, and almost everyone today assumes that the divorce is final: Reason and faith simply cannot make it with each other.
But there were more idyllic days of cohabitation. Given the realistic epistemology of either Plato or Aristotle, the Middle Ages saw reason and faith live together as if their marriage were made in heaven—well, at least in the world of ideal forms or in the intellect which unites form and matter—for, as Augustine says, not only do faith and reason live together in peace but also God, who is the object of faith, is the very light of the mind by which it knows anything whatsoever. He alone is that intelligible light, in whom and by whom all things shine intelligibly, who do intelligibly shine.¹ And Saint Thomas, who presided over the last great union of faith and reason, affirms the powers of reason to know that God is, even though it is not within the power of the created intellect to comprehend fully what God is.² And if some divine matters are not readily apparent to us it is due only to a defect on our part and not to any incomprehensibility in deity as such, for they are most knowable in their own nature.³ …
¹ Augustine Soliloquies 1. 1. 3.
² See Aquinas Summa of Theology 1. 12. 4.C.
J. Robert Ross is campus minister at Eastern Illinois University, P.O. Box 172, Charleston, Illinois 61920.
The Elements of the Universe in Biblical and Scientific Perspective by Walter Wink
There is precious little science in the Bible, and such as there is has been borrowed largely from more scientifically advanced neighbors, such as the Babylonians and Greeks. Despite this lack, the attitude of biblical writers can be instructive for us in forging a new rapprochement between science and religion. Let me take as a single instance the use of the concept of elements in the New Testament. First, however, I must warn the reader that we cannot take an unmediated leap into the first century. Many hedges of thick brambles stand between now and then, not the least of which are those thrown up by contemporary scholars. Only as we have cut our way through can we begin, in the second part of this paper, to measure the value of the result for the contemporary dialogue between science and religion.
The elements of the universe (stoicheia tou kosmou) have been regarded increasingly of late as demonic spirits and have been relegated consequently to that same scrap heap of arcane superstition already peopled with angels, Beelzebul, and the devil. I too began this study by assuming that the elements were demonic powers. Then as I proceeded I found my views being sharply altered. Before attempting a solution to the problem, however, let me briefly review its history. …
Walter Wink is professor of biblical interpretation, Auburn Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, New York, New York 10027.