Vol.X No.I Pg.5
March 1973

Sacred Canopy?

Robert F. Turner

For years we have, with reason, warned of organic evolution and the threat such physical science poses to Bible faith; but neglected what I believe to be far more dangerous, the social-science threat. One naturalizes the origin of the body— the other naturalizes God and the soul. Our children soon learn to recognize some obvious signs of evolution in physical science; but many preachers swallow facets of sociological atheism without recognizing its source or its logical end. Especially is this true of our DOCTORS (of whom some are so proud) who have received training at Theological Seminaries. Liberal (institutional) brethren sometimes complain that their preachers are not preaching Bible sermons as they once did. It is not a matter of method or sermon tactics. Many do not believe the Bible as they once did.

With a condescending air, Peter L. Berger (The Sacred Canopy) writes: Sociology thus raises questions for the theologian to the extent that the latters positions hinge on certain socio-historical presuppositions. For better or for worse, such presuppositions are particularly characteristic of theological thought in the Judaeo-Christian orbit, for reasons that are well known and have to do with the radically historical orientation of the Biblical tradition. The Christian theologian is, therefore, ill advised if he simply views sociology as an ancillary discipline that will help him (or, more likely, help the practical churchman) to understand certain external problems of the social environment in which his church is located.

But he will still be wise if he is careful about letting sociological analysis go too far. He may be getting more than he bargained for. Specifically, he may be getting a wider sociological perspective that may lead him on to see his over-all activity in a different light.

Put simply, methodologically, in terms of theology as a disembodied universe of discourse, sociology may be looked on as quite harmless—existentially, in terms of the theologian as a living person with a social location and a social biography, sociology can be a very dangerous business indeed. (From pages 181-182.)

Bluntly (in language our readers are more likely to understand) Mr. Berger thinks a man can not study sociology, be honest with himself, and keep his faith.

In the Preface he says he never intentionally leaves the frame of reference of the empirical discipline of sociology. Consequently, it must rigidly bracket throughout any question of the ultimate truth or illusion of religious propositions about the world. Translated— since he deals with nothing but that which depends on experience or observation alone; all things are relative —ultimate truth is ruled out. Further, Every inquiry into religious matters that limits itself to the empirically available must necessarily be based on a methodological atheism. (P.100)

I hope college students understand this page well enough to be warned.