Quote of the Day for Saturday, January 22nd, 2011:
Sociologist Peter L. Berger, concluding his 1970 book, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural:
I would like to emphasize once more that anyone who approaches religion with an interest in its possible truth, rather than in this or that aspect of its social manifestations, would do well to cultivate a measure of indifference in the matter of empirical prognoses. History brings out certain questions of truth, makes certain answers more or less accessible, constructs and disintegrates plausibility structures. But the historical course of the question about transcendence cannot, of itself, answer the question. It is only human to be exhilarated if one thinks one is riding on the crest of the future. All too often, however, such exhilaration gives way to the sobering recognition that what looked like a mighty wave of history was only a marginal eddy in the stream of events. For the theologian, if not for the social scientist, I would therefore suggest a moratorium on the anxious query as to just who it is that has modernity by the short hair. Theology must begin and end with the question of truth.
I’m spending quite a bit of time lately pondering what went wrong in Western society during the 1960s – 1970s, especially as it relates to the breakdowns which the spirit of the age precipitated in the Catholic Church. It’s a complicated matter. Reading popular theologians of the period tends to put my stomach in knots, and Berger here captures much of the reason why: the politicization of even theology in an academic environment infatuated with modern ideas of history, in what Henri de Lubac, near the end of his Splendor of the Church, identified as “the most subversive temptation” within the Church: an anthropocentrism that loses sight of the transcendent goal of the Christian faith. Theology, indeed, must begin and end with the question of the truth, not with inquiries into fashionable notions of either “relevance,” “inevitability,” or social utility.