Reflections on Sociology and Theology

Reflections on Sociology and Theology

Reflections on Sociology and Theology

Reflections on Sociology and Theology


This collection of essays by a distinguished sociologist explores the relationship between sociology and religious issues. After looking at main themes, the author explores the theoretical considerations of the relationship, practical issues of interest to theologians, and sociological approaches to theology aimed at both clergy and teachers.


This is a book of essays written for various 'emergent occasions' but all having to do with the relationship between sociology and theology (or sociology and religion). They are not all at the same analytic level and that in part arises because some were given to lay audiences. One writes so as to be heard at a particular time and place by a specific group of people.

One also writes under the pressure of the moment and of controversies in which one may be personally involved. Thus, the essay on ecclesiology makes assertions I should now express more tentatively, and with proper balancing comment. I have similar reservations about the essay on ecumenism. Nevertheless, I do not wish to repudiate what I have written in these two pieces. I believe the sociological standpoint often places one in a creative tension with what theologians characteristically argue, and the tension should not be allowed to go slack.

Perhaps I might mention for the sake of completeness that I have attempted other work cognate with what is included here, in particular the Sarum Lectures given at Oxford in 1995 and to be published under the title Does Christianity Cause War? by oup. the Sarum Lectures were not precisely about the relation of sociology to theology (or rather, religion) but they did aim to take a particular issue in the standard critique of religion, the relation of religion to war, and show what difference might be made by adopting a sociological approach. the lectures were dedicated to the proposition that Christian apologetics can apologize too much. Here, as elsewhere, my basic perspective is Niebuhrian and can be traced back to Niebuhr classic work Moral Man in Immoral Society.

The structure of the book is as follows. the initial essay picks up the kinds of theme covered in the rest of the book and is intended as an Overture. Then in Part I there follows a group of essays with a strong methodological content, concerned with the nature of sociology or theology and their inter-relationship. the . . .

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