Twentieth-Century Religious Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 1900-1960

Twentieth-Century Religious Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 1900-1960

Twentieth-Century Religious Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 1900-1960

Twentieth-Century Religious Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 1900-1960

Excerpt

Four years ago some members of the editorial staff of Messrs Harper and Brothers suggested to me over lunch that I should write the story of religious thought in the present century, with special reference to the relations of philosophy and theology. At first I shied away from so wide and laborious an undertaking. But on reflection, it occurred to me that if I were to make the attempt--and surely someone ought to make it-- then even if no one else were to profit from my book, I should at least educate myself a little better in writing it. When once I had begun, I found that in spite of the labours involved, the task was a fascinating one, and if some people get from the reading of this book even a fraction of the interest and pleasure that I have had from the writing of it, I shall be well satisfied.

In a book such as this, exposition is of primary importance. I have tried to be fair to everyone and to caricature no one. Obviously, however, no single person can have a detailed knowledge of every corner of so wide a field as the one surveyed here. While it has been my constant endeavour not to impute to anyone views for which I could not find--as it seemed to me--clear warrant in his own writings, I have no doubt been guilty of wrong emphases and plain misunderstandings. Yet these are risks that have to be taken if we think it worthwhile to break out sometimes from our narrow specialisms in order to see and evaluate these in the context of the whole picture.

It would be a dull book which merely recorded who said what, and so a large part of the text is taken up with analysis and criticism of the views expounded. Here I have felt no inhibitions whatever. But the criticism has been, in the main, kept separate from the exposition, and I hope that most of it is fair criticism and not just the expression of my own emotional reactions.

It is impossible to study what has actually been said about the problems of religion without at the same time studying the problems themselves. The ultimate purpose of a book of this kind must be to throw some light on the problems themselves. This does not mean that the reader will be conducted to any firm conclusions at the end. The purpose of the book will have been served if it kindles the reader's interest in the problems, and enables him to see what these are, and what roads towards their solution still appear to be open.

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