Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Revelation and Reconciliation: A Window on Modernity

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Revelation and Reconciliation: A Window on Modernity

Article excerpt

Revelation and Reconciliation:A Window on Modernity. By Stephen N. Williams. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995. xvii + 180 pp. $54.95 (cloth); $21.95 (paper).

This book serves a very particular but nonetheless quite important purpose in a crucial contemporary debate. Michael Buckley, in his magisterial At the Origins of Modern Atheism (New Haven, 1987), has suggested (along with a growing consensus of other scholars) that early modem theology raced along to keep up with the new science and Cartesian philosophy, only to find that it had fashioned a soulless simulacrum of Christian faith, capable of neither commending the faith nor of withstanding the critical attacks it was designed to surmount. In this story about the rise of modem science and philosophy, the great triumphant shift has been primarily epistemological: a shift from understanding reality in terms of the supposed-and mortally debatable nds, virtues, and goals toward which every creature ought to be moving to an understanding of reality in terms of the serene certainty of a scientific reduction to simplest atomic particles and the most irreducibly clear and distinct ideas. This revolution in how we think about knowing, in which the painfully arguable claims of spiritual experience and communal pursuit of the good are benignly replaced with the assured universal results of scientific method, leads majestically to Kant's sober and revered strictures on any forms of theological knowledge. Or so the story goes.

But suppose this whole revolution were not quite so pristinely epistemological, so clinically free of distorted human motivations. This book by Stephen Williams, an extended essay really, works -alongside some other important theological revisions of the received story to pick out something that the secular philosophical script has always tended to discount: the massive revulsion modernity feels toward any perceived infringement of human autonomy and self-making. …

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