Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Metaphysics and the Idea of God, trans. Philip Clayton (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990); Systematic Theology, vol. 1, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991). Prof. of systematic theology at U. Munich and founding director of the Institute of Ecumenical Theology, Pannenberg, a former Marxist, is an evangelical Lutheran theologian who is perhaps best known for his Jesus—God and Man, first published in German in 1964 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968). Recently Pannenberg published a passionate and poignant essay on the relationship between church and culture entitled: "Christianity and the West: Ambig-uous Past, Uncertain Future," in First Things (December, 1994): 18-23. He asserted that the Western societies were in desperate need of "recover[ing] their religious roots in a culture traditionally informed by Jewish and Christian beliefs," particularly in the religious basis for "human rights, human freedom, the family, and the role of women" (p. 22); "Without religion," he asserted, "liberty degenerates into license and coercion" (p. 21).
Pannenberg's two key injunctions for the church were: (1) a warning against "intolerant dogmatism" in public debate between Christians and unbelievers: "Intolerant dogmatism was probably the most disastrous sin of traditional Christianity… the imperative of tolerance is grounded in the 'provisional' nature of 'ultimate truth,' a' la 1 Cor. 13:9-12" [v. 9—"For we know only in part"] (p. 19); and (2) a call for "the renewal of Christian unity… [as] a prerequisite for any renaissance of Christianity's role in public culture," particularly: "the relationship between Christians and Jews" (pp. 20-21). Finally, Pannenberg noted that: "The further secularism advances the more urgent it is that Christian faith and Christian life be seen in sharp contrast to the secularist culture;" and lamented: "What used to be called the Protestant mainline churches are in acute danger of disappearing" (p. 23).
Pearcey, Nancy F. and Charles B. Thaxton. The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994). Pearcey is a Fellow and Policy Director for the Wilberforce Forum. Thaxton is an author and lecturer with a Ph.D. in chemistry. He has done postdoctoral work in the history of science at Harvard U. In this volume the authors refute the argument that religion is "anti-science," demonstrating that historians of science widely agree on the importance of the Judeo-Christian worldview in providing the "foundational intellectual assumptions" of modern science. They conclude: "science and scholarship are never carried out in a philosophical and religious vacuum. The Christian religion, hand in hand with various philosophical outlooks, has motivated, sanctioned, and shaped large portions of the Western scientific heritage" (p. 248).
Percy, Walker. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983).
Pieper, Joseph. Leisure: The Basis of Culture, trans. Alexander Dru ((New York: The New American Library, 1952, 1963).
Pinnock, Clark H. Tracking the Maze: Finding Our Way Through Modern Theology from an Evangelical Perspective (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990). Prof. of Systematic Theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario; a highly published member of ETS; Dr. Pinnock is a Baptist theologian who has devoted much of his career to bridging the gap between liberal and conservative theology. His goal is the "middle ground," which is both conservative, in seeking "to preserve the achievements of the past;" and liberal, in seeking to "discover fresh ways for expressing God's truth." He seeks to avoid both "rigid" (conservative) and "rudderless" (liberal) extremes (p. xi). In this role, Pinnock is not alone, and may be compared with theologians such as Thomas Oden, whom he cites.
Pinnock dedicates this volume to a growing number of "Christians who, like myself, want to move beyond modernism and fundamentalism to a form of postmodern orthodoxy" (p. v). Yet, his guard is up: "The real danger to traditional theology comes from its own temptation to accommodate to modern culture and lose the distinctiveness that gives it character and is the source of its transforming power" (p. 3). A major theme for Pinnock is to overcome a false, individualistic Christianity: "To renew only individuals and not to renew their societies as well would be to do only half a job;" "Christians presently have the opportunity to put the sacred back into the naked public square of culture;" "Western culture owes its greatness largely to its Christian heritage and foundations and is not likely to survive unless these moral and spiritual roots are re-invigorated" (p. 4).
Plato. The Republic, trans. Francis M. Cornford (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1945/1958). The famous Greek philosopher (427-347 BC), Plato was a student of Socrates. He honored his former teacher by making him the main speaker in most of his Dialogues, the most famous of which is The Republic. The theme of this work is the ideal political state, and the conduct which such a state would require of its citizens. The relevance of this work is the tremendous influence which it has had, and continues to have, upon the political thinking and cultural assumptions of Western civilization, including current discussions of "justice" and "values." Significantly, Plato rejects the ideas of Protagoras, i.e. that "Man is the measure of all things," that all truth is relative, and that human happiness consists in pleasure. Plato concludes that "a well-ordered community [is]…the greatest good that a state can enjoy" (p. 165; V.463).
One of the most enduring of Plato's contributions is his identification of the four cardinal, civic virtues, which he defines as: (1) "wisdom"—"prudence in counsel" and the "art of guardianship" (insight into what is good for the community "as a whole"); (2) "courage"—"courage means preserving something…the right conviction about the things which ought, or ought not, to be feared;" (3) "temperance"—"a kind of orderliness, a control of certain pleasures and appetites," "self-mastery;" (4) "justice"—the "universal principle that everyone ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suit[s] him," "minding one's own business" (pp. 121-129; IV. 427-434).
Other significant ideas developed in The Republic include the following: (1) the need society has for "guardians of the commonwealth" (p. 63; II. 375); (2) the need for "censorship of literature for school use" (p. 69; II. 377); (3) the need, "if our commonwealth is to be well-ordered," to respect and honor "the divine" (p. 71; II. 378); (4) the need to guard against abuse of power: "access to power must be confined to men who are not in love with it" (p. 235; VII. 521); (5) the need to develop "moral character," "moral excellence," and "self-mastery" through education (pp. 89-90; III. 400-401), as well as "reverence to parents" (p. 165; V. 463). Next to his parable of the cave, one of Plato's most powerful images is that of the "ship" of state: "The sailors are quarreling over the control of the helm; each thinks he ought to be steering the vessel, though he has never learnt navigation" (p. 195; VI. 488).
Finally, Plato warns that even "liberty" may be pursued to excess: "perhaps the insatiable desire for this good [liberty] to the neglect of everything else may transform a democracy and lead to a demand for despotism…the citizens [may] become so sensitive that they resent the slightest application of control as intolerable tyranny, and in their resolve to have no master they end by disregarding even the law, written or unwritten…Such then, I should say, is the seed, so full of fair promise, from which springs despotism" (pp. 288-289; VIII. 562-563).
Popper, Karl R. Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1965). The renowned, Austrian philosopher of science, Popper taught at the London School of Economics from 1949-1969. In this classic text Popper offers a relevant and enduring resource for the postmodern debate regarding "truth." Popper's unpresuming, careful and candid approach to knowledge anticipated much postmodern criticism of unwitting and 'biased' assumptions of 'objectivity.' Popper—also anticipating Kuhn—articulated his thesis as follows: "The way in which knowledge progresses, and especially our scientific knowledge, is by unjustified (and unjustifiable) anticipations, by guesses, by tentative solutions to our problems, by conjectures. These conjectures are controlled by criticism; that is, by attempted refutations, which include severely critical tests" (p. vii).
To the postmodern criticism of scientific knowledge as 'authoritarian' and 'oppressive,' Popper belies the argument that such misuse was universal, having freely acknowledged: "since we can never know for certain, there can be no authority here for any claim for authority, for conceit over our knowledge, or for smugness" (ibid). To the postmodern argument that 'objectivity' is illusory and impossible, Popper pointed out that if there were no objectivity we couldn't identify error: "The solution lies in the realization that all of us may and often do err, singly and collectively, but that this very idea of error and human fallibility involves another one—the idea of objective truth: the standard which we may fall short of" (p. 16).
Popper's primary contribution to postmodernism may have been his openness to dialogue, and his proposal for evaluating competing 'truths' through honest examination: "What is important about a theory is its explanatory power, and whether it stands up to criticism and to tests" (p. 140; cf. p. 192). Popper asserted that his "most central contention" was that: "The rationalist tradition, the tradition of critical discussion, represents the only practicable way of expanding our knowledge… There is no other way" (p. 151). He concluded by acknowledging the Judeo-Christian roots of the liberal tradition which gave birth to science and allowed for its development: "I have in mind," he said, "the standards and values which have come down to us through Christianity from Greece and from the Holy Land; from Socrates, and from the Old and New Testaments. At no other time, and nowhere else, have men been more respected, as men, than in our society. Never before have their human rights, and their human dignity, been so respected…" (p. 369).
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1985); Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage, 1993); The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996). A professor of communication arts and sciences at New York U., Postman is an astute observer of culture with a gift for insightful generalizations. In the Foreword of Amusing Ourselves he contrasts the prophetic visions of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Whereas Orwell warned of totalitarianism, administered "by an externally imposed oppression," Huxley's Utopia warned of time when: "people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think." "Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley fear that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance." Postman concludes: "This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right" (pp. vii-viii).
Postman bewails the cultural transition in this century from a "word-centered" to an "image-centered" culture. He cites the "Second Commandment of the Decalogue"—against making "any graven image"—as a significant warning about the "connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture" (p. 9). He concludes that: "Television is our culture's principal mode of knowing about itself. Therefore—and this is the critical point—how television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged… In courtrooms, classrooms, operating rooms, board rooms, churches and even airplanes, Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images" (pp. 92-93).
In The End of Education, Postman asserts his thesis: "I mean to suggest that without a transcendent and honorable purpose schooling must reach its finish, and the sooner we are done with it, the better" (p. xi); "To put it simply, there is no surer way to bring an end to schooling than for it to have no end" (p. 4). On the one hand, Postman resists identifying this "end" or "purpose" with religious ends or purposes. On the other hand, he admits that religion has served as the primary source of such "ends."