Rachels, James. Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1990). Dr. Rachels is a prof. of philosophy at the U. Alabama, Birmingham. His contends that "the old world view," with all its "moral foundations" has collapsed (p. 222). He asserts: "After Darwin, we can no longer think of ourselves a occupying a special place in creation—instead, we must realize that we are products of the same evolutionary forces, working blindly and without purpose, that shaped the rest of the animal kingdom" (p. 1). Rachels concludes that "the image of God thesis is no longer a reasonable option," and that "the traditional supports for the idea of human dignity are gone" (p. 171). He spends considerable effort in arguing that the "design argument" supporting divine creation has suffered "a definitive refutation" (p. 120).
Rachels argues that: "in some respects traditional morality placed too much value on human life, and we might actually be better off with a more modest conception" (p. 205). He proposes, as a "new ethic" for the moral vacuum, an approach which he calls "moral individualism": "The most defensible view seems to be some form of moral individualism, according to which what matters is the individual characteristics of organisms, and not the classes [e.g. Homo sapiens] to which they are assigned" (p. 222). According to Rachels this approach would still allow a "qualified speciesism," (favoring of humans in moral significance), but only on an individual (case-by-case) basis, after an objective evaluation of quality "characteristics" (p. 194).
Rasmusson, Arne. The Church as Polis (Notre Dame, IN: U. Notre Dame Press, 1995). In A Peculiar People R. Clapp identifies this work by Rasmusson, a university professor and theologian, as: "a sophisticated and thorough treatment" of the church as a "comprehensive cultural, social and political" reality which is "primary to, and formative of, ideologies, worldviews, philosophies, psychologies, professions, or any other potential competitors for our allegiance;" a treatment of Christianity as a distinctive culture on its own terms, a "church-centered and theological [culture]," rather than a "mediating political theology" (pp. 226-227, n. 2).
Rauschenbusch, Walter. Christianizing the Social Order (New York: Macmillan, 1912); A Theology for the Social Gospel (New York: Macmillan, 1917; Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1961); Christianity and the Social Crisis (New York: Macmillan, 1907). Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) was a German-American Baptist minister and a prof. of church history at Rochester Seminary in New York. His vision of a "social gospel," and of the "kingdom of God" realized on earth, made a strong and lasting impression upon Martin Luther King, Jr. His experience of exploitation and indifference in New York made him critical of the established social order. His Christianity and the Social Crisis recounts the OT prophecies against social injustice, and the NT warnings about wealth—but emphasizes that: "The fundamental virtue in the ethics of Jesus was love, because love is the society-making quality…Love creates fellowship. In the measure in which love increases in any social organism, it will hold together without coercion" (p. 67).
In Christianizing the Social Order Rauschenbusch testifies to his discovery of "the kingdom as God" as a revolutionary ideal: "So Christ's conception of the Kingdom of God came to me as a new revelation… I found that this new conception of the purpose of Christianity was strangely satisfying… it was all covered by the one aim of the Reign of God on earth" (p. 93). He also explains his desire to incorporate the concept of evolution: "Translate the evolutionary theories into religious faith, and you have the doctrine of the Kingdom of God. This combination with scientific evolutionary thought has freed the Kingdom ideal of its catastrophic setting and its background of demonism, and so adapted it to the climate of the modern world" (p. 90; cited by Robert T. Handy in A Handbook of Christian Theologians, ed. Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman (New York: The New American Library, 1965).
Reeves, Thomas C. The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Christianity (New York:, NY: The Free Press, 1996). A professor of history at the U. Wisconsin—Parkside and a member of the Episcopal Church, Reeves has written a careful, compassionate, well-documented critique of mainline Protestantism. He notes that: "The mainline membership is graying rapidly. By 1983, nearly half of all mainliners were 50 years of age or older" (p. 11); and that: "the mainline churches [are] light on questions of eternal importance, lacking a distinctive identity, and permissive to the bone" (p. 31). Reeves discusses the religious "paradox" of American society, as when in a 1991 poll 82% claimed to be Christian but 64% denied that there are moral absolutes, and only 30% viewed Scripture as "the ultimate authority in matters of truth." He finds some explanation in "the individualism inherent in Protestantism and the Enlightenment… the right to define truth as they see fit" (pp. 56-57).
Reeves characterizes much of current Christianity as individualistic, superficial, materialistic, and self-centered (pp. 61-67), and concludes: "Christianity in modern America is, in large part, innocuous. It tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible… The faith has been overwhelmed by the culture, producing… cultural Christianity [such that] the faith is dominated by a culture to the point that it loses much of its authenticity" (p. 67).
Reeves examines "three great secular religions—the Enlightenment, Marxism, and Science," and finds them "human-centered and utopian" (pp. 69, 82). After assessing the "causes of decline" in the mainline churches, he offers a chapter entitled, "Renewing the Mainline" (pp. 166-211). He begins: "The first and most critical step in halting the slide of the mainline churches is the restoration of their commitment to orthodox theology. Everything else depends upon that" (p. 175). He concludes that failure of renewed vision and orthodoxy will "permit… the liberal Protestant churches to proceed on their steady slide toward complete irrelevance" (p. 211).
Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith After Freud (New York: Harper & Row, 1966). A sociologist on the faculty at U. Chicago, Rieff opened this classic study by citing W.B. Yeats', 'The Second Coming' (p. 1). Defining culture as "a design of motives directing the self outward, toward those communal purposes in which alone the self can be realized and satisfied" (p. 4), Rieff argued that the modern rejection of cultural "constraints" signified "intellectual suicide" (p. 9), and warned: "That there are colonies of the violent among us, devoid of any stable sense of communal purpose, best describes…our present temporarily schizoid existence in two cultures—vacillating between dead purposes and deadly devices to escape boredom" (p. 11). Concluding that ours is a "dying" culture of "post-communal faiths" (p. 2), Rieff saw little hope of a "rebirth of the old corporate ideals" (p. 13). The "therapeutic criticism" of moral order and communal purpose amounts to a "cultural revolution" (p. 15); the West is stuck in the mire of "affluence" (p. 64), and: "in a sense, it stands for nothing" (p. 65).
Yet Rieff holds out a ray of hope, echoing T.S. Eliot and others who emphasize the great potential influence of disciplined minorities: "Compassionate communities, as distinct from welfare states, exist only where there is a rich symbolic life, shared, and demanding of the self a hard line limiting the range of desires" (p. 245); "In every vital community there has been a cultural elite, sometimes distinct from political or social elites, carrying doctrines of communal purpose as its motivating characteristic" (p. 246); "there have been periods in history when a cultural elite, opposing refinement with aesthetically coarse moral demands, has risen in critical passion from both the lower social orders and from disaffected members of the higher. The first four centuries of the Christian era were such a period" (p. 247). Perhaps speaking a prophetic word to Christians Rieff asserts: "That the Church is, supposedly, in but not of this world supplied a critical principle of renewal which is basic to all Christian therapies of commitment. The Church, as an institution, is vital only inasmuch as it symbolic [identity] is detached from the established social order, thus preserving its capacity for being the guardian critic of our inherited moral demand system" (p. 250). In The Feeling Intellect (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1990) Rieff asserted: "What characterizes modernity, I think, is just this idea that men need not submit to any power—higher or lower—other than their own" (p. 280).
Roche, George. A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy (Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1987). Dr. Roche is president of Hillsdale College in southern Michigan. He has served on the National Council on Educational Research. In this book he addresses the "anti-heroic" worldview which "dismisses all purpose as illusion" (p. xiii). He identifies the "naturalism" of secular humanism and evolutionary theory as the source of this "anti-heroism": "Evolution serves one purpose only: it is the creation myth of anti-heroism" (p. 282); "The logic of Darwinism is inherently totalitarian …Power is victory in the amoral struggle for existence" (p. 286).
Roof, Wade Clark and William McKinney. American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future (New Brunswick & London: Rutgers U. Press, 1987). The authors are a prof. of sociology in a state university and a seminary professor whose research demonstrated that Dean Kelley's thesis in Why Conservative Churches Are Growing was correct: "Those groups closely identified with the mainstream culture were in trouble, but those most distanced from it enjoyed continuing vitality and growth. For the most part, Kelley's interpretation holds" (p. 20). They conclude that: "The Churches of the Prot. establishment, long in a state of relative decline, will continue to lose ground both in numbers and in social power and influence" (p. 233). Yet, they see hope: "Liberal Protestantism's future, we believe, lies not in a move toward the theological and ideological right, but in its becoming more self-consciously 'liberal,' if by that is meant an assertion of responsible individualism in a communal framework … [and] hold[ing] firm to their historic values… in as direct and forceful a manner as possible" (p. 242). They conclude: "We are impressed by the fact that the voices now calling for a reinvigorated public life—be they Catholic, conservative Protestant or black Protestant—all have and draw upon strong communal experiences" (p. 251).
Rorty, Richard. Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, Philosophical Papers, Vol. I; Essays on Heidegger and Others, Philosophical Papers, Vol. II (New York: Cambridge U. Press, 1991); Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1979). One of America's most respected philosophers, a former president of the American Philosophical Society, and Prof. of Humanities at the U. Virginia, Rorty is a professed "pragmatist," following John Dewey, and an "anti-essentialist," as a leading exponent of postmodernism. Rorty asserts that "reality" and "truth" are fictional concepts, arbitrary constructs, subjective depiction's, etc., and he ridicules those who still believe in truth. His most celebrated work was Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), in which he credited the influence of philosophers like Wittgenstein and Dewey for "deconstructing" the "mirror-imagery" of the western tradition (p. 13). For Rorty this meant dismissing the correspondence theory of truth. These authors "let us see truth," he said, "as, in James's phrase, 'what it is better for us to believe,' rather than as 'the accurate representation of reality" (p. 10).
He explained his thesis: "The picture which holds traditional philosophy captive is that of the mind as a great mirror, containing various representations—some accurate, some not—and capable of being studied by pure, nonempirical methods. Without the notion of the mind as mirror, the notion of knowledge as accuracy of representation would not have suggested itself" (p. l2). Rorty denied any "overarching structure of rationality" (p. 271) or any "language which will serve as a permanent neutral matrix for formulating all good explanatory hypotheses" (p. 348). He defined "nature" as "whatever is so routine and familiar and manageable that we trust our own language implicitly" (p. 352), and labeled his own view of objectivity "existentialist" (p. 361).
In Essays Rorty ridiculed those who still held a traditional, objective view of truth: "You can still find philosophy professors who will solemnly tell you that they are seeking the truth, not just a story or a consensus but an honest-to-God, down-home, accurate representation of the way the world is. A few of them will even claim to write in a clear, precise, transparent way…" (p. 86). In Objectivity Rorty embraced relativism as a liberal virtue and a philosophical necessity. "Tolerance" is the defining characteristic of this liberalism: "our best chance for transcending our acculturation is to be brought up in a culture which prides itself on not being monolithic—on its tolerance for a plurality of subcultures and its willingness to listen to neighboring cultures" (p. 14). He also ridiculed "representational" truth claims—claims of objectivity or finality—as fictional "skyhooks," based on "the recognition that no description of how things are from a God's eye point of view" is humanly possible (p. 13). Seekers of truth are necessarily "ethnocentric" and "acculturated" (p. 13)., although Rorty allowed that "self-criticism and reform" are possible within "the culture of the liberal democracies" (p. 15). Yet he objected to "endless controversies about objectivity, truth, and relativism," because: "these doctrines…become impediments to human beings' sense of self-reliance."
Rorty continued: "The papers in the following volume are largely devoted to arguing…that such a sense of self-reliance is a good thing to have" (p. 17; cf. S. Ahlstrom's evaluation of R.W. Emerson). Consequently, Rorty proposed giving up "the search for Truth" which has dominated the tradition of "Western culture," and replacing it with "the desire for solidarity: "Insofar as a person is seeking solidarity, she does not ask about the relation between the practices of the chosen community and something outside that community" (p. 21). Rorty advocated the "recontextualiz[ing] both of truth and morality for the hell of it" (p. 110), and embracing "the disenchantment of the world" as "the price we pay for individual and private spiritual liberation, the kind of liberation that Emerson thought characteristically American" (p. 194).
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract (1762) trans. Maurice Cranston (New York: Penguin Books, 1968). A Swiss-born French philosopher and political theorist, Rousseau was a leading figure of the French Enlightenment. His ideas had a significant impact upon Kant, Goethe, Robespierre, Tolstoy, and the French Revolution. Rousseau promoted the image of the "natural man." He believed that people were born essentially good and equal, but corrupted by society, property and commerce. Chapter 1 begins with the now-famous line: "Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains" (p. 49). Ironically, while Rousseau claimed to champion the individual liberty of the citizen under a ruler whose authority derived from the "General Will" of the people, he concluded (as M. Cranston points out) that: "Men cannot be trusted to frame or devise their own laws. They need a Lawgiver to make laws for them…Thus freedom for Rousseau consisted of putting oneself willingly under rules devised by someone else" (p. 42). Consequently, Rousseau's political vision can be interpreted as a rationale for totalitarianism.
In The Present Age, Robert Nisbet warns that America may be ripe to fall under the spell of a "Rousseauian vision" leading to a "totalitarian" state. He calls Rousseau "the saint of saints…to the mind of the late-twentieth-century clerisy in this country," and warns: "in all truth it was [Rousseau] who converted the democratic ethos into the totalitarian dogma. Rousseau is the man of the hour at this juncture in American political thought…the very central Rousseau [is] the general will and its absolute power over the individual, of insistence that when the individual enters into the social contract that yields the general will, all liberties and rights are automatically surrendered…when this [collective] sovereign appears to be lowering its absolute power on the citizen's head for whatever reason, this is only an act of 'forcing the citizen to free'" (p. 54).
Rousseau concluded The Social Contract (Book 4, Chap. 8) with an essay on "The Civil Religion," in which he contrasted three types of religion. The best, he suggested, was what he variously called: "the religion of the private person;" "the religion of the Gospel;" "the divine natural law; " "Christianity." He said that he revered "this holy, sublime and true religion" because it teaches the brotherhood of all men and creates a society which "is not even dissolved by death." However, Rousseau recognized liabilities in this pure type of religion. It promotes social "indifference" and "detachment from the world and any sense of obligation to the state;" it lacks any "bonds of [political] union;" "Christianity preaches only servitude and submission. Its spirit is too favourable to tyranny for tyranny not to take advantage of it" (pp. 181-182). Rousseau contrasted this "pure" form of Christianity—which is "limited to inward devotion to the supreme God and the eternal obligations of morality"—with a second, "mixed and antisocial" form of "Catholic Christianity." He repudiated this form of religion because it "gives men two legitimate orders, two rulers, two homelands, [and] puts them under two contradictory obligations…[thus] destroy[ing] social unity" (p. 181). It is "manifestly bad," Rousseau said, that: "In Christian states men have never known whether they ought to obey the civil rule or the priest" (p. 179).
Rousseau finally concluded that the best form of religion for political purposes is a "civil religion," "the religion of the citizen." At first he disparaged civil religion as "bad," and asserted: "it is based on error and lies, it deceives men, and makes them credulous and superstitious; it buries the true worship of God in empty ceremonials. It…becomes exclusive and…intolerant" (p. 182). But later he concluded that civil religion is necessary because: "it is very important to the state that each citizen should have a religion which makes him love his duty" (p. 185). This is something which civil religion does, since "it joins divine worship to a love of the law, and…in making the homeland the object of the citizens' adoration, it teaches them that the service of the state is the service of the tutelary God" (pp. 181-182). Rousseau limited the "dogmas of the civil religion" to the following: "the existence of an omnipotent, intelligent, benevolent divinity that foresees and provides; the life to come; the happiness of the just; the punishment of sinners; the sanctity of the social contract and the law; [and the prohibition of] intolerance. Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected" (p. 186). Of greatest interest is Rousseau's contention that any citizen who "does not believe" these dogmas should be "banish[ed] from the state…as an antisocial being;" and that "anyone [who] after having publicly acknowledged these same dogmas, behaves as if he did not believe in them, then let him be put to death" (p. 186). The "intolerant" and worthy of being "expelled from the state" included "anyone who dares to say 'outside the church there is no salvation'" (p. 187); "In my opinion," he said, "those who distinguish between civil and theological intolerance are mistaken" (p. 186).
Ruether, Rosemary. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (Boston: Beacon Press, 1983); Womanguides: Reading Toward a Feminist Theology (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985). In his book Tracking the Maze, Clark Pinnock identifies Ruether as a "moderate" feminist, in comparison with the "radical rhetoric" of other feminists. Since the feminist movement is a significant force within postmodern culture, and since feminist theology exerts a similar force within the postmodern church, it may be instructive to examine some of the tenets of a feminist theologian. Pinnock summarizes Ruether's theology in the following points: (1) all theology is rooted in human experience; (2) feminist experience is a legitimate source for theological content and direction; (3) classical theology and even the Bible itself demonstrate the injustice of patriarchy and male domination; (4) it is questionable whether the Bible can rightly serve as a final revelation when it is flawed by gender chauvinism; (5) How can God be called 'father' when that is the very symbol of the transcendent male?; (6) How can Christ—as a man—be the savior of women?; (7) a new set of scriptures may have to be gathered and set aside as a gender-neutral framework in which to read the Bible (pp. 23-24).