Toward an American Theology, by Herbert W. Richardson (Harper & Row, 1967, 170 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Gordon R. Lewis, professor of systematic theology and Christian philosophy, Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.
The death-of-God theology buries belief in a personal God but marks the beginning of a fresh American approach to theological thinking, according to Herbert W. Richardson, assistant professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School.
Our high regard for a God with a personal self-consciousness, Richardson says, is simply the projection of seventeenth-century philosophy into Scripture. However, atheistic rejections of God as an individual person are merely transitional. An atheistic culture is impossible in principle, for “an absolute denial of God finally negates its own negation.”
Culturally, the era of the individual is rapidly being swallowed up in what Richardson calls the age of sociotechnics. Man now exercises technical control not only over nature but also over all the institutions that make up society: economics, education, science, and politics. Cybernetics is concerned with the control of probability systems whose terms are the manifold decisions of free individuals. Since America has created and promulgated social technology, it is fitting that America should produce the distinctive theology for the new age. With little reference to Scripture, but some guidance from the history of doctrine, Richardson seeks to chart the way.
The shift to a social conception of God is required, he thinks, by the sociotechnic age. Although Richardson continues to use personal pronouns of God, he says we can no longer think of God as a person explicated by a theological emphasis ...1
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