In this final third of the twentieth century, man faces chaos in knowledge. Acquisition of information has accelerated at such a rate over the past two decades that man has not yet caught up with and assimilated all he has discovered. Even computers have not enabled him to break the log-jam. Perhaps he will eventually “catch up with himself,” but even if he does, he will still be unable to integrate his thinking unless his whole outlook changes radically.
Modern man’s real trouble is that his thought lacks an over-arching unifying principle. His scientific studies point to a coherent universe governed by laws and principles that apply not only to this planet but also to the moon, Mars, Venus, and the farthest galaxies. Nevertheless he generally views this universe, indeed all reality, as the product of completely random forces. He therefore has no philosophy that gives both an adequate, or even possible, explanation of the universe and a means of unifying knowledge. Neither chance nor mystery provides a principle of integration.
Early in the sixteenth century man was on the way to reaching much the same position, and for the same reasons. Technical knowledge was increasing rapidly, and philosophical skepticism, the result of medieval attempts to synthesize a “sacramentalized” Christianity with pagan Greek thought, tended to destroy the idea of a unified structure of thought. At that point the Reformation exercised a powerful restraint upon the centrifugal tendency. Both Luther and Melancthon had an important influence, but Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, with its stress on the sovereignty of God and the redeeming kingship of Christ, probably did even more to stem the upsurge of irrationalism in European thought. ...1
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