For almost a decade now Christian scholars interested in theology have been taking soundings of the religious scene. The giant ship Oikoumene has run into doctrinally shallow waters; for so long have her ecumenical steersmen put mission ahead of truth, momentum ahead of direction, that the World Church, so-called, finds herself adrift from the high sea of universal truth and swept off course by the shifting winds of modernity. Few ecclesiastical interpreters would venture to say just where the institutional church is now traveling, in relation to either the supernatural realm of biblical faith or the history of our times.

In 1962, when a group of Anglican theologians published the small volume Soundings (Cambridge University Press), the book’s editor, Dr. A. R. Vidler of King’s College, Cambridge, remarked by way of introduction that “it is a time for making soundings, not charts or maps.… We can best serve the cause of truth and of the Church by candidly confessing where our perplexities lie, and not by making claims which, so far as we can see, theologians are not at present in a position to justify.”

The sixth decade of this century has almost run out, but many ecumenical theologians—not only in England, but also in the United States, throughout Europe, and even in Asia—are still taking the pulse of the contemporary world. Soundings in its annual reprints still carries the widely held verdict: “Our task is to try to see what the questions are that we ought to be facing in the nineteen-sixties.… The authors of this volume cannot persuade themselves that the time is ripe for major works of theological construction or reconstruction.” Today the decks are crowded with theological navigators who admit that the Church may be ...

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