The Church is flying distress signals today. How did it get into this dire predicament? Although any answer given is bound to be incomplete, there are some factors we can point to with assurance that they provide substantive clues to how we got where we are. The current crisis in the Church has resulted from powerful forces that have been operating for some time but in recent years have accelerated and coalesced. The result is a crisis not only in the Church but in all of culture and the world as well.
Two centuries ago there began a very rapid increase in knowledge in the physical and social sciences that has so mounted in intensity in recent decades that we now call it an explosion. This expansion of knowledge has brought with it a challenge to Christianity because of the apparent contradictions between the presuppositions of the physical and social sciences and those of Christianity.
In astronomy man has discovered anew the vastness of the cosmos. He now knows that, rather than being small and limited, this world is exceedingly large and apparently expanding. To some degree the largeness of the world was known to the Greeks, but only to the few; today it is the possession of the multitudes through education and the communications media. In the light of this knowledge man seems to shrink into relative insignificance. Against a backdrop of stars that are ninety million light years away from our planet, man is seen by some as virtually a cipher, a non-entity.
In physics the obedience of matter to physical law as conceived by Newton seemed to prove determinism, a naturalistic philosophy in which cause and effect are seen as inexorably related. Every event or act or decision is considered the inevitable consequence of its antecedents. ...1
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