A century ago the french author Jules Verne (1828–1905) wrote extravagantly imaginative stories of adventure and travel. In them he foresaw remarkable scientific and mechanical achievements of our own day, such as submarines, aircraft, and television. What he did not foresee, however, was the loss, equally remarkable, of what was almost everywhere taken for granted a hundred years ago: the reality of God.

Far more sure is contemporary man of the landing of astronauts on the moon than of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. To Western man in the nineteen seventies, no world seems more strange than that of theology.

Introductions are still popular. This is evident in the success of television “talk shows,” which give viewers a vicarious meeting with otherwise inaccessible personalities. Many people who care little about the Catholic Church want to meet or read about the Pope, and many who care little about the Gospel like to meet Billy Graham.

But speak of an introduction to God, or to the science of God, and many people are sure to look for the nearest exit. An introduction to sex techniques—now there’s a likely best-seller. Or a manual (not on how to avoid the rise and fall of the American empire but) on how to turn rising Dow Jones averages into a John Doe windfall—that’s heaven on earth; that’s practical religion. What dangles a more fascinating future, after all, than the tops of Masters and Johnson, or of Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith?

But what future has theology? Has it even a present? Haven’t theologians themselves been telling us that God is dead? Can theology still be considered a serious intellectual pursuit? For our generation, is not the reality of God a questionable matter at best? Is not discussion ...

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