Fifth in a Series

A crisis in theological credibility darkens the Western world; multitudes are baffled over what, if anything, they should believe about God.

This theological credibility gap differs from the widely denounced political credibility gap. Government officials are often charged with withholding information or manipulating the news; religious academics, however, are not often accused of malevolent secrecy or deliberate dishonesty. Few theologians are given either to anonymity or deceit.

The complaint against neo-Protestant theologians, rather, is that they simply don’t “tell it like it is.” Their religious reports are inconsistent and contradictory, if not incoherent. And if theologians and clergy who claim to be divinely updated experts cannot agree among themselves, surely the public cannot much be blamed for having high doubts about the Deity and about those who claim to fraternize with him.

If modern theologians kept their supposed revelational insights to themselves, that would be another matter. Then the continual revision and replacement of their views would create little problem for the public. But as it is, theology is increasingly tagged as an enterprise of creative speculation; its queen-for-a-day tenets have less endurance than many frankly tentative scientific hypotheses.

Neo-Protestant theologians hesitate to admit that they are simply playing peek-a-boo with divinity. Two generations of modern religious theory nevertheless bear out the blunt verdict that their rumors about God have no more solid basis in objective disclosure than Clifford Irving’s supposed conversations with the inaccessible and invisible Howard Hughes.

What makes the confusing theological reports—that the Deity is “in here” or “out ...

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