Selections from Berger
It is my position that modernity has plunged religion into a very specific crisis, characterized by
secularity, to be sure, but characterized more importantly by pluralism. In the pluralistic situation, for
reasons that are readily visible to historical and social-scientific observation, that authority of all
religious traditions tends to be undermined. (xi)
Human life and thought is always situated in history. (5)
Put differently, anyone today is not only situated in the modern world but is also situated within the
structures of modern consciousness. (7)
Modernity is then perceived as a great relativizing cauldron. But modernity itself is a relative
phenomenon; it is one moment in the historical movements of human consciousness – not its pinnacle,
or its culmination, or its end. (10)
…modern consciousness entails a movement from fate to choice. (11)
…the institutional pluralization of modernity had to carry in its wake a fragmentation and ipso facto a
weakening of every conceivable belief and value dependent upon social support…Put differently, in the
modern situation certainty is hard to come by. (19)
The individual who reflects inevitably becomes more conscious of himself. That is, he turns his attention
from the objectively given outside world to his own subjectivity. As he does this, two things happen
simultaneously: The outside world becomes more questionable, and his own inner world becomes more
complex. Both of these things are unmistakable features of modern man. (22)
…there is a close connection between secularization and the pluralization of plausibility structures… (26)
If the typical condition of the premodern man is one of religious certainty, it follows that that of modern
man is one of religious doubt. (27)
For premodern man, heresy is a possibility – usually a rather remote one; for modern man, heresy
typically becomes a necessity. (28)
…heresy, once the occupation of marginal and eccentric types, has become a much more general
condition; indeed, heresy has become universalized. (31)
…open-mindedness tends to be linked to open-endedness, and this frustrates the deep religious hunger
for certainty. (63)
The Deductive Possibility
The neo-orthodox imagination conjures up characters who confront the “word of God” in an empirically
accessible realm. But concrete human beings do not exist in such a realm. Rather, they exist as troubled
Swiss pastors, French-speaking Arabs who also want to be Muslims, American college students with
access to paperback editions of the Tibetan book of the dead, ex-Jews and neo-Hindus, and all the rest
of us in the grip of pluralism. That is the realm in which religious experience and religious reflection
Selections from Berger
empirically occur. To deny it is to deny the reality of our world. The denial of reality is always a bad place
to begin. (87)
The Reductive Possibility
At the opposite pole of a spectrum of possible responses is a mind that perceives the tradition as no
longer affirmable except by way of a comprehensive translation into the categories of modern
consciousness. Here the perception is the precise opposite of the orthodox or neo-orthodox one:
Everything has happened. (97)
History brings forth and dissolves one structure of consciousness after another. Each one is to be taken
seriously and looked at in terms of its possible insights. In this respect, modern consciousness is one
among many historically available structures – no more, no less…In this as in many other matters,
historical understanding and the sociology of knowledge conspire to produce a healthy skepticism about
the taken-for-granted certainties of any age, one’s own included. (120)
The Inductive Possibility
The term “induction” is used here in its most common sense – arguing from empirical evidence. This
means two things: taking human experience as the starting point of religious reflection, and using the
methods of the historian to uncover those human experiences that have become embodied in the
various religious traditions. (127)
Schleiermacher…defines revelation as “every original and new disclosure of the universe and its
innermost life to man.” It should be noted that implicit in this definition is the plurality of revelations,
thus immediately challenging the “once and for all” self-understanding of every kind of orthodoxy…The
multiplicity of religious forms is the natural consequence of the core experience of religion. But this does
not mean that all forms are equally valid or should be regarded only as interim manifestations of the
divine….But now Schleiermacher must deal with the obvious question of how one is to assess the
validity of any particular religious form… (131)
The core of the inductive model is, quite simply, the assertion that a specific type of human experience
defines the phenomenon called religion. (136)
…if there is a heretical imperative, why go for one heresy rather than another? (149)
There is no better phrase than “mellow certainty” to describe the fundamental attitude of liberal
theology at its best… (153)
Contestation means an open-minded encounter with other religious possibilities on the level of their
truth claims. Put differently, one seriously engages another religion if one is open, at least
hypothetically, to the proposition that this other religion is true. Put differently again, to enter into
interreligious contestation is to be prepared to change one’s own view of reality. (167)
…once this contestation is entered, it is unlikely that its participants will remain unchanged. (168)
Selections from Berger
The old agenda of liberal theology was the contestation with modernity. That agenda has exhausted
itself. The much more pressing agenda today is the contestation with the fullness of human religious
possibilities. (183)