Visions of Daniel

Religion and the Human Sciences
An Approach via Spirituality


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(A Summary and Conclusion of the Book's Argument)

Religion used to be everything, but not anymore. As history progressed, various strands of living branched off and become independent. The seventeenth century saw the emancipation of the natural sciences. The eighteenth century saw the emergence of the social or human sciences. They continue to struggle for their independence. Part of their difficulty is an uncertainty about the nature of social science itself.

But technological advances in the twentieth century have wrought an epochal change. The world is shrinking to one global village. In the process religions have encountered one another. The common man and woman are aware of a range of beliefs and practices that differ from their own. So certainty in religious commitments has been challenged, and people have begun to distinguish between spirituality and religion. People discern commonalities among the various religions and tend to prize religious wisdom more highly than their religious affiliation.

This state of affairs has important implications for the self-understanding of the human sciences, and this study of religion and the human sciences has capitalized on them. If spirituality is not identical with religion but is rather something that the religions carry, spirituality appears to be a human phenomenon more than a theological one. Then, if spirituality can be specified in some more or less precise way, spirituality not only appears as a link between religion and social science but also clarifies the nature of the both of them. The strictly theological dimensions of religion get sorted out from the human dimensions, and within the human dimensions a similar differentiation occurs. Those aspects of religion that claim universal validity stand out in contrast to those that are simply the products of particular histories. This latter differentiation also suggests something about the human sciences, for it applies to them as well as to religion: explanatory social science, hardly achieved today, would deal in universals while merely descriptive human sciences catalogue and compare different people, societies, and cultures. Thus, there emerges an analytic schema for sorting out the various interrelated aspects of religion, and this very schema simultaneously suggests the interrelationship of religion and the human sciences.

Refined and nuanced, the schema in question is the system of higher viewpoint presented in this book. Differentiation and interrelation of the positivist, the philosophic, and the theist viewpoints, as well as the theotic, form the theoretical core of this book's position on the relationship of religion and the human sciences. Other positions on religion and the human sciences are available, and this book examined them in light of its own: the integration project of Evangelical Christianity, the debate about the difference between theology and religious studies, the distinction between the Geistes - and Naturwissenschaften , the implementation of a revised critical correlation, and the appeal to a perennial philosophy. This book criticized all of them while remaining consistently true to its own position—which suggests that this position may be more incisive and more comprehensive than the rest.

To be sure, in order to do its work, this book employed a host of other intellectual tools, borrowed from Bernard Lonergan, in addition to the notion of higher viewpoints. There are

•  the elaboration of the bimodal and four-level structure of dynamic and open-ended human consciousness or spirit, which grounds the non-theist conceptualization of spirituality;

•  the specification of authenticity as a normativity built into the structure of the human spirit;

•  the specification of the authentic human subject as the key to any successful scientific enterprise, even one within the supposedly "subjective" realms of the humanities and the human sciences;

•  the elimination of the supposed conflict between faith and reason by specification of different horizons of faith, presuppositional stances, variously characteristic of all of the four viewpoints;

•  the difference between separation and distinction;

•  the specification of explanation as successful implementation of implicit definition or systematic statement, wherein terms and their relations co-define one another and, thus, precisely express an intended meaning;

•  the distinction between commonsense and theory and the parallel distinctions between description and explanation and between "interpretation" and "explanation" ( Geistes - and Naturwissenschaft ) and the parallel specification of the realm of symbol, metaphor, and paradoxical statement, on the one hand, and the realm of systematic formulation, on the other;

•  the distinction and interrelation between data and knowledge and the parallel distinction between experience and knowledge;

•  the related indication of differentiations of consciousness—for example, aesthetic, theoretical, or mystical differentiation—in contrast to stages of cognitive development;

•  the understanding of knowledge as a composite of data, understanding, and judgment;

•  and the specification of verification or judgment of fact as the criterion of truth in contrast to mere communal or social consensus.

But granted all that—and not only is this presupposition massive, but none of its elements is optional, for they all hang together—this book and its companion volumes (Helminiak, 1987c, 1996a) propose what appears to be a coherent and comprehensive paradigm for human and religious studies. This proposal has far-reaching implications.

If spirituality can be specified as a specialization within psychology, the essential nature of the human sciences as "human" has been clarified. Then there may ensue a fully scientific enterprise dedicated to genuine human well-being. This enterprise would rest on sound theory and appeal to empirical evidence. Like the blades of a scissors, theory and evidence would close together to sharpen one another and to produce on-going advance (Lonergan, 1972, p. 293).

Attending to what have traditionally been valid religious concerns, a science of spirituality would indicate what is humanly wholesome and how the furthest reaches of human potential might be attained. That is to say, a spiritual technology would emerge (Feingold & Helminiak, 1996), and it could be shared universally. Just as technologies for production, travel, communication, and so on have transformed the face of modern living around the world, so a spiritual technology might transform postmodern life. By breaking free of the category religion, which has been separated so clumsily from the modern state and secular society, a spirituality worthy of all humanity would actually inform secular culture without imposing the particularities of the various religions but, nonetheless, being judiciously open to them. Then the possibility of a truly global community would emerge.

Of course, this vision is a dream. At the present time the human sciences and the world's nations are as fragmented as the religions. The hope for consensus in human science is no nearer than that in religion. Yet, if the analyses in this book are correct, we are not left to chance or to grace in the task of forming a global society. If these analyses are correct, we have broken the code, and we know the way.

Unlike in former days, we are not left to await a prophet who would arise to show the way. Indeed, no prophet could successfully arise in our age. Penetrating analyses, critical thinking, unscrupulous pandering, and shrewd cynicism make a mockery of the most sacred of things. If one bumper sticker reads, "Visualize World Peace," another counters with, "Visualize Whirled Peas." If one says, "Jesus died for our sins," another adds, "Then make it worth his while." No other generation has been so self-aware, so equipped with sound knowledge, so burdened with self-doubt, and so frighteningly capable of shaping or even obliterating history. And on no other generation has the weight of pivotal choices lain so squarely and so heavily.

The choices are ours. The world is in our own hands today. Commitment must be to the process of openness, honesty, and love—in a word, authenticity. The process need only be named and embraced and implemented up front. The matter is as simple as that. There is nothing mysterious or miraculous about it. The mere willingness to deliberately own this commitment is the key to its successful collective fulfillment….