Science in Christian Perspective



Some Presuppositions of a Christian Sociology
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania 15010
Geneva College

From: JASA 24 (September 1972): 110-117.


f sociology has not been held in high esteem by the Christian community, it is easy to understand why. Born in the Enlightenment of France, early sociology was molded by the humanist philosophy which was spawned at the time. Its development was fostered by an ability to turn east and west at the same time.

In Germany, sociology was rooted in the philosophy of Hegel and found a distorted fruition in the work of Karl Marx. This foundation was more than adequate for the nourishment of German sociology. In England, the work of Darwin proved to be another fertile seed bed. Encouraged by Herbert Spencer, who recognized the value of this new science for the study of social problems, sociology took the form of social evolution.

It was this latter system of social thought which was adopted on the American continent by the Social Science Movement prior to the Civil War.1 As a result of Reconstruction and its concurrent problems, new impetus was given to social evolutionary thinking which formed a rationale for conservative policies. These were submerged in the vigorous reform program advocated by the Social Gospel which had allied itself with sociology, socialism, and social evohition.2 Thus, sociology found itself being used by very diverse groups and philosophies for the purpose of attaining objectives of social reform.

The earlier patterns of environmental determinism, supported by Social Darwinism, slowly gave way to the humanistic emphasis of Pragmatism. Once again, sociology was used for the implementation and defense of views which were inconsistent with Christianity. Advocating the belief that man could control the environment, Pragmatism presented a distorted and limited view of the social world.3 From this point on, sociology became increasingly involved in positivistic and practical objectives. The result has been a contemporary emphasis on empiricism and conflicting theoretical perspectives.

From this brief survey of the development of sociology, one can note the instability of social thought. It has not been successful in its attempts to develop accurate models of society and man. When these models were applied to the real world in an attempt to explain it through empirical verification, they were found to be oversimplified and wanting. Nevertheless, these models have endured as ideological foundations for the support of various social programs and philosophies. Communism, the Social Gospel, and phenomenology are but several examples of such programming. Recently, however, there has developed a more adequate appreciation for the complexity of the social world. Perhaps as a result, there has been a tendency to retreat from the more challenging theoretical questions and to place an uneasy confidence in empirical methods.4 The result has been the development of scientism as a new ideology.5

Despite all of these shortcomings, a thread of truth runs through all of sociology. This is the recognition that man is limited in his capacity to understand and deal with the social world. Of necessity, he must look beyond the immediate circumstances of life and seek meaning in a less obvious reality. As one collects all of the evidence surrounding this thread, it becomes apparent that the gap between sociology and the Christian faith is not as great as one might think, What is needed is a selection of those models of the social world which merge with Christian presuppositions.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the history of social thought, it is that a Christian sociology cannot allow itself to be ensnared with false assumptions. In particular, it must avoid the development of all-encompassing systems which espouse a theological or philosophical position without regard for the data which are available. The result of holding such a position can only he the maintenance of ideological systems. Witness the ease of the Social Gospel. Such doctrinaire positions provide ready answers for questions which are viewed as major problem areas by the science.6 They also weaken the recognition of man's limited knowledge relative to God's omniscience and encourage bash' action before there is adequate knowledge. Nor can a Christian sociology allow itself to be impaled on the other horn of the dilemma by becoming infatuated with empirical data gathering. The danger of becoming enmeshed by scientism, whereby the Christian presuppositions for one's science would be weakened, is real.

Before going further, there should be some clarification of the meaning of the term "Christian sociology". Its use is not intended to suggest that such a discipline

Early sociology was molded by the humanist philosophy which was spawned at the time of the Enlightenment.

exists autonomously from the rest of the field as a special science. It is also unlikely that the merger of Christian presuppositions with those of social science is as clear as Fischer suggests they are with natural scieoee.7 There are too many areas where social science has been biased by subjective views which have gone beyond statements of value and have influenced basic findings. Nevertheless, there are values which form the basis for selection and evaluation of social data.8 For this reason, it is more important in social science, where these values are in more conscious use by the scientist, to state them clearly. It is the recognition of these values which forms the basis of what I mean here by a Christian sociology which is differentiated from secular sociologies.

Presupposition One: The basis of a Christian Sociology may be found in the results offered by secular sociology.

The history of physical science provides examples in which serendipity has operated to provide are interpretation of the explanations offered for findings. For example, while Newton didn't deny God's existence, his theories could have been used for such an interpretation.9 In the same way, findings in the social sciences may be used to support different value systems. The critical factor is the set of values one brings to the data. The increase of middle-class delinquency has stimulated much speculation as to its cause. One suggestion has claimed that such delinquency is the result of protective type family socialization.10 This is another form of those theories of environmental determinism which argued that lower class delinquency was the result of slum conditions. In contrast, the Christian ma argue that the increase of middle-class delinquency and crime negates the value of environmental determinism and suggests the depravity of man as a causal factor.

From the claims of operationalism one can recognize that a theory may be false, although useful.11 Most modern sociologists, in fact, are more concerned with the utility of a theory than its accuracy. This is because they are either vague or unconcerned about their value systems. Nevertheless, it behooves the Christian sociologist to concentrate on the meaning of theories, for they should be consistent with his presuppositions. Unlike the non-believer, he cannot be satisfied with their utility alone; he must understand them.

It is one thing to "discover" a truth, it is quite some thing else to "understand" it. By understanding here,
we mean that the theory is consistent with normative assumptions to which the researcher holds .12 With such understanding, the theory gains meaning for the searcher. Without it, there is merely usefulness in the theory.

Discovery is not limited to the Christian scientist. There is no reason why discovery of truth should not be available to others. It is unlikely, however, that the understanding of its meaning will be apparent to the
non-believer. Not only will he often lack reason for seeking for such meaning, if the theory should prove to he useful, but the truth of it will he hidden from him.13 As Weber states,

Only a small portion of existing concrete reality is colored by our value-conditioned interest and it alone is significant to us. It is significant because it reveals relationships which are important to us clue to then connection with our values. Only because and to the extent that this is the case is it worthwhile for us to know it in its individual features. We cannot discover, however, what is meaningful to us by a pre-suppositionless'' investigation of empirical data. Rather perception of its meaningfulness to us is the presupposition of its becoming an object of investigation. Meaningfulness naturally does not coincide with laws as such, and the more general the law the less the coincidence. For the specific meaning which a phenomenon has for us is naturally not to he found in those relationships which it shares with many other phenomena.14

Presupposition Two: A Christian sociology is based on values.

From what has already been stated, it becomes ap parent that a system of values forms a necessary foundation for a Christian sociology. This is so, not only because of the theological requirements, hut also because of the sociological framework which is being stressed here.

The theological basis for a system of values in Christian sociology recognizes the fact of God's existence and His ultimate creative and controlling power. In order to understand man and his relations with others in society, this fact must he central to the formation of a theoretical construction. Lacking such an anchor, one may revert to any one of a multitude of other possible explanations of man and his behavior.

Earlier statements have also implied that values are important for the development of methodology in social science. Once we determine, as a result of our theological presuppositions, that we are incapable of knowing the ultimate nature of empirical reality, we must be selective. What is important is that part of the finite world which is relevant in terms of our values. In this way, the problem with which we are to deal is farmed and the appropriate method of research is suggested.

For instance, in studying religion, the Christian sociologist would probably be more interested in studying the beliefs of parishioners rather than handshake patterns which might be used when greeting the minister at the door. Such patterns of belief, however, are less empirical in nature than handshaking. The problem is quite different and requires methods which can derive some interpretation of the beliefs rather than some measurement of patterns of shaking.

Values direct its to social problems as well as to sociological problems. Mills includes under social problems both "public issues" and "personal troubles".15 For him, the values one uses to understand these problems are freedom and reason. This view is clearly reflective of his humanistic bias. Now, it may he that the Christian would be inclined to reject any problems with which Mills would he concerned because of this bias. It must he remembered, however, that the same facts may provide different meanings because of the values used to approach them. The humanist, for example, responds to the problem of overpopulation in terms of the threat it poses for the quality of human life. For the

A thread of truth runs through all of sociology. This is the recognition that man is limited in his capacity to understand and deal with the social world.

Christian, the same problem should have meaning as it is interpreted in terms of God's command to subdue the earth. It is important, then, to consider the data offered by others with differing values and interpret them in terms of our values.

The use of values in a Christian sociology must take into consideration their three functions. Not only are values to direct us back to God as a starting point for research, but they must also he used to come to grips with sociological problems and their methodological implications. Finally, they should direct us to social problems and their relevance for human and social needs. When such a balanced use of values is lacking, a "special" sociology may result, but its inability to deal with problems in the real world wquld probably negate its justification for existence.

Presupposition Three: A Christian sociology stresses understanding of facts rather than their application.

Referring to the Puritan Ethos of seventeenth-century England, Merton claims that "deep-rooted religious interests of the day demanded in their forceful implications the systematic, rational and empirical study of nature for the glorification of God in His works and the control of the corrupt world."16 The emphasis on understanding God's world in order to glorify Him is part of the heritage of Christian science which is still valid today. It is not as apparent that man should control the social world, however, since God's mandate to "subdue the earth" is not generally recognized as referring to social things.

While glorification of God may remain as the ultimate goal of understanding, it is probable that social action sill produce other goals. It is quite likely that man will become the sole object of social programs, thus diverting attention from the glorification of God. Further, in the application of knowledge, man may gain the impression that he possesses greater knowledge than he does. In the social realm, one does not "test" knowledge with the confidence of a physical scientist in his laboratory. The inclination is to assert that one "understands" because one has merely initiated a program of social action. Such easy understanding which may be derived from the facile application of knowledge ,sill likely inhibit the acquisition of true understanding.

This is not to say that genuine programs of social concern are inappropriate for Christian implementation. Rather, it is to assert that the proper direction is to provide action after there is appropriate understanding and not vied' versa. It also suggests the emphasis which is to be used in research. In the extent to which experimentation is designed to gain knowledge of a causal nature so that it may be used for remedial purposes, experimentation is less valid for gaining understanding. Observation, tempered wills the sensitivity of Christian faith, will probably provide a more adequate form of understanding. Perhaps this view is consistent with the claim of Solomon that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."17 (emphasis supplied)

Presupposition Four: A Christian sociology relies on "theories of the middle range".

It has already been argued that Christian sociology must avoid two fundamental problems. One is the danger of scientism which may result from reliance on data to the exclusion of values. The other is the problem of losing sight of reality as the result of concentration on theological doctrine and values which may become ideological. The need is to locate on a plane which will provide a way through these two extremes.

Tracing the history of sociological theory, Merton finds that the conflicts among sociologists are usually resolved by the formation of what he refers to as "theories of the middle range.""' He defines these as "theories that lie between the minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance during day-to-day research and the all-inclusive systematic efforts to develop a unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behavior, social organization and social change.19 Such theories probably hold the key to the merger of theological and scientific evidence.

Moberg is quite right when he asserts that a Christian social science cannot exist on the empirical level.20 Yet, as he also suggests, theoretical statements must he open to change and he capable of application 21 They need to he stated in terms which clarify the real situation. Apparently, what is needed is an approach which allows for a merger of Christian values and theological perspectives, as expressed in theoretical statements, with a neutral empiricism. Such an approach would concentrate on those problem areas which reflect the tension between theology and the conditions found in the real social world.

The areas to which reference is made here may be problematic in social as well as sociological terms. The problem of violence, for example, has dual significance, While it is of critical importance as a social problem, it also requires explanation which would allow for some understanding of its meaning in society. It is also a topic which has considerable theological relevance. The problems of divorce, capital punishment, religious inter-marriage and the proper role of women in society are all representative of such areas to be studied. Of a less explicit nature are problems dealing with proper human relationships. The role of the stranger in society, the social boundaries of society. and the process of exchange in social relationships, for example, are all questions with, much theological as well as sociological relevance.

The plea, then, is for an emphasis on the study of problems which would allow, for codification of accepted theological and sociological conclusions.22 Ultimately, such work would have two specific objectives. One would be the development of propositional statements which would demonstrate how society is a manifestation of divine purpose. Also, it would be necessary to weave such middle range theories into a more complex whole. If there is any unity in God's plan for society, for instance, there should be some connection between a theory of divorce and theory of the role of women in society. It would also appear that such would be the case with capital punishment and violence. Ultimately, the use of such middle range theories as building blocks should provide a greater understanding of God's purpose in society.

Presupposition Five: A Christian sociology can clarify the meaning of reality in the social world.

About a hundred years ago, Herbert Spencer provided a thorough statement of the problems incurred
by the scientist desirous of studying society.23 Of primary importance is the fact that the sociological observer is biased as he studies social phenomena of which he is part. Thus, his subjectivity, produces a distortion of the nature of reality in the social world.

The Christian sociologist has an advantage here. In the extent to which he is "in the world, but not of it", lie finds himself in a position of tension with society which should provide a greater degree of objectivity than that experienced by the non-Christian.24 While not value free, he is more free of social values. In his observation, which, it has already been argued, should be a much used tool in his methodological baggage, the Christian sociologist is able to recognize the distortions of social purposes and meanings.

Much of current sociology either takes the values and relations in society for granted or else is biased toward humanistic views which would be inconsistent with a Christian value system. Any biases \vliich, the Christian would bring to his observations should allow for greater synthesis with his value system, thus allowing for a more integrated theoretical approach.

It is this necessity to avoid "taking the world for granted" which provides the crucial insight into the nature of the real social world. 25 The sociologist must question the existence of social phenomena in order to determine whether they exist in fact or in the imagination. We may question, for instance, whether we really are free to make decisions in society. Man has taken for granted the belief that if he decided to gain a particular end and employs the proper means, the end may be achieved. In fact, however, this is not the case. Man is not rational in his action but irrational in the sense that he doesn't control all of the element whereby the end is to be achieved .26

The recognition that man is irrational was a major accomplishment in the development of sociological thought. For the Christian, however, such a fact should he apparent in his view of society. Not only does this ease demonstrate that the Christian model of society may he closer to the reality than those models forwarded by the non-Christian, but it also underscores the need for correction of secular subjectivism. While the Christian cannot he thoroughly objective, it is this counterbalance to secular views which are taken for granted which is so much in need today.

Since the social world has traditionally been taken for granted, many myths have developed to explain social phenomena. Knudten finds that the unmasking of these myths in the study of crime is consistent with Christian views as well as descriptive of reality.27 It is the revealing of such truth, however, which may he painful, not only because it requires the restructuring of our thinking on such matters, but also because it may he seen as a threat to our belief system. Nevertheless, if there is acceptance of the principle that there is consistency in truth, the Christian may confidently search for the reality' of the social world.

Presupposition Six: A Christian sociology can explain the notion of social phenomena as socially constructed.

The claim that reality is socially constructed refers, first, to the idea that social reality may vary from individual to individual and from society to society. The concept of crime held by the criminal, for instance, may be quite different from that held by the man in the street. In order to arrive at some general understanding of crime, we tend to agree on a pragmatic definition of reality which allows us to determine the existence of crime.28
The primary benefit to he gained from constructing our own definition of social reality is that it provides us with a degree of security concerning the world about us. Knudten, for instance, shows us that, contrary to popular belief, white Americans commit more crimes than black Americans.29 The white American, however, feels more comfortable in the support of the myth of greater Negro criminality. For him, it describes reality, while in fact it is a fiction.

The social construction of reality may lead to a self-deception. We have been taught to accept a belief which has no basis in fact. When used at the expense of others, however, such a construction becomes an exercise in manipulation designed to cover true intentions. The entire pattern of racial discrimination may he seen in this light. The fiction of Negro inferiority has been used as a means to maintain social control on the part of the white community. Employed over many years, this fiction had built into the black communitv a self-image of inferiority'. The result has been a pattern of stability which allows for prediction of behavioral patterns on the part of either race which might otherwise he considered ahnormal.30

The Christian sociologist may well agree with this interpretation of the constructed reality of the social world. Paul refers to the fact that the Galatians had put themselves under the authority of gods which didn't exist.31 Further, we note in Corinthians that "things which have no real existence" were used by God to confuse the, wise and the world as to the existence of things that appear to he real.32 One can accept the contention, then, that man creates a world in which he chooses to live. Permitted by God, this illusory world produces 'a deception for the non-Christian.

Discovery is not limited to the Christian scientist. There is no reason why discovery of truth should not he available to others.

It is important to note that the sociologist of knowledge has not made a clear attempt to explain why man constructs such a world. As a fact of social living, socially constructed reality is understood because it helps to explain other phenomena, but it is not clearly explained in causal terms. At best, it may be explained by reference to the "manifold social participations and the frames of reference offered to (the individual) by his social roles."33 an explanation remains an the social level, however, and does not deal with the question of the nature of men.

Homans has argued that the main explanatory principles in social science are propositions about the heliavior of men.34 Claiming that there is no likelihood of reductionism in such propositions, he maintains that proper explanations must he psychological. For the Christian, this criterion may he met by offering an explanation based on the sinful nature of man.

In the study of the work of Calvin, Bieler observes that society is not a normal society.35 Man, in his attempt to find freedom outside of Gad, constructed a world of enslavement for himself. Thus, society is corrupt because man is corrupt. It has been constructed to meet man's perceived needs which have resulted from his separation from God. In this condition, man cannot clearly understand his nature. Rather, he must struggle with the world in order to improve his understanding of his self, a process which can only be culminated with the revelation of Christ to the individual.36

Presupposition Seven: A Christian sociology explains the attempts at the integration of society.

In its original condition, society was to be unified and integrated. As Reid states, "the natural tendency of all things to preservation and perfection has been changed and corrupted so that disintegration and evanescence has become nature's dominant characteristic."37 As stated earlier, this corruption has been the result of sin and ignorance.

The Christian is encouraged to replicate this original ideal as much as possible. Re is told by Paul that the whole body should he "fitly joined together and compacted h' that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.38 Elsewhere, we are admonished to use the gifts provided by God to provide for an integrated and organic whole.39 While this pattern remains the ideal, sin produces disorganization.

As we have noted, man has created a social world which is a distortion. Rather than recognize the authority of God, man establishes his own system of social control whereby he attempts to gain security for himself. Ultimately, he requires a social stability for the maintenance of his control. Thus, the white man
places the black man in an inferior position and uses this relationship to gain stability in society. Nevertheless, man's efforts at integration do not reflect God's divine plan or provision for man's true needs; he usurps God's prerogatives As a result, man's efforts at budding a unified and integrated world can only, lead to a corrupted society which is man rather than God oriented.

The contemporary French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss has suggested that there is a universal human desire to organize.40 This tendency leads to one level of reality' iii which "man applies his intellect to the universe about him and his social systems to his needs ."41 In essence, he. creates a social reality. There is another level of reality, however, which is reflected in the world in which man lives and which forms the unconscious tendency to organize the world. This would he a manifestation of God's plan. In similar fashion, the Christian recognizes one level of social organization ordained by God's laws. The other level is conscious and controlled by man but corrupted by his selfish intentions. In order to maintain this social organization, mm must often he coercive and resistant to change which threatens him.

Sociologists recognize two main models of society.42 One is the organismic model. This model assumes that society' has an interrelatedness of its institutions, thereby producing an organic whole in which all aspects of society' are useful and contribute to its smooth functioning. A change in one part of society affects other sections, resulting in the maintenance of the stability of the whole.

The adherents of the conflict model are critical of the organismic model and assert that it is artificial, since it does not recognize the existence of conflict which might threaten society. Further, they argue that the human needs of the individual are ignored with the use of a conservative bias to maintain society. The claim is that proponents of the organismic model have a distorted view of society, since they are only interested in maintaining power interests of the status quo. Thus, the needs of society supplant the needs of the individual.

Man, in his attempt to find freedom outside of God, constructed a world of enslavement for himself. Thus society is corrupt because man is corrupt.

The attempts to explain the reasons for adhering to the organismic model, therefore, concentrate on the claim that the individual has certain social needs which are met as he attempts to maintain his social position. No effort is made to clarify the more human needs which may he met by persons who advocate the validity of the organismic model. Reflecting humanistic biases, the critics of organicism lack a concept of man's depravity which would allow for an explanation in terms of mail's disposition.

Nevertheless, from earlier comments it becomes apparent that the desire of man to form a unified society as an organic whole is in response to man's effort to mold himself after his Creator, It is at this point that a Christian sociology can begin to explain the reasons for the existence of an organismic model while also
clarifying how it is a distortion of the integrated society intended by God. Man usurps God's authority in his attempts to produce an integrated society as God created an integrated world. Because of his sinfulness, however, mall's efforts produce a disorganization and vitiation of the society God had intended.

Presupposition Eight: A Christian sociology explains the reality of conflict in society.

The current problems in our society are a clear demonstration of the conflict model of society'. In reaction to the claims of organicism, advocates of this latter model assert that dissension, rather than consensus, is the basic condition of social life.43 If we can explain the organismic model as an attempt on the part of man to re-institute the social order originally designed by God, then social conflict appears to reflect man's sinfulness in his inability to do so. Thus, each model represents a dimension of man's basic nature.

Conflict results from the separation of man from nature as well as the separation of man from mail. Recognizing the importance of man's relationship with nature, Levi-Strauss claims it is humanism which has cut man off from other manifestations of nature.44 The humanist, however, attributes conflict to changing conditions within the social system and does not seek for explanations on a non-social level .45 The Christian recognizes that conflict is rooted in the distorted perception of the world held by man.

Pollution, for example, may' be explained by the humanist as the result of corporate growth and irresponsibility. For the Christian, however, it is a manifestation of man's selfish view of the world which results in a differentiated and fragmented society. Dooyeweerd suggests that such differentiation results iii disintegration which can he balanced only by the integrating effects of religion .46 The secularizing process in society is not merely caused by cultural differentiation, but finds its origins in fundamental tensions which man experiences in the world.

One finds the secularizing process in other aspects of society'. All professions, for example, were once religious in nature and constituted a calling to a vocation requiring ethical and moral commitment.47 With increased specialization and autonomy', the modern profession has lost its original objectives. Instead, it seeks self-interest rather than community interest, resulting in tension and conflict among the various elements in the profession and community.48

Man's attempt at maintaining a degree of cohesion such a differentiated world has resulted in the
employment of bureaucratic techniques. Characterized b specialization and purely objective considerations bureaucracy produces relations "without regard for persons".49 It is this disregard for persons which is representative of the conflict which separates men. Paul informs us that unity is possible with a differentiated group of specialized persons, but only when there is controlling love.50

It is this concern for others, then, which should separate the Christian from the non-Christian on this point. When there is a lack of such concern, the conflict model provides an accurate description of society. Nor can the humanist argue that he has this kind of love. With the increase of violence on his part, one can readily argue that such "love" is merely a facade for his own hostility. Thus, it behooves the Christian to demonstrate the validity of the explanation of these models of society by his own action.

Presupposition Nine: A Christian sociology attempts to deal with social problems.

The earlier claim that a Christian sociology is not to stress social problems is not invalidated at this point. It is the Christian's concern for others which should form the basis for a social conscience. Neither the attempt to understand the nature of the social world nor the development of pragmatic social programs is valid as a sole foundation for Christian social concern.

There are many Christians who disregard social problems and attribute them simply to sin. By ignoring such problems, however, one gains a distorted view of society and falls into the fallacy of asserting the existence of a stable and integrated society. Several arguments have been implied so far to suggest that social problems cannot he simply attributed to sin alone. Nevertheless, if the Christian is to differ from the non-Christian in his attitudes, the requirement of social concern based on genuine love should be sufficient at this point as a basis for social involvement.

If the problem of under-involvement, as a result of separation from the world, may constitute one horn of the dilemma, the possibility of over-involvement also exists. Karl Mannheim has provided the most complete statement of this dilemma.51 Recognizing that the utopian, who becomes involved only to bring about change in the status quo, is as false as the ideologue, who resists change which might threaten his interests, Mannheim argues for a perspective which would allow each side to understand the other. Hopefully, the Christian could avoid the distortion inherent in either of these views and gain an awareness of social problems based on the nature of man.

It is clear then that Christian reformation is not a simple means to be used in dealing with social problems. The failure of the Social Gospel to produce a utopian society has already been alluded to. More fundamentally, however, the theological basis, as stated earlier is clear; society is corrupt because man is corrupt.52 It cannot he returned to a state of perfection by man but it may he an object of genuine concern for others as well as for God's creation.

It is the desire to be of service to others which may provide a genuine' motivation for Christian concern.53 The scriptural principle for such motivation is clear and abundant. It should he noted, however, that the ultimate reason for such service is not restricted to man's benefit but finds its object in service to the Lord.54

It is the desire to he of service to others which may provide a genuine motivation for Christian concern.

Another reason for Christian concern is stewardship. Increasingly the importance of such motivation becomes apparent in an altered environment. Man cannot restore the physical world to its original state, but lie dues have a responsibility to attempt to perceive its components and their balanced relationship. Lacking such responsibility, the further alteration of the social world is inevitable. Thus, involvement in social problems can he the result of a desire to worship God and His creative power.


If science is not free of presuppositions, then what are the questions which one brings to it?" It has been the objective of this paper to attempt a statement of those elements of a Christian sociology which form the basis for further study.

There is no way that these presuppositions can be proved by either scientific or theological means. Indeed, it is quite possible that some objections may be raised to them because of biases in these areas. Such objections would be less important than the common interpretations of the world which may be shared by the Christian scientist with other believers. It is this system of shared values which is fundamental. As Weber states, a presupposition "can only be interpreted with reference to its ultimate meaning which we must reject or accept according to our ultimate position toward life."56 When such interpretations are shared because of a common faith in Christ, it is possible to speak of a Christian sociology.


1For the most complete discussion of this period see L. L. Bernard and Jessie Bernard, Origins of American Sociology (New York: Russell & Russell, 1965).
2Charles H.Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism: 1865-1915 (New Haven, Conn.. Yale University Press, 1940).
3See, for example, Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955) and C. Wright Mills, Sociology and Pragmatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966),
4One of the more thorough statements on this problem can he found in C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (New York: Grove Press, 1959). Chap. 3.
5See, for example, William White, The Organization Man (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1956), Chap. 3 for a lucid statement on the problem of scientism in the social sciences.
6Barth Landheer, "Presupposition in the Social Sciences", American Journal of Sociology, XXXVII (January, 1932), p. 541. Landheer's clarification of this point, particularly in its reference to the tension which exists between doctrines and theories and their purposes in society is most helpful.
7Rohert B.. Fischer, "The Suppositions in Science and in Theology'', Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, XIX (December, 19(37), p. 11. While Fischer may overstate his point, it gains validity in contrast to social science. The greater opportunity for objectivity in the natural and physical sciences should provide a more clear and complete synthesis.
8Landheer, op. cit., pp. 540-543. While Landheer claims that all understanding is derived from philosophical a priori, the claim of Christian presuppositions would have to include the existence of theological a priori, as suggested by Fischer.
9Gordon Clark, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, Nutley, N.J.: The Craig Press, 1964), p. 56.
10Edmund W. Vaz, (ed), Middle-Class Juvenile Delinquency (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 4.
11Clark, op. cit., pp. 92-93.
12Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences (Glenroe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1949), pp. 38-42,
13Weber argues here that in order to "understand" incorrect assertions which are, apparently, useful one must test them with correct logic at points where there is deviation. p. 41. This claim suggests that the non-believer would have to understand the meaning of his findings. Lacking such understanding, the findings can only he useful for him.
l4Ibid., pp. 76-77.
15p. cit., pp. 129-131.
16G Robert Merton, ''Puritanism, Pietism, and Science" in his Social Theory and Social Structure ) enl. ed.; Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1968), pp. 628-629.
17Proverbs 9:10.
18Op. cit., Chap. 2, "On Sociological Theories of the Middle Range."
19Ibid., p. 39.
20David 0. Moberg, "Social Science" in The Encounter Between Christianity and Science, ed. by Richard H. Buhe (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 19681, 1). 292.
21 Ibid
By codification, Merton refers to "the orderly and compact arrangement of fruitful procedures of inquiry and the substantive findings that result from this use.'' Op. cit., p. 69.
23Herbert Spencer, The Study of Sociology (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press. 1961), Chaps. 4-12.
24Since the implications of the phase ''in the world, but not of it" cannot be developed here, the reader is referred to the profitable statement by IV. Stanford Reid, "The Christian In the World," Gordon Review, III (May, 1957), pp. 40-52,
25The notion of "taking the world for granted" has become identified with the work of PeterBerger and the phenomenological school which he represents. See, for example, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1966) or Peter Berger, Invitation to Sociology (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday-Anchor, 1963). The use of the phrase here is not intended to express the full meaning implied in these works.
26For the most lucid discussion of the problem of rationality and irrationality in social action, see Kingsley Davis, Human Society (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1948), Chap. 5.
27Richard D. Knudten, The Christian Encounters Crime In American Society (St. Louis: Cusneordia Publishing House, 1969).
28This problem of analysis of the nature of social reality' is included in the general study of the sociology of knowledge. See, for example, Berger, op. cit., Berger and Luckman, op. cit., and Merton, op. cit., Part III.
29Op. cit., p. 23.
30See, for example. John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1937).
31Galatiaians 4:8 (Phillips).
32l Corinthians 1:28 (Phillips
33Burkart Holzner, Reality Construction in Society (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Publishing Company, 1968), p. 11.
34George C. Homans, "Bringing Men Back In," American Sociological Review XXIX (December, 1964), pp. 809818. See also, The Nature of Social Science (New York: Hartcort, Brace & World, Inc., 1967), Chaps. 2 and 3.
35Andre Bieler, The Social Humanism of Calvin (Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1961), pp. 18-19.See, also, Reid, op. cit., p. 44. 
36Bieler, ibid., pp. 14-16. 
37Op. cit., p. 44. 
Ephsesians 4:16. 
391 Corinthians, Chat). 12.
40"Mans's New Dialogue With Man", Time Magazine, June 30, 1967, pp. 34-35.
42For a succinct description of these models, see Alex Inkeles, What is Sociology? (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1964), pp. 34.39.
440p. cit.
45A recognized exponent of this view is Ralf  Dahrendorf. See his article, "Toward a Theory of Social Conflict," The Journal of Conflict Resolution, II pp. 170-183.
46Herman Dooyeweerd, "The Secularization of Science", trans. with notes by Robert D. Knudsen from the original in La revue reformee, V  ( 1954), pp. 138-155.
47This principle is central to the work of Max Weber. See, for example, The Sociology of Religion, trans. Ephraim Fishoff (London: .Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1965), pp. 192-200.
48Bernard Barber, "Some Problems in the Sociology of the Professions," Daedalas 92 (Fall, 1963), pp. 669-688. See, also Rue Bucher and Anselm Strauss, "Professions in Process," American Journal of Sociology LXVf (January, 1961), pp. 325-334.
49Thse classic statement of these problems is found in Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, trans. and ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), Chap. 8.
501 Corinthians 12:12-13.
51 Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (New York. Harcort Brace, 1963).
52Supra, n. 3.5.
53For a valuable discussion of this and other relevant questions, see David Moberg, Inasmuch (Grand Rapids, Mich,: Wm. B, Eerdmans Publishing CO., 1965), especially Chap. 3.
54Matthesv 25:40.
55Max Weber, Essays, p. 143.