Science in Christian Perspective



By What Authority: Verification of Theories in the Social Sciences.
A Christian Perspective.
Department of Political Science
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40506

From: JASA 34 June 1982): 77-83.

The question why is as innocent a question as can be asked in the world today but its past is murky. There was a time when it was not asked because the man and the woman walked with God. Then it was asked and sin and guilt became part of the world. Empirical verification became a possibility, too. This meant there were two ways to answer the question why. There was the eternal way of God's revelation and the new way of empirical research and verification, a way that would grow more and more attractive as the consequences of fall and separation impinged upon human life. The eternal way always appeared clumsy by the standards of the finite world-"Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way1-but it retained its innocence for centuries, well into the Christian era. The eternal way is now ignored in "serious" research. The temporal, empirical way has now become dominant-and innocent. Why and how are the fairest of questions.

This paper is an attempt to probe the answers to these innocent questions as they are framed in the social sciences today.2 I strongly suspect and gently suggest that the real inadequacies in empirical verification of theories are hidden by the dominance of so-called scientific empiricism in the social sciences, particularly in America. Approaches to theory verification that do not rely exclusively on the scientific form expand the necessary criteria for verification to the extent that they deviate from that form. If different approaches are permitted to compete on an equal footing, the task of verifying theories loses much of its apparent innocence and becomes rather confused. For a believer, the response to this suggestion is a fresh look at the eternal way. Does it resolve problems, untangle confusion? Is it a way to do research or solely a critique of existing approaches to research? What are its own criteria for verification? This paper does not decry research in the social sciences, notwithstanding the supernatural presuppositions a believer must bring to such a task. To give force to these presuppositions I have, moreover, focussed the paper on a topic of direct concern to believers. I do not presume to discuss exclusively secular topics at this stage.

"Explaining" Declining Church Attendance: An Example

Consider a phenomenon known to many of us-declining church attendance. The vestry of a large neighborhood church has commissioned a study by three social scientists to research the phenomenon and explain it to the church. The project's specifications call explicitly for an explanation and encourage the researchers to profer advice for arresting the decline. Following circulation of their findings, the three are invited to discuss them at a special session.

A Logical Positivist

The first contributor is firmly in the mainstream of social science at a large state university. His education equipped him with a logical positivist orientation to social research. He believes that social science can and should imitate the experimental structure of natural science. He leans heavily on quantitative methods, believing that these will, in the long run, yield the kind of accuracy every scientist strives for. Ever sensitive to the misleading impressions of common sense, he cherishes scholarly detachment. Objectivity, he admits, may not be fully within his grasp, but it is his stated goal. His explanation runs as follows:

"I would like to thank you for the opportunity to conduct what proved to be a most interesting study. I have tried to address the problem of declining church attendance as dispassionately as possible but with regard for the concern manifested by this committee when we first met. Let me say right away that as far as advice is concerned, I'm afraid my suggestions may disappoint you. I am not really qualified to offer much advice. However, I have put together an explanation of the decline which has been statistically verified; it's the kind of explanation that enables you to predict fairly accurately what will happen over the next few years. I felt that if I provided you with the causes of the decline and the likely course of that decline in the future, you would have a sound basis on which to make your decisions. I see it as an advantage that I am not connected with the church. My research has always sought to place phenomena in their widest social and political contexts-whereas, I would be surprised if many of you would have the time or the inclination to see things this way, As concerned church people, you have one perspective; as a social scientist I have another. So I see my contribution in these terms. I encourage you to look at declining attendance as a social phenomenon.

"These last thirty years, as you are probably aware from the popular if not the academic press, have witnessed a social revolution. I am speaking of communications. The diffusion of information-and the rate at which it has been diffused-over this period has brought about fundamental changes in society. Your congregations have not escaped its consequences. Where once men and women looked to the church for moral, spiritual and social directions, they need do so no longer for there are many alternatives to the church today. Where once societal authority was homogeneous in structure, it is now fragmented, diverse and heterogeneous. You will see from the report that I have developed and documented fully what I summarize here. Just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so the proof of theory is in the testing process that verifies it. The 'Heterogeneity-Communications Theory' did not prove unduly difficult to test. First, I created indices of the spread of communications-from the -numbers of televisions and radios in homes; from figures supplied by the major networks which record how many watched the programs; from estimates of the numbers of journeys to and from this nation based on figures supplied by the major airlines and shipping companies. There are many aspects to communication, so I had to be sure to create a comprehensive instrument which would measure the spread of communications in a meaningful way. Again, please refer to the written reports for a full account.

"My findings show what has been generally recognized for some time now, that the past and present trend in communications development shows no sign of changing direction. In other words, communications will become more efficient in the years ahead. If my theory holds, it follows that church attendance will decline in that same period. It's a risky business predicting too far ahead, so I will not stick my neck out and say that the trend will continue indefinitely, but with things as they are, I see no reason to expect your congregations to begin growing again any time soon. But, of course, circumstances can change.

"I want to say a little more about my theory. The spread of communications was not the only social phenomenon I looked at. Another candidate is the related revolution in domestic transportation. The age of the automobile enabled people to-develop leisure activities previously undreamed of-putting it crudely, they go to the lake or the golf course today instead of the church. The transportation revolution suggests a different angle on the question. It offers an exclusively social explanation. The 'Heterogeneity-Communications Theory' focusses on spiritual and intellectual causes of declining attendance. When I tested these two theories, however, my data on the communications revolution fitted-were related to-the attendance data much better than the transportation data. So, if you want to predict what will happen to your congregations, you should adopt the 'Heterogeneity-Communications Theory.' That is not to say that the other is of no use or that it doesn't tell us part of the story-in fact, there are probably many minor causes, too-but since the 'Heterogeneity-Communications Theory' fits the data particularly well, I prefer it."

So the church leaders are encouraged to predict their likely future in terms of the "Heterogeneity-Communications Theory," They have had "hard data" presented to them and have heard a persuasive argument. Happily, the Socratic tradition is far from dead even if those outside the logical positivist school are woefully underrepresented in the universities.

A Political Theorist and Philosopher

The second contribution comes from a man who wears the title "social scientist" reluctantly but tenaciously, for he is indeed in the minority both in his field of interest and in his department. Tenure was hard to come by, not because he failed to publish but, he fears, because his work is not really acceptable to the mainstream of the discipline. He is regarded as a political theorist and philosopher, and rightly so for he is both, by inclination and academic training; but this places him on the fringe of a discipline anxious to imitate the form and rigor of the natural sciences. It is not common among political scientists to have studied German sociology, with the exception of the work of Max Weber, mistakenly held to champion scientific value freedom. A student of Phenomenology, he uses language that imposes a barrier to effective scholarly interaction with his mainstream colleagues. Moreover, his background is not "quantitative." I do not recall if he gained a Bachelor's degree from a British or European university but I rather think so. He is uncomfortable with statistical methods and their use in social research. One suspects that his work reflects more than a little of his academic circumstances, but his capacity for telling critique has been developed to good effect. He is, perhaps, just the right person to discuss the first contribution.

"I'm concerned with my colleague's analysis for two reasons. It confuses prediction with explanation and it is not verified by the experience of any individual whatsoever. I can deal with the former objection very quickly, serious though it is. Dr. Anderson' seems to conceive of explanation as a competition between hypotheses, with the first prize going to the best guess. By 'best,' of course, he means the one that fits his data most accurately. This strikes me as a legitimate operation only if the aim is to predict, especially if one 'cause' seems to fare so much better than all the rest. But explanation is a very different kettle of fish. It involves combination, not separation, of causes. To explain an event we have to look at everything we think is connected with that event, whether large or small, and go on to relate those causes to one another. The interactions between causes (you should understand I use the word 'cause' with some reservations) may give the little causes an importance out of all proportion to their size. We have an example before us. My own researches show that your denomination adopted a somewhat lukewarm stance towards those ministers who used radio and later television to extend their ministries in the thirty years the so-called communications revolution occurred. In other words, your style of ministry didn't change much at all during this period. Taken in isolation, the very slight increase in radio and TV ministry that did take place would not appear to be very important. Statistically-speaking, there may be a relationship of sorts between that increase and the decline in attendance-and it makes sense that some people may have stayed away from church when church was brought into their homes, so to speak. But in the rough-and-tumble competitive world my colleague has created, this hypothesis would fare very badly. However, and I cannot emphasize this too much, in its proper context, in combination with the communications revolution that swept the secular world, this little cause acquires a mighty significance. The world moved ahead, the church hung back; the psychological impact alone must have been staggering.

"So much for the confusion of terms. Dr. Anderson offered some good ideas and I think they are all plausible to some degree. But he offered them as predictive devices, not explanations. Predictive devices may do that job very well while being totally devoid of theoretical or explanatory value. One need not be a political scientist to create a model that predicts votes in the Congress of the United States with at least 50% accuracy. Two palpable falsehoods will suffice. If I predict votes on the grounds that all congressmen either vote randomly or vote with the majority all of the time, the results will be at least that accurate. In practice, the time.' Yet these are not theories or explanations; in fact, they are totally atheoretical. The choice of a theory, then, based on its predictive capacity rather than its explanatory power must be viewed with the greatest caution. Which brings me to my second objection: on what grounds can my colleague's 'explanation' be verified-how can we know that the 'Heterogeneity-Communications Theory' gives a valid account of what has really happened? I am disturbed that a social scientific exercise should have ignored its human subjects so completely. Nowhere do I find a reference to the participants-those who have left the church, those who have remained-to provide a meaningfully adequate verification of the explanation which has  been imposed upon them. I have tried to redress this imbalance in my own research.

"People are my focus. As you know, I spent some three months in this community, learning about it, becoming a part of it myself. This was the way I collected data. I talked to people everywhere, in shops and bars and factories, as well as in many churches. I talked with the young and the old, to former churchgoers and to those who still attend. The result is an explanation from the actors' perspectives,as the sociologists would put it. As you may imagine, no single theme underlies these accounts but several differentperspectives are represented. Many people referred to the problem of time and how rushed they are nowadays-how
'getting on' leaves so little time for traditional activities.

 Time constrains me, too, but you can read the account in  full yourselves. My principal conclusion is that the cause of declining church attendance was first and foremost psychological-as you would expect with human subjects.  When I discussed the church's message, the majority applauded it-said they agreed with it-but felt that they  couldn't afford a commitment to the environment in which it is preached. What they saw was a good message that was static in a dynamic world. You can see what I'm driving at.  I do accept that the 'Heterogeneity-Communications Theory' is important because it appears to have created  these perceptions-but only in conjunction with the church's response, or lack of one, to the communications revolution. This only underscores the point I made earlier; you have to use the right criteria for verifying theories, namely the human subject. The whole thing turns on human perceptions, so we have to involve humans in the the latter model does very well; it's accurate about 75% of testing of the theory. Max Weber called this the criterion of  meaningful adequacy."

Timothy R. Sherratt was born in Badminton, England. He is presently a PhD candidate (expected completion in fall 1982) in political science at the University of Kentucky, with interests in American political parties, political thought and American history. He graduated from Oxford University in 1975 with a Bachelor's degree in philosophy and politics. A British citizen, he has lived in the United States for the last three years. He grew up in the Anglican church and has been a committed Christian since 1973. Christian education has become a major concern of his in recent years and he anticipates an increasing involvement in that field in the future.

"That's not quite the end of the story. Many of those who remained in the church have done so for the same reasons. They see the world changing and the church not changing-and they like it that way. A lot of people told me they found great security in something that endured. Just what endured? Well, that varied; for some it was the institution, the ritual, the form of the services. For others, it was their own faith that didn't change. And some said simply that God didn't change, and let it go at that.

"You know what I am going to say-if societal change (the communications revolution) produces both these reactions, the explanatory power of Dr. Anderson's theory is extended, but its predictive capacity is challenged. He suggested to you that you move with the times to arrest further decline and painted a pretty gloomy picture. If you do that, I argue, you run the risk of alienating those who remain without winning back those who have left. You have to use the right criterion for verification, you see, or you could be severely embarrassed. I recommend you discover the needs of your congregations and synthesize the church's message with those needs. The interaction of clergy and laity offers a solid base for retaining your present membership and building for the future."

A Marxist

Good Hegelians are now awaiting the synthesis; they will not be disappointed. Yet, as he follows Dr. Anderson and Dr. Brett, Dr. Chandler's presentation is a synthesis of orientation and method, not of substantive conclusions. Our third social scientist prefers the title "critical theorist" but like Dr. Brett guards the designation "social scientist" jealously. He, too, is in a minority but his
Marxism sets him apart from the mainstream not on grounds of method (he will talk statistics with the statistically-minded and human intentionality with the Phenomenologists) but on grounds of political interpretation. His use of methods is eclectic because methods are his tools and his ideology is their master. He is, in general, critical of mainstream American political science because it is uncritical toward American politics. He knows that his colleagues have the good sense not to "bite the hand that feeds them." Sometimes this leads to jealousy but for the most part he has a benign contempt for their work which he believes is irrelevant to the real world of politics. On a personal level-he can get along.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to present my findings in the church attendance project. I have listened with interest to my two colleagues and would like to address my opening remarks to their conclusions. I can only agree with Dr. Brett's criticisms with regard to the difference between prediction and explanation and feel no need to amplify his remarks. He drew the distinction very clearly. However, Dr. Brett's conclusions do not satisfy me. Important though the 'actors' perspectives' are, they do not satisfy the verificational criteria. Participants' perspectives are not lily-white. Participants can be wrong. Countless examples come to mind from my own study of labor-capitalist relationships. Time and time again, management has argued for reduction of the labor force on the grounds of efficiency and economies of scale. The public relations people convince the workers that teconomic reality' demands such cuts, that efficiency is their sole rationale. Now ask the workforce what is going on-obtain the actors' perspectives-and they will tell you about rationalization and efficiency. They may be reluctant to accept such 'facts' but they will believe that they are precisely that, facts. Yet studies have been showing what Marxists have held all along, that management's real goal is not efficiency but control.5 We don't live in an egalitarian society but in one whose prior structure sets up the conditions for control. Management has the power, the public relations expertise and the motive to control that version of reality which the workforce believes. So, as a general statement, let's not kid ourselves; let our standards of verification derive from a radical understanding of what's actually happening our there. Face-valuism, if I may call it that, is not verification.

"Dr. Anderson's theory seems to me to be an empty shell, the husk of something much more substantive. He has provided us with a theoretical framework that fails to take into account the structures prevailing in society for the period under study. We can conclude from his research only that something called a communications revolution took place. Well, most of accept this already. But what is a revolution without its human agents? You think I am about to repeat Dr. Brett's point? By no means! He was right to say we should talk to them, but we should classify them first. He missed all the important people. All he did was to talk to the passive victims when he should have been talking to the leaders of the revolution. Of course that would have been very difficult-they don't live here but are spread everywhere, especially in the Western capitalist system whose revolution this is. The indices which Dr. Anderson created are valid ones and I applaud the ingenuity which went into their creation. They are misleading, though. They suggest that the communications revolution was and is self-perpetuating. At face-value, what could be political about the rate of increase of TV purchases or the opening of new routes by airlines? Face-valuism is dangerous for they are political acts in two senses. First, the spread of communications was brought about in a capitalist context-capitalist organizations put up the money for all stages of the revolution. The mass of business ventures which made up each stage reflect enduring political realities. Of greater importance, especially in the media context, is what flowed along these channels of communication. It seems to me unnecessarily naive to ignore the context of communications, given the powerful capabilities of such widespread revolution. Advertising is not a multi-billion dollar industry for nothing. The communications revolution makes most sense in a context of power.

"Dr. Anderson subsumes the impact of the revolution under the heading 'heterogeneous.' He doesn't discriminate between different types of stimulus which make that impact so diverse. He does note that authority structures have been fragmented, implying that the church could command respect prior to the revolution. One would have to conclude on such assumptions that the presence of alternatives in large enough numbers is sufficient to undermine the church's authority. I must agree with the assumption. Hard as it is to pin down intentions and motives, the communications revolution has been and continues to be a capitalist revolution. The church may not be an indispensible ally of Western capitalism but it has with few exceptions barely raised its voice in protest against capitalistic society. Given the control exercised by the capitalists over the media, why should one anticipate that the revolution would do harm to the church? I contend that such grounds do not exist.

"My critique of the studies already presented has brought me to the threshold of my own conclusions. I hope I have made it sufficiently clear, in passing, that I regard the data-gathering of both my colleagues as useful. Both studies fail in their interpretations. As you know, I did not collect data independently but relied upon my own theoretical perspective to achieve a radical interpretation of that which is before us. From the figures on attenjance you supplied, it is clear that the declining number of youth enrollments is their most striking feature. There is, if I may draw the analogy, a sin not of commission but of omission!

Social science is ridden with dichotomies as the scholarly differences in perspective have become political divisions in social science departments and journals.

Those who never join make much more difference over time than those who choose to leave the church. So the focus must be on the young. Has the communications revolution affected them? Have they learned new philosophies, new norms and values from the spread of communications? The answer is yes, but that's only half the story, for they were able to do so long before the present revolution. In the United States, universities fulfilled this role a century or more before one home in two possessed a television set. The revolution actually underscored an old association. The young came to see who it was who controlled not only the means of production but the organs of public relations and communication, too. The revolution declared to our young people, in effect, 'Look how little has changed in society-look how little is likely to change. The rulers of yesterday hold the reins of power even as progress is made. And the church; guilty by association. She, too, stands for those same static values.' I have reached the opposite conclusion from Dr. Anderson. He assumed that your congregations, and your potential congregations, were bombarded with challenges to the old authority, and rejected it under these new pressures. I have argued that the communications revolution conveyed a very different message; the status quo still rules. The young have chosen to reject it. The revolution was and is an unwitting lesson in political awareness.

"The structure of my presentation anticipates my advice.

The church must declare her allegiances, her goals and her standards. She must tell the world if she is a friend of the poor or the rich, the oppressed or the oppressors. The Bible speaks of a chosen people who set themselves apart to do God's will. If I understand the gospel correctly, the will of God is to 'do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' Guilt by association may be unfairly deserved but the church must convince the people that this is so."

We must imagine, at this stage, that our three social scientists are given the opportunity to clarify their positions and to reply to criticism. In fairness to them (I would not like to be accused of creating straw men) we must expect the defense of each report to be eloquent and forceful. The most lively debate arises over the focus and goals of the whole church attendance project as one calls another to task for a difference in emphasis, for an omission here and an arbitrary assumption there. For the moment, however, we must leave them to their debate.

The Question of Verification

In social scientific terms we have heard the statements of three "paradigms" (approaches, schools, perspectives) of social research; in order, the Logical Positivist/Empiricist; the Historical-Hermeneutical (sometimes called "Traditional"); and the Critical. I have endeavored to show that the differences between them rest variously upon methods, goals, perspectives and interests. (Methodical differences alone permit the common labelling of the first two paradigms "quantitative" and "qualitative," but as we have seen, the methodical division does not carry over into the third paradigm which draws on both types of method). The difference between the Critical school and the other two is, significantly, one of verification, and I wish to dwell on this for a moment.

Remember that the Critical theorist rejected both Dr. Anderson's statistics and Dr. Brett's participants' perspective as adequate criteria for verifying their respective theories. Dr. Chandler found them inadequate because they ignored, or at least failed to reflect, what he asserted was "really going on." Dr. Chandler's theory involved the imposition of a radical political framework upon the events his colleagues had described. One might protest that he prejudged the phenomenon of declining attendance without regard for verification of his viewpoint, and indeed, with very little reference to the actual data. Insightful though his interpretation was, it substituted, in effect, definition for verification. When Dr. Chandler chided his colleagues for inadequate criteria of verification, he placed his own theory outside the bounds of their sort of verification, Neither statistical results nor human perceptions can cross-check the radical critical theory, except perhaps at its periphery. Take Dr. Chandler's assertion that declining church attendance reflected the failure of young people to join churches. If the church's annual figures had shown a stable or increasing rate of attendance by this age-group, Chandler's interpretations would have escaped unscathed. Presuppositions, like most classes of assumption, are protected from direct sorts of refutation by their very status.

Dichotomies in Social Science

Social science is ridden with dichotomies as the scholarly differences in perspective have become political divisions in social science departments and journals. I believe that the focus of writing on these dichotomies has been misleading. The Logical Positivist and Historical-Hermeneutical paradigms have been the traditional enemies, yet, as we have seen, they are solidly empirical. Neither rely explicitly on imposed political definitions. The significant dichotomy from a Christian perspective especially separates empirical approaches from radical ones. By "radical" I mean that which presupposes a definition of real from the roots upward. It is important to stress that this radicalism divides approaches not people. Drs. Anderson, Brett and Chandler may all be Marxists but only Dr. Chandler's approach used Marxist presuppositions as an essential and explicit element of the research process.

It is, perhaps, natural for a scientist to be uncomfortable with the foregoing dichotomy. For it raises the most elemental of questions, "What is my ultimate purpose?" Let me approximate the collective response of scientists to that question, namely, "To give an accurate account of the world for the betterment of mankind." The first goal appears to be within the grasp of empirical approaches, while the second, although patently normative and subjective, is assumed to follow from it. The real crisis for the empirically-oriented social scientist (I think that's all of us social scientists, incidentally, Christians included) is that the second goal invades and appropriates the first; accuracy presupposes a reality about which statements of truth are possible. Researchers cannot avoid these presuppositions, whereupon the radical paradigm invades and enslaves the empirical ones. (If it doesn't enslave them, it renders them bankrupt). Relevant inquiry, in this realm of ultimate questions, must move from empirical verification to some more appropriate standard. The question is, what constitutes such a standard?

An Appropriate Standard of Verification

The radical nature of Christianity qualifies the Faith for an important contribution to this search for an appropriate standard of verification. There are two grounds for this qualification. The first is the human's capacity for belief. It may seem a little redundant to cite Christ's words, "blessed are those who believe but do not see," but biblical affirmation of this capacity is essential. The context, of course, is Thomas' unbelief and we should remember that the empiricist Thomas we find in ourselves is capable of entry into paradise, too! But the point is that radical belief is a legitimate human activity. Of greater importance is the content of that belief, the manner of its exercise, to which I now turn.

The Biblical account of the creation and fall of man establishes a relationship in which God initiates and man responds, receiving things from God. God's initiatives may be designated "events" and his actions as "things" in the temporal sense. However they are perceived, their underlying principles should not be overlooked. Hence man's tragedy at the fall is that he loses the precious, given knowledge of himself in God. The fall only underscores the fact that Calvary and Pentecost are received by men and women with empty hands and empty hearts. For believers, the possibility of faith and the revelation, initiation and giving of God constitute the core of their radicalism.

Is "given in Christ" any different from "given in Marx," conceptually? As far as the capacity to believe (the radical medium) is concerned, certainly not. As far as the content is concerned, certainly. The Marxist account(s)l of the world, radical in their medium, are reducible in substance. Built negatively upon a capitalist base, their deterministic superstructure is not metaphysical but a combination of the radical and the empirical. Christianity as radicalism is not reducible because the human hands and hearts are empty and God is unchanging. He has no empirical referent other than Himself. Theoretically at least, a Christian's radicalism is not compromised by a fallen world, for it is radical in medium and metaphysical in content.

A Christian Response

How then, would a believer fare in a radical account of declining church attendance; how would he or she evaluate the three explanations already given? Fortunately, a Dr. Dell provided such an evaluation at a later meeting; this is what she said:

"I find Dr, Anderson's study-very valuable despite the unfortunate restrictions he placed on it by insisting that his theory have predictive capacity. It is significant, perhaps, that the rest of us have built upon the empirical foundations he provided. Even though Dr. Brett was moved to create an additional set of data (in the form of interviews), he did not discard the first set. Since my own task is to evaluate critically the results of this project, I feel bound to point out that critical evaluation cannot be substituted for research. On the contrary, such evaluation cannot exist apart from the empirical world and the statements made about that world.

"I must make a related point about verification which has become the cause celebre of the entire project. If we accept for the moment that the three paradigms represented in the study are closed and independent systems addressing relatively limited contexts, the question of verification becomes one of selection-choose the appropriate test, whether a test statistic, a participant's perspective or a radical world view, and proceed accordingly. Were it really possible to erect barriers in the world corresponding to those that rise on account of one's approach, respective techniques would be protected.

"Let me make a related point. As we were listening to the three of them, I suspect that a false idea suggested itself, namely that each account improved upon the last. Such an effect, it must be admitted, was merely a function of the order of play. A Critical theorist like Dr. Chandler has just as much difficulty getting his fellow social scientists to accept his criteria as they had persuading him that objective science or phenomenology possessed valid criteria of verification. I would have to reject the attractive idea that there is a hierarchy of paradigms. Far from it. If today's radical perspectives are really no more than yesterday's deterministic empiricism, the alternative seems to be a dichotomy, not a hierarchy. Christianity is significantly ,other-worldly'-that's the difference.

"Social scientists have all but admitted their inability to build a grand theory from which the specific details of a science of society can be deduced.7" This is tantamount to confessing an inability to address ultimate questions. From a Christian standard of verification (radical of medium and metaphysical in content) such a social science cannot be conceived of-it wouldn't make any difference what methods were used, either. For, if such a science could satisfy the Christian standard, it would have abandoned inductive-deductive empiricism and placed God at its center. We would call this, not a science, but the eternal way. The eternal way, however, can only be approximated by fallen mankind under the blessings of Calvary and Pentecost.

"This point needs particular emphasis. The Christian standard of verification is intolerably high even for Christians. St. Paul reminds us that 'We see through a glass darkly,8 Isaiah declares that our ways are not His.9 A Christian world view is one enjoyed perfectly by Christ alone. The significance of being Christian is that it endows the researcher with a critical faculty that demands satisfaction. Such a faculty frames both the question and the interpretive work of the Christian scholar; in secular work this will be generally the case, in religious work specifically also. A good example of the sensitivity employed in this kind of writing is Charles Williams' history of the Holy Spirit in the Church, The Descent of the Dove. 10

"Christ has been called by many titles, but 'social scientist' is one of the more unusual of them. It is appropriate, however, because his knowing the world is, for the Christian, the only real knowing of it. This does not render social research as we know it useless or redundant. Instead it places that research in a perspective that is of great value to the social scientist if he is willing to make use of it. Christ tells the social scientist that social science is limited, that it is unable to draw confidently radical conclusions about society. At the same time, Christ challenges the social scientist to strive for those conclusions. The radical Christian position on verification is the most valuable of contributions to secular knowledge.

"In this matter of church attendance-I expect you wondered when I was getting back to that!-this body of believers is in a position to rectify the deficiencies of three studies which have helped us considerably. Most research is performed so that someone can act on its findings and we can act up to the limits of our beliefs. The three have challenged us to identify ourselves in terms of our beliefs that are indeed radical. As to what is 'really going on' behind these figures, I have more ideas than I did but I'm not sure. Our hearts and hands are empty at this point. But we have the vast resources of prayer available to us. The way of prayer is the way to a radical understanding of our problems. Without prayer, we cannot expect to gain the kind of understanding that will lead to the right actions on our part. If I may put it this way, let us not abandon the resources of our radicalism. Shall we pray ........


1John 14 v 5, Revised Standard Version

2The acquisition of innocence by the empirical way cannot be fixed at any one date; but the Age of Reason gave it political significance.

3Drs. Anderson, Brett, Chandler and Dell are, of course, fictitious names.

4See Herbert Weisberg, "Evaluating Theories of Congressional Roll-Call Voting," American Journal of Political Science, Vol 22, #3 (August 1978).

5See, for instance, Steven Marglin, "What Do Bosses Do?" Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 6, #2 (Summer 1974), pp 60-112.

60ne must do justice to variants of Marxism by a plural designation, especially the flexible versions of Antonio Gramsci and Raymond Williams, to name two.

7The call for theories of the 'middle range' was first made by Robert K. Merton in Social Theory and Social Structure, Glencoe, 111, 1949.

8I Corinthians 13 v 12, KJV

9Isaiah 55 v 8

10Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove, (1939) Living Age Edition, New York, Meridian Books, 1956.