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Christian Biopolitics: A Credo & Strategy for the Future by Kenneth Cauthen


Dr. Cauthen is the John Price Grazer Griffith professor of theology at Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Grazer Theological Seminary. Published by Abingdon Press, Nashville; New York, 1971. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Chapter 2: Transformation: Catastrophe or Conversion


IF WE ARE TO AVOID THE WORST PERILS AND REALIZE THE BEST PROMISES OF THE FUTURE, SOME MAJOR WORLD PROBLEMS MUST BE RESOLVED FOR WHICH THERE ARE NEITHER TECHNOLOGICAL NOR POLITICAL SOLUTIONS APART FROM A FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION OF IDEAS, ATTITUDES, VALUES, COMMITMENTS, AND GOALS.

There is widespread agreement among futurist writers with respect to the most crucial world problems -- issues of such magnitude that failure to resolve them will result in enormous destruction, conflict, and misery on a global scale. Kenneth Boulding contends that we can move through the great transition to the happy prospects beyond only if we can avoid the war trap, the population trap, and the entropy trap. By the last he means the exhaustion of essential material resources before alternatives are available or the depletion of human vitality and genetic integrity.(The Meaning of the Twentieth Century, pp. 75-155.) Dennis Gabor suggests war, population, and leisure as the great challenges, arguing that the last may surprisingly turn out to be the most intractable of the three.(Inventing the Future [ New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964]) John Platt puts on his list of must-be-resolved-to-avoid-world-tragedy the following threats within the next five to twenty years: nuclear or radiological-chemical-biological warfare, famines, ecological balance, development failures, local wars, and the rich-poor gap.("What We Must Do.") This cataloging could proceed indefinitely. Suffice it to say that on nearly all lists would appear an unholy trinity of (1) nuclear or RCB warfare, (2) population and hunger, and (3) increasingly the possibility of ecological unbalance of catastrophic global proportions. Leisure, the possible shortage of natural or material resources, political revolutions, or other serious breakdowns of administrative functioning, all stand in the wings as other specters to haunt us if they get out of hand -- a formidable array.

If nuclear/RCB war, population/hunger, and pollution are taken as three major traps that must be avoided during the transitional period, it can be argued upon good authority that for none of these dangers is there a strictly technological solution. "Technological solution" here refers to an answer provided by scientific and/or technological advances without any significant change in ideology (ideas plus values) or sacrifice of present comforts. Jerome Wiesner and H. F. York in a widely discussed article in Scientific American conclude that the present situation is characterized by increasing military power and decreasing national security on the part of the major powers. They maintain that "this dilemma has no technical solution." ([1964] 211:27.) What is meant is that no conceivable increase in superiority of military capability can in a nuclear age provide security. If there is to be a resolution, it must be on political grounds. Men must reconcile their differences through negotiations, foregoing any resort to nuclear combat as a final resort. When both sides have the capacity to destroy each other, it is no longer true that when one side wins, the other side loses. In advanced conflict such as nuclear powers are capable of waging today, war is a matter of both losing if it occurs or both winning if it does not.

Garrett Hardin has recently argued that population and pollution are also in the class of "no technical solution problems." ("The Tragedy of the Commons," Science [December 13, 1968], pp. 1243-48.) The hope that, by farming the sea, increasing the yield of grains, or otherwise working a miracle of production in food science and technology we can in the nick of time prevent mass starvation without any of the affluent having to give up current privileges, is vain. The inescapable fact is that, in a finite world, population cannot be maximized but must rather be stabilized in order to achieve a qualitatively good life for a reasonable number. But how can this be done? Not by voluntary persuasion or by appeal to conscience, he contends, because of the logic implicit in what he calls "the tragedy of the commons." Picture a grazing land open to everybody. All is well until the carrying capacity of the pasture is reached. Then each herdsman will confront the following problem. If he adds one more cow to the commons, he will benefit from that increase by a value of plus 1. But the loss to the grazing land will be shared by all -- a loss to the individual herdsman of considerably less than minus 1. But the remorseless working of things when all follow this individualistically rational solution finally creates disaster for the whole community. Freedom in a commons creates a false logic when the goods are limited.

Applied to population the results are inescapable. Given the fact that nature does not punish by diminishing over-breeders, it is clear what will happen when a family, race, or nation is tempted to look upon the world as a commons and increase their numbers for some selfish purpose. All such units are locked into the logic whereby particular gains are made in a way that creates universal loss. The appeal to voluntary restraint or to conscience is sell-defeating, putting each into a double bind. Since some will heed the voice of conscience while others ignore it, two communications come through. (1) Society will condemn you if you do not voluntarily act responsibly. (2) Society will condemn you for being foolish, in that others will take advantage of your virtue and exploit the commons. The result is that you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t, obey your breeding-restricting conscience.

Pollution illustrates the tragedy of the commons in a reverse way. A polluter finds it advantageous to discharge his wastes into public land, air, or water. The reason is that the costs of neutralizing his poisons are borne by him alone, while the damage to the commons is shared by all alike. The unavoidable conclusion is that we can no longer allow the air and waterways to be regarded as a goods held in common.

"Mutual coercion mutually agreed upon" is the only alternative to the certain ruin, Hardin concludes. A political solution involving an extension of morality is the only way out. There is no technical solution which, by itself, can save us from the miseries of overpopulation and the disasters of ecological disruption.

Coercion has to be politically achieved and administered by the power of the state. Does politics offer any hope? Beryl Crowe takes up the issue where Hardin left it and comes to a dismal conclusion.("The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited,"[November 28, 1969] pp. 1103-7.) A considerable body of experts within the natural sciences is of the opinion that there are no technical solutions to such major world threats as war, population, and pollution. Meanwhile, there is growing recognition among social scientists that no political solution is presently available for the same set of problems. An obvious difficulty is that there is no world government undergirded by a common set of life-fulfilling values and supported by the necessary force and administrative efficiency to save the world from atomic destruction, starvation, and environmental catastrophe. But even with our nation, Crowe argues, there exists neither an adequate common value system, a compelling monopoly of coercive force, nor the required administrative devices sufficient to prevent the differential exploitation of the commons. Crowe concludes that innovative technologies may make an interim contribution to the alleviation of these problems. The only lasting hope, however, lies in a union of the natural and social sciences. Then the one may no longer defer to the other when solutions in the first’s own area of competence are not forthcoming.

Buckminster Fuller adds his own version of the impotence of politics to solve the problems of today and tomorrow.(Utopia or Oblivion.) He reasons as follows. The amount of available metal and materials for each world person has declined in the twentieth century, yet standards of living have been raised for millions of people. Given present technology, a maximum of 44 percent of the world’s population can be provided for. Yet the current rate of efficiency is only 4 percent. A possibility of 20 percent efficiency is engineeringly feasible today. It could go to 80 percent in the future. The result is that no exclusively political act could today provide for more than 44 percent of the world’s people. But a science-design revolution could do the trick if given the chance. Or if world engineering students could on their own seize the initiative, they might then point the world to its own salvation despite its ineptitude. This prospect of universal plenty requires world industrialization. It requires also the integration of all present and future technologies into one vast system of production and distribution. The secret is "ephemeralization" -- doing unprecedently more with incredibly less, maximizing efficiency while minimizing the quantity of required material components. An ever-renewable, perpetually expanding process whereby man might be maintained as a success in the universe could then spread out before us in a magnificent splendor.

Meanwhile, the governments of the world are still in bondage to the obsolete Malthusian notion that some must do without, since there is simply not enough food and resources for everybody. Hence, according to Darwin, only the fittest survive. In blind obedience to this false dogma, the politicians of the world waste the world’s precious resources in giant programs of defense in preparation for the next great inevitable war. Expending themselves in the mad rush to get, preserve, and extend national power, incumbent rulers persuade men to die for blood, soil, and ideology. Meanwhile, the crying needs of human beings for material sustenance go unmet. Take away all the politicians and their ideologies and the world would get on just as well. Take away industrial tools, technologies, engineers, and technicians, and millions would starve.

Fuller puts his faith in a kind of hidden providence which will provide world salvation by inadvertence. The technologies generated by fear-dominated national defense systems transferred to peaceful uses will make it possible to supply all men with abundant material goods. The scarcity of such goods initially necessitated the weaponry that the prospect of universal plenty will render obsolete. Fuller recognizes that we stand in the midst of a great historical crisis so fundamental that it is a question of either utopia or oblivion. He believes that world engineering students, freed from the obsolete slogans of yesterday and alert to the necessities of tomorrow, can help lead the world through a scientific-design revolution. This revolution could simply bypass the irrelevancies of politics and save the spaceship Planet Earth just in the nick of time.

But where does this discussion leave us? We began with Garrett Hardin, who argued that there is no technological solution to the threats of war, overpopulation, and pollution. Hence, we must look to politics and to an extension of morality emerging from the recognition of the necessities of survival. But then Beryl Crowe took up the argument to maintain that Hardin’s hope is probably illusory. No political solution is currently in sight, and reformulations of morality are unlikely. Finally, in a remarkable reverse movement Buckminster Fuller offers us a gospel of salvation through a combination of providence (weaponry inadvertently making possible world plenty) and historical messianism (world engineering students and their secret scientific design know-how). Fuller’s conclusion is that technological solutions are possible, necessary, and probable. This fact makes ideological politics irrelevant and war unnecessary since there can now be an abundance for all. Population will level off at manageable levels following world industrialization. Presumably environmental problems are a simple matter of engineering, once scientific designers are put to the task of integrating world economy.

Curiously enough, there is a common point of agreement uniting all three. I refer to the recognition on the part of each that basic changes in ideas, attitudes, values, commitments, and goals are indispensable to solutions to major world problems. Hardin explicitly puts his hope in the necessity that makes men free to achieve fundamental desires. Men must change their ideas about the free access to the commons as far as population and pollution are concerned and then seek legislation which will employ the power of the state coercively against the desecraters of the public good. Crowe puts in a plea for natural and social scientists to change their ways in order to overcome the insularity that inhibits their working together in pursuit of the overriding goal of human survival. Fuller indicates that world salvation will in time occur by inadvertence, as an automatic result of nature’s cunning and the continued operation of given historical dynamics. But he also maintains that despite the prejudices, narrowness of vision, bondage to the past, pride, inferiority complexes, inertia, and so on which keep men from responding appropriately to the new evolutionary situation, it is still possible that insight can lead to saving action.

The world students’ design-science revolution may possibly result in a general reorientation of world society’s awareness, common sense, and intelligence which, just "in the nick of time," will bring mankind into conscious promulgation of the do-more-with-lessing invention revolution to be applied directly to gaining man’s living advantage, which can accomplish the 100 percent physical success of all humanity in less than one-half the time it would take to occur only as the inadvertent by-product of further weapons detouring of human initiative.(Ibid., p. 283.) In short, while Fuller’s outlook approaches a kind of environmental determinism, this is modified by the view that truth, when known, can make men free to act.

At the recent Conference on Religion and the Future, Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute -- a secularist among secularists famous for "value-free" (?) analyses and predictions -- stated that increasingly the problems of the future will require solutions more "theological than technological."(See The Futurist [August, 1970]) The next day Theodore Gordon of the Institute for the Future -- an expert in technological forecasting -- spoke of the crucial ethical dimensions of emerging scientific and social developments. That night José Delgado -- a pioneer in the control of behavior through electrical and chemical means -- spoke of the fact that his researches raised questions that required answers not provided by scientific knowledge as such. The following afternoon John Calhoun -- an ecologist with the National Institute of Mental Health, well known for his studies of animal stress under conditions of crowding -- reminded the conferees vividly of the coming world crisis in population. He concluded that world salvation depends on new ventures in human creativity and evolutionary design. In 1969 Calhoun wrote:

Sometime during the next century, but beginning with actions now, man can terminate his population growth and balance this termination with a food production meeting the needs of his biological body. If we fail Orwell’s "1984" will be a paradise compared to reality. Fifteen years! The most critical years of decision in all human evolution, from thousands of years in the past to thousands of years in the future, are just these between now and 1984. We can smother the explosions of bomb and population only by igniting the bombs of creativity and value change.("The Promotion of Man," p. 49.)

Also speaking at the Conference was John McHale -- Director of the Center for Integrative Studies and an internationally known sociologist. McHale confirms the trend of this analysis. "While science and technology must be allocated a prime role in the changing of past and present, the more crucial aspects of the future are clearly nontechnical in the traditional sense." (The Future of the Future, p.11) The "hardware" -- the knowledge and physical capability -- is available for dealing with many of the crucial issues. It is the "software" -- the social wisdom through which we apply our abilities in humanly desirable ways -- that is missing. The most urgent priority, he contends, is the invention and adoption of new ways of thinking, new forms of social organization, new visions of a humanly desirable future. This requires the abandonment of outmoded ideologies and value systems and a transformation of fundamental attitudes about the way the world works. Future-oriented human imagination must create ways of thinking and acting that are appropriate to the realities of the emerging planetary society. Without them we perish.

John Platt makes a passionate plea for an immediate, large-scale, emergency mobilization of the best scientific talent available to work at the imminent crises of war, population, hunger, and pollution that threaten our very existence.("What We Must Do.") But he too stresses the importance of social invention -- the creation of novel ways of solving human problems. All the human creativity and imagination available need to be set to work immediately, devising mechanisms for rescuing us from the futile and sell-defeating conflicts that beset us. The social sciences must play a major role in this regard. In the past we have had science for intellectual pleasure, science for control of nature, but now we must have science for survival. While Platt puts his faith in the resourcefulness of the sciences to solve human problems, he highlights the importance of the value question at least implicitly by his insistence on the necessity of reordering the priorities by which we as a society invest our talents.

Kenneth Boulding agrees with John McHale and John Platt on the importance of social invention. It was the methods of testing and developing our images of nature that created the situation in which we find ourselves. In order to ride out the transition into the new world, "we must apply these or similar methods for reality testing to our images of man and society." (The Meaning of the Twentieth Century, p.191) A social strategy for avoiding the great traps -- war, population, entropy -- is the great need of the day. Boulding rests his hope on the prospective growth and effective influence of an "invisible college." This college is made up of members from all over the world representing many religions, races, philosophies, cultures, economic ideologies, and so on. The common feature binding them together is that they are people who have "a vision of the nature of the transition we are passing through and who are determined to devote their lives to contributing toward its successful fulfillment." (Ibid.) Designating his book, The Meaning of the Twentieth Century, as a tract for the times, he sees himself as an unashamed propagandist in behalf of the unseen but real community of those who appreciate the perils and promises of the future, and who align themselves with those creative forces which can save the world.

Our precious little planet, the blue-green cradle of life with its rosy mantle, is in one of the most critical stages, perhaps the most critical stage of its whole existence. It is in a position of immense danger and immense potentiality. There are no doubt many experiments in evolution going on in different parts of this big universe. But this happens to be my planet and I am very much attached to it, and I am desperately anxious that this particular experiment should be a success. (Ibid.)

This catalog could go on indefinitely, but a summary statement must be made. A complete answer to the question, "How can the world be saved?" would require a detailed theory of the dynamics of social change -- a task that is beyond the scope of this discussion, even if I were equipped to carry it out. But at least the following conclusions do, in my opinion, stand out.

Neither science plus technology nor present political mechanisms can separately or together provide adequate solutions to the crucial problems facing mankind between now and the year 2000, apart from some basic transformations of ideas and value commitments. The resources of the scientific community, including the social and behavioral disciplines as well as the natural sciences, need to be mobilized on an emergency basis to invent creative tactics to lessen the threats of war, pollution, and population. But this in itself requires a reordering of value priorities. Science and technology can increase the range of available future options and devise alternative means by which the ends chosen by society can be realized. But what they cannot do is to ensure that world-saving rather than world-destroying choices are made. Moreover, a possible resolution of the critical issues requires political action to organize the society and effectuate the means by which the goals of a desirable future can be achieved. But a prior condition is an effectively expressed demand on the part of the populace which makes the required governmental actions both possible and necessary. It can be persuasively argued, I believe, that the presently mandated social priorities are woefully inadequate, given the critical nature of the transition through which we are moving. It is these priorities which direct the employment of our scientific and technological resources. They also determine the limits within which national policy can be made. These priorities rest on certain conceptions of how the world works and embody certain values. A transformation of these ideas and these values is urgently needed.

But what are these new ideas and ideals that are called for? How do we arrive at them? It would be the height of folly for me to think that I could at this juncture spell out the detailed forms that life must take in the new age. The task of working out the appropriate ways to organize the world to achieve a desirable future requires the imagination of many persons around the world. But it does seem clear to me that we need to begin with a vision of a world community (1) consisting of a population within the biological carrying capacity of the planet (2) organized politically and economically in ways that provide to all human beings equal access to the means of material fulfillment and (3) organized technologically in ways that (4) neither exhaust essential natural resources of earth nor (5) upset the delicate balances of nature which make the environment capable of supporting life. I do not believe that this is the vision which now fundamentally determines how we or any other nation acts. We do not assume deep in our hearts that from now on "the unit of survival is the human race." (Hoagland) We do have some awareness that all-out war among the advanced nations would threaten human survival. But we still hope we can avert war without surrendering any of our affluence or revising our desires for national power, prestige, and glory. Our strongest loyalties are still to clan, to race, and to nation-state. My claim is that these loyalties have to be tested and transformed in the light of the ecological realities of planetary existence as we approach the year 2000. Unless we can get a vision that all human beings are passengers on spaceship earth, whose resources are limited and exhaustible, we are in trouble. Unless we can really be grasped by the conviction that all of earth’s natural resources must be shared by all the earth’s people, misery lies ahead. If we begin with a vision of planetary brotherhood living in ways that allow for the perpetuation of the human species on earth, then the specifics can be worked on. To illustrate, however, let me suggest that if one does start with this dream, then transformation of current ideas and ideals will be required in the following fundamental areas, as well as in many others.

1. Nationalism and racism. More people today would die more willingly for their native land than for any other cause. This inordinate loyalty to blood and soil may be the single most powerful force working against the integration of the world society during this transition period. Love of nation has served a valuable purpose in providing a focus of identity, motivation, and purpose for the peoples of the world. But for the future we require a dream of a world-citizen who, without denying or betraying his native land asks not how his country can become greater in power and prestige but how it can serve and be served by the total world community for the sake of the mutual survival and fulfillment of all. To the extent that racism is a factor in nationalism or is a separate god worshiped for its own sake, then the same must be said in condemnation of it as well.

2. Consumption. Attitudes toward consumption need to be rethought in at least two contexts. First of all, this country consumes an extremely disproportionate amount of the world’s non-renewable resources. It has been responsibly estimated that with 6 percent of the total population, the U.S.A. uses 32 percent of all minerals -- some estimates run as high as 60 percent -- and 39 percent of all oil produced.

The average American consumes as much as twenty-five to thirty people in India. The affluent nations also pollute the environment disproportionately. The paradox is that many of the industrial raw materials used by the highly developed countries actually come from the "poorer" countries. Morally responsible people, I contend, must reject this situation as intolerable. We must work for a time when all the peoples of the world share equally in the treasures of earth.

The second problem has to do with the rate of production and consumption in relationship to the possible exhaustion of certain non-renewable natural resources. In the future it will not necessarily be a good thing to produce more and more, to consume more and more, if to do so threatens to exhaust the planet’s natural bounty or to pollute us to death. Ideals of consumption and of growth will have to be brought in line with the limits of the available and renewable resources and with the requirements of environmental safety. Eventually we may reach a plateau in which natural resources are recycled in a self-renewing perpetual "steady-state system." This means that, instead of aiming at steadily higher levels of consumption, we in the affluent nations may have to cultivate asceticism -- a deliberate reduction of the rates at which we use up material things. This may be required in order (1) to work at the problem of overcoming the present imbalance between the rich nations and the poor, (2) to allow for the development of substitutes for nonrenewable natural resources or the development of recycling procedures, and (3) to reduce the levels of pollution and damage to the environment. I am not putting any prior limits of what future men may eventually be able to produce and consume. Certainly I am not condemning consumption or praising asceticism as such. I am only contending that during the transition period we have to produce and consume in the light of the ecological limits of the planet and in line with the requirements of justice, which demand that all share equally in the riches of earth.

3. Population. We have assumed in the past that choice of family size was a matter to be left solely in the hands of individual parents. The thought of state interference in this intimate area is still generally regarded with horror. Even in the face of the dangers implicit in "the population explosion," all would view voluntary limitation of the number of children born to be the ideal solution. Certainly all possible efforts to spread the knowledge and technology of contraception is the first priority, along with the duty of fighting the current orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic church which forbids all forms of effective birth control. However, we should prepare ourselves for the time when state coercion may be required. After all, the law tells me how many wives I can have. Why can’t it tell me how many children I can have? At the international level, offers of economic aid will have to be made conditional on the full cooperation of the recipient country in controlling population growth.

4. War. Given the recognition that nuclear conflict between the major powers would lead to unprecedented global destruction, plus the fact that relative increase in military superiority cannot guarantee security, we stand in urgent need of innovative strategies to deal with the problem of war. The negative task is to intensify the horror, futility, and absurdity of the present arms race among the nuclear powers, particularly among the U.S.A., and U.S.S.R., and Communist China. There is also a positive task. Suppose we begin with the dawning possibility that it is now possible to produce enough of the basic material essential for all human beings, given the proper technological innovations plus access to the world’s resources on a globally integrated basis. To seek ways and means to realize this goal may provide a key to peace. This vision, if taken seriously in this country, for example, would lead to more emphasis upon a positive strategy to overcome the growing gap between the rich nations and the poor and less on the dominant negative strategy of containing the enemy by filling him with fear of our power to destroy him. The causes of violence are many. but to provide all men with basic economic security would provide one way of easing the tensions that lead to war. Moreover, de-emphasis on weapons on our part would help to correct the image the Russians have of us as a threat to them and provide an initial step which could lead to mutual disarmament. The present imbalance in the use of resources can be seen in the fact that the total expenditures of foreign economic aid from all donor countries is equivalent to about 6 percent of the amount spent on military and defense projects.

I would not for one moment contend that any of the problems I have discussed here -- nationalism, consumption, population, and war -- have easy or simple solutions. Neither would I dismiss the value of what Karl Popper has called "piece-meal social engineering," that is, attacking the worst present evils rather than operating from some long-range utopian goal. My basic point is that the day-to-day struggle for resolution of exceedingly complex problems has small chance of success unless we transform some of our present ideas about how the world works and some of our ideals about what we want to achieve. Hence, we need a realistic picture of what is really happening in our world, and we need a positive set of appropriate goals to point us toward ways of dealing with problems that (1) will really work and (2) lead to the kind of world that is worth living in.

It needs to be emphasized that unless the "invisible college" of which Boulding speaks can grow in influence among all peoples of the world, we are in great danger. We can only hope that among the ruling circles of Russia, China, Brazil, Egypt, and elsewhere there is enough appreciation for the biological and ecological facts of life on earth during the coming decades to enable them to get a vision of what human survival will require. If there is, then perhaps fundamental desire to live and enjoy life may function to moderate the nationalistic frenzies, the absurd struggles for power, the long ingrained historical hatreds, and the blind ideological fanaticisms that now stand in the way of creative, effective responses to the present crisis. The future is not what it used to be, and the ideas, values, and goals that might have served yesterday well may kill us tomorrow if we do not abandon them for ways of thinking and confronting problems that are appropriate for the transition toward a new world.

In short, the optimum contribution that can be made by increasing scientific knowledge and technological prowess and by the power of political mechanisms will be forthcoming only when certain prior conditions are presupposed which at the moment do not exist. Indispensable to the creation of these prior conditions is an international transformation of goals and values growing out of a vision of the nature of the transition through which we are going. This transformation must also include at least some minimal comprehension of the basic steps which must be taken in order to avoid catastrophe and realize the enormous potential for human enjoyment which is within our reach. Contributions to this reordering of priorities can be made by scientists and engineers (as concerned, knowledgeable citizens in possession of knowledge vital to society). The transformation can be aided by establishment politicians (within the limits of the present power realities which determine who can get in, or stay in, office). Help can be rendered by ordinary citizens in every walk of life who are alert to the signs of the times.

Potentially more productive than any of these establishment influences may be the impact of protest communities. I refer to groups who in their various ways are calling for radical transformations of institutions and values -- the poor, the blacks, the militant young, and, increasingly, the women of our society. Similar iconoclastic groups around the world, as well as the poor and oppressed everywhere, are most likely to be open to the vision that the times demand. This expectation grows not only out of an analysis of those forces working among us for revolutionary change, but is an implication also of Christian insights. The alienated and the oppressed in a society are those to whom the hope of the gospel is most clearly directed. As Jürgen Moltmann has written:

For the future of God begins in this world, as the Beatitudes show, with the poor, the mourning, the persecuted, and the pure. . . . According to the inner dialectic of Christian hope, ultimately the rich do not save the poor, but, on the contrary, the poor save the rich.( "Political Religion and Christian Political Theology." Public Lecture at the University of Rochester (October 16, 1970).

The underlying assumption of the preceding analysis is that society is a complex of interrelated systems. An impetus introduced at one point has potential, possibly cumulative effects throughout the whole social order. The same change has actual effects through at least a part of it. To put it differently, I am arguing the sociological validity of what might be called "the ecological principle." I mean that in society as well as in nature everything is connected to everything else. This principle is congenial to the perspective of general systems theory and the insights of process philosophy with its dynamic-organic model of natural and social reality. The problem, then, is to find out how to "plug into" the system in ways that begin or accelerate the process of creating ideas, values, and goals adequate to the critical tasks of world historical salvation.

It is at this point that I as a Christian question the contribution that theology and church can make to the process of value transformation that the emerging planetary society so desperately needs at this critical juncture in human history. The following chapters will begin to explore this issue.

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