The phenomenon of religion was often regarded in “scientific” religious studies as
something of which the essence and origin was purely human. Psychologists and sociologists
of religion inter alia often thought they could fully explain religion in
pure human and scientific terms. Later on even historians and phenomenologists of
religion etc became convinced (on similar immanentistic grounds) that there was
more to it, and that other disciplines such as philosophy and theology were needed
in the last resort to come closer to an explanation by introducing transcendental evidence
and views. Religion, they were convinced, could not be explained in terms of
evidence derived from mere facts or disciplines operating on purely empirical levels
within a one-dimensional world.
Christianity, more particularly since modern times (dating from the 19th century
especially), had to face up to rather extreme rationalistic views, more especially after
the time of Barth. Sections 4 and 5 of this article deal with these trends as well as
the opposition offered by theologians coming e g from the Reformational tradition.
Much solid work has been done in which attention has been paid to the detrimental
influence exerted by the spirit of the times, however often without giving any
suggestions regarding possible approaches to present day cultural trends. Untouched
remained also the questions how to harness culture as such, how to use philosophy
and science in the service of reformation and for the solution of practical
problems outside the immediate scope of the church as such, while at the same
time, even if only indirectly, supporting the aims of the Church. Science and culture
can hardly be left unconvered to be instruments (powerful ones) in the hands
of secularisation alone.