Today we heard from Boston University and others that Prof Peter Berger had died earlier this week. Not only was he one of the great sociologists of religion, he was a great example. Berger was one of the few academics to have gone on record to say, “I got it wrong”.
In an interview, from 2013, with the Crescent he explains more about it. He says that in the 1980’s and 90’s there was a standard view of secularisation given by many which became received wisdom. However, this picture was wrong, secularisation is more complex. He said that secularisation is linked to geography and intellectualism. We need to be more sophisticated how we think about it.
Within the interview he says “The problem with modernity is not that God is dead, as some people hoped and other people feared. There are too many gods, which is a challenge, but a different one.”
I look at this interview, after having listened to some of the debates this week coming from Methodist Conference. Speaker after speaker noted that mission needs to take priority and we need to change how we do things.
Theorists like Berger don’t give us any magic formula- we need to get a grip on there isn’t one. However, they do give us information to consider in our decision making and planning. Yes, we do need to pray and look to God, but if we worship God with our hearts, minds and souls we need to bring our minds into play. As a Methodist, I take scripture and tradition seriously, but I also view reason and experience as important too. Sociologists such as Berger have given us much to help with using the quadrilateral.
I am passionate about mission, but I’m also passionate about that mission being thought out and contextually appropriate. So thank you Professor Berger for your contribution to the field and may you rest in peace.