Dr. Bill Meyer knows well the irony.
In a post-9/11 world, where religion seems to be front and center of global strife and conflict, it seems that the modern world is unable to address religious claims seriously and publicly.
In his recently published book, “Metaphysics and the Future of Theology, “Meyer, professor of philosophy and the Ralph W. Beeson Professor of Religion at Maryville College, gives reasons why theology has lost its public voice in modern culture and argues that individuals can be both fully modern and fully religious in an integrated way.
And, he claims, issues such as social justice, democratic politics, the global environment and individual vocation will get the attention they deserve when people are able to discuss the religious connections.
Published by Wipf and Stock for the Princeton Theological Monograph Series earlier this year, “Metaphysics and the Future of Theology” is the result of more than a decade of research. Noted theologians who have read the 626-page book have praised it for its clear and convincing argument for process metaphysical theology. Schubert M. Ogden, distinguished professor emeritus of theology at Southern Methodist University and author of numerous scholarly works on theology, contributed the foreword.
“Metaphysics,” Meyer explained, “is a philosophical or rational attempt to understand and describe the nature of reality as such.” He says today’s culture is anti- or post-metaphysical because modern thought operates from a perspective that humans can’t seriously engage these ultimate questions. While science is discussed publicly, he added, religion is privatized - leaving faith questions largely up to individuals and not pursued in a public, rational way.
“ … theology’s fundamental truth claims revolve around the central claim concerning the reality of God, which is itself ultimately a metaphysical claim about the nature of reality as such. Hence, if all metaphysical claims are beyond the scope of public knowledge and rationality, then so too are theology’s central claims about God,” Meyer writes in the introduction. “Only by seeking to redeem such claims within the context of modern secularity will theology ever be able to regain its voice in the larger culture.”
Meyer, whose expertise is in philosophy, theology and ethics and society, said he has long thought about how the modern world “could genuinely address and civilly engage our deepest convictions and ultimate truth claims in public discourse.”
The book also includes a typological study of six different approaches in modern and contemporary theology. Meyer addresses how theology is treated and taught in colleges and universities today, explaining that theology now exists, by and large, on the periphery of intellectual and university life. But he argues that educational institutions may be the best avenue for changing the way religion is perceived in society.
Meyer said his work at Maryville College - teaching religion and philosophy and chairing the College’s Faith and Learning Committee - heavily influenced his last chapter, in which he recommends a liberal-metaphysical model for providing an education that presupposes that the question of God is a “rational public question.”
The book is available for purchase through most online book retailers.