Vern Poythress on Redeeming Sociology
Dr. Vern Poythress has written another useful book for the church, Redeeming Sociology: A God-Centered Approach. With the rise of interest in sociology as a science--and the implications of adapting these sociological principles into our hermenuetical process--Dr. Poythress considers the way in which Christians are to think about this largely misunderstood, and frequently abused, topic in light of the relational God of Scripture. We are set to interviewing Dr. Poythress on Christ the Center tomorrow with regard to this book. The interview should be out in a few weeks. You can download a free pdf version of Redeeming Sociology here. John Starke has an interview with Dr. Poythress about it here. The following is a brief example of what to expect in the book:
In the twentieth century sociological and anthropological study of human societies has assumed, as a foundation for the discipline, that God can be left out of the account (see appendix B). Sociology and anthropology may of course study “religion” as one aspect of society. But this study focuses on human practice of religion, not on God himself.
Why this exclusion of God? One response would be to say that only by such an exclusion could these disciplines hope to be scientific. But the aspiration to be scientific is itself loaded. To begin with, it may be loaded with the assumption that somehow human beings can be treated exactly as if they were on the same level as animals or rocks or other creatures over which human beings are granted dominion. It ignores the fact that we are made in the image of God. But even more seriously, the label scientific ignores the possibility that our modern conception of science, taken from the existing state of the natural sciences, has already been distorted by a systematic human flight from recognizing the presence of God in science.16 The aspiration to be “scientific” may already have introduced biases. So, according to this modernist viewpoint, God is emphatically not a participant in social communication and personal relationships. But from a biblical point of view, the move to exclude God ignores the single most important fact about communication and the most weighty ontological fact about language. When we exclude God, we distort the subject matter that we study, so we can anticipate a multitude of repercussions when it comes to the detailed analysis of the subject.
So let us remember that God is involved in all our relationships, whether in friendships, in giving gifts, in purchasing apples, or in other kinds of relationships. We are accountable to God. Let us also remember that any harmonious functioning in relationships depends on the foundational harmony of God’s relationships among the persons of the Trinity.1
1. Vern Poythress, Redeeming Sociology: A God-Centered Approach (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2011) p. 47