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To judge from the public voice and countenance of religion in America at least, there is a preoccupation in religion with happiness at the expense of meaning. But between the two poles of happiness and meaning there is considerable distance. This chapter accepts the problem of meaning as more urgent than the problem of happiness. For over against the hopeful prescriptions for the integration of the personality and of social life through religion there stands the experience of disintegration of the structure of past confidence. Desperately, theologians wrestle with ancient symbols to wrest from them new significance or reference, or attempt to revivify their lost meaning and powers of evocation. In these critical times theological thought attempts to referee the contest between the lost soul and the powerful chaos of world history. In an intellectual landscape scarred by war, diplomatic failure, economic uncertainty, and a wide variety of psychic traumata, theologians probe the private egos, society, and even language itself to reestablish meaning. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XXIII: Theological Meaning. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.