Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Theology differs from philosophical or scientific inquiry in general by being concerned about man in relationship to God. The existentialist says with distressing simplicity that "existence precedes essence" and hence he concerns himself with man in his concrete situation rather than with the abstract idea of man. We have also seen that Protestant theologians have for the most part abandoned the scholastic urge to circumscribe experience in a logical system. In fact, we see nowadays almost a systematic effort to avoid constructing self-contained schematizations. There is in contemporary Protestant theology a general protest against the rigidity seemingly required by the urge to have the package of truth completely wrapped and tied tightly for fast and easy distribution. Recently the cogency of theology is judged by its open-endedness, its unwillingness to engage in subtle question begging for the sake of a tenuous intellectual security. It can be maintained that this kind of doubt or hesitation has itself, to a large extent, created the problem of meaning. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

An excerpt from Hartshorne's book, Reality As Social Process: Studies in Metaphysics and Religion, has been removed due to copyright restrictions. Parts of this same edition of his book are available here.


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.