Donald Wiebe critically examines the pervasive assumption that theology is a form of religious thought that is both compatible with and supportive of religious faith. The irony, he argues, is that theology is in fact detrimental to religion and the religious way of life.
In a careful re-evaluation of the works of Lévy-Bruhl, Wiebe establishes the coherence of Lévy-Bruhl's classic distinction between primitive, or mythopoeic, and scientific thought, maintaining that religious thinking is mythopoeic in nature while theology -- which thinks about religion -- is related to modern Western scientific thinking.
The pre-Socratic philosophers, Wiebe shows, developed a form of rational thought radically different from the religious-mythopoeic thought that preceded it. Although Plato was concerned with recovery of the pre-philosophic wisdom of ancient Greece, he attempted this within a rational, philosophic structure. Wiebe argues that Christian thought, originally mythopoeic, changed rapidly under the influence of Hellenistic culture, and that the Platonization of Christianity introduced an element of philosophic thinking which would eventually undermine its mythopoeic essence.
In clarifying the nature of religious thought and its relation to religion, Wiebe provides a sound basis for the development of a general theory of religion. While of particular interest to philosophers, theologians, and students and scholars of the study of religion, Wiebe's study draws upon sources as diverse as philosophy, history, anthropology, and sociology and will therefore interest anyone involved in these disciplines as well.