Well, you can’t say you weren’t warned. Martin Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago, begins his projected four-volume history of modern American religion with the following sentence: “The theological modernists were male members of the privileged subculture, almost all of them Protestant.” The rest, as they say, is coda.

Actually, the introduction should have been warning enough. It tells us that the theme of the first volume, which covers the years from 1893 to 1919, will be “irony,” which seems to be the reigning category of postmodern thought. According to Professor Marty, an ironic situation “occurs when the consequences of an act are diametrically opposed to the original intention” and the “fundamental cause of the disparity lies in the actor himself, and his original purpose.” Now,...


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