According to Troeltsch, the unity that used to exist between religion (Christianity) and science has been definitely broken up since the rise of eighteenth-century rationalism. This breakup was caused by the change that occurred both in the view of science and in that of religion. Science laid aside all apriorism, became positive, and banished metaphysics. Today it exists solely as mathematical-mechanical, natural science as the critical-comparative study of history. In both respects it is opposed to the old view of religion and theology. And so the latter gradually changed in the sense that theologians no longer want anything to do with an external authority, as much as possible reduce or abandon the supernatural elements—like prophecy, miracle, and inspiration—that occur in authority-based religion, fully accept the historical criticism of Scripture, and regard dogmas purely as expressions of personal faith. Accordingly, there no longer exists a method by which Christianity could still be upheld as absolute religion. . . . Theology, therefore, has no alternative but to radically break with every dogmatic method and apply with honesty and consistency the history-of-religions method.
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[But] one cannot, in a historic an psychological sense, understand the religious life, thought, and feelings of others if one is not personally religious, has no idea of religion, and cannot evaluate religious phenomena by a specific criterion. Total ‘presuppositionlessness’ (Voraussetzungslosigkeit) renders study and research impossible. But if nevertheless presuppositionlessness is one’s aim and one takes a positivistic position with respect to religion, the inevitable result is a ‘theology of “mood” in place of a concepts, a system of paradoxes in place of sober truth, the ‘art’ of being enthused about everything in place of the conviction which looks for a fixed standard of things.’ In this area the purely empirical method results in surrender to the relativism of the historical process or event and the loss of one’s ability to judge the truth-content of a religion. . . .
It must also be said that such consistent relativism, which is synonymous with total indifferentism, is certainly not the intent of the advocates of the history-of-religions and psychological method. It is precisely their aim, by the use of this method to arrive at a dogmatics based not on abstract ideas but on facts. But it is not hard to demonstrate that the path chosen does not and cannot lead to this goal.
Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:71, 73.