In the past thirty or forty years drastic changes have taken place in European theology. These theological changes are visible against a complex background; and to take account of their background is to be reminded again that theological development is interwoven with history. The theological climate of a given time is always profoundly influenced by historical events. In times of prosperity and calm, theology takes on an optimistic color; in other times catastrophe throws a shadow over theology. Theology, in the sense of believing reflection on the truth of the Christian faith, does not stand unmoved within the events of a given area. It is constantly taken up, in thesis and antithesis, in struggle and confrontation, into the situation of the times.
Temper of the times
In the nature of the case, there is always a real danger that a theologian may fit his theology to the mentality of a given era and thus capitulate to it. This has often occurred, as appears from the modernistic theology of the nineteenth century, which, under pressure of the natural science popular at the time, sacrificed decisive points of the ancient confession of the Church to the current Zeitgeist. When this happens, a time in history is no longer viewed in the light of the Word of God, but rather the Word of God is interpreted out of the presuppositions of a given epoch. Thus, the Gospel is assimilated to the mind of the time. And finally, it is no longer the Gospel, but the temper of the times that speaks with authority.
It is clear that theology in Europe today has arisen out of the crises of many catastrophic events that are still vividly alive in our memory. These events are concentrated around the two world wars and all that ...1