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German theology has not wholly lacked significant criticism of neo-orthodoxy. From a quite biblical perspective, such criticism strikes two blows: first, it deplores the theological deviation of the dialectical theologians, and second, it laments the evangelistic sterility resulting from their arbitrary conceptions of divine love. Largely, although not entirely, the burden of constructive theological criticism has been borne by the confessional churches; the evangelistic concern has been kept alive mainly, although not exclusively, by the German Evangelical Alliance.


We often forget that classic liberal theology never really enlisted an overwhelming number of the German clergy. Even before Barth, liberal theologians were a small minority, but a minority that wielded great influence, even among and over the “positive” theologians. The latter, in their support of the state church’s Bund von Thron und Altar, unwittingly tended also to adopt liberalism’s leading thesis, that religion is simply the crown of cultural life. In this ambiguous situation dialectical theology could voice a necessary criticism of both liberal and positive theologies.

Certain conservative forces have nonetheless exercised a long and significant influence to the right of Barth and Brunner. In university cities, of course, the prevalent theological fashion, whatever its mood, often comes swiftly to dominate the local ministerial outlook. But elsewhere the theological perspective of the German clergy often is quite diversified, and frequently more biblically oriented than ecumenical discussions indicate, and than contemporary analyses of theological trends acknowledge.

In the main, the Bible-centered emphasis reaches back ...

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