Christianity today’s series of articles on Bultmann raises the question: Why has the neoorthodox theology (of Karl Barth) not been able to avoid a relapse to liberalism (Rudolf Bultmann)? This is a most interesting and revealing question, even if Continental theology might state the question in somewhat different terminology.

From Theology To The Bible

What happened? Since 1945 the focus of theological discussion shifted not only from Barth to Bultmann, but also from systematic theology to biblical exegesis. Between 1920 and 1940 systematic theology mainly furnished the topics of discussion, such as the question of natural theology. The theological student chose his university primarily on the basis of the kind of systematic theology represented there: thus he went to Bonn to study dialectic theology under Barth, or to Erlangen to be taught neo-Lutheran theology by Paul Althaus and Werner Elert, or to Tübingen for Karl Heim, or to Zürich for Emil Brunner. Whereas before World War I there was the danger of theology’s being dissolved into philosophy and history of religion, these men had restored it as an important factor in the field of thought. Consequently the number of theological students rose impressively. Largely through these men the Church was enabled to assume a clear-cut position over against her adversaries, particularly against the oppressive measures of national socialism.

Following the German catastrophe of 1945 this theology had its great share in reorganizing the Church; the neo-Lutheran theology of W. Elert shaped—at least partially—the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, and similarly the theology of Karl Barth left its imprint on the Evangelical Church of the Union. But the first theological topic ...

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