Whether one can correctly speak of development in recent Protestant theology is in our day increasingly debatable. Fresh theories, shifting perspectives, even changing frontiers abound, but neither significant change nor meaningful progress seems demonstrable. Silent redecoration or soft repair of the entrenched theories is more characteristic of the last decade of theological studies than resounding debate on the crucial theological issues. The theology of the Protestant world seems, therefore, to have reached a stalemate.

What factors testify to such a stalemate? In the first place, the clamor for an ecumenical theology (the search for a unifying common denominator), coupled with the reduction of the role of reason and truth in religious experience, has dulled the desire for doctrinal depth. No one has given substance to theological discussions. Even Barth, in his much anticipated Princeton lectures, his critics complain, merely reproduced his system in miniature and supplied no new framework for an ecumenical theology. And without an adequate doctrinal foundation, the ecumenical movement is itself theologically vagrant; it is a rocket going into orbit without a sure sense of direction, gaining a momentum proper only to a guided missile, but wavering in its trajectory.

Those who sense that neither Barth, Brunner, Bultmann, Niebuhr, nor Tillich has produced an ecumenically serviceable theology, and who more and more bemoan the fact that no new stars have appeared in the ecumenical sky, are more and more interested in conversations with Rome, a process which is already much further along in Europe than in America. Conversations across ecclesiastical lines are to be encouraged and not deplored if they proceed in a climate of ...

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