Everyone understands that all theology is influenced by the particular thought forms of its day. Conceptual molds of historical periods are the casts in which human words, including theological words, are set. This is true not only of the Roman Catholic theology and its Aristotelian categories, but of Protestant theology as well. Think, for instance, of the Protestant scholasticism of the post-Reformation period: philosophical concepts helped mold many of its thoughts.

The influence on theology of its contemporary idiom is not limited to conscious use of certain thought forms. The climate of thought also penetrates theology. The world wars of the twentieth century set their marks on theological thinking. The confidence of the nineteenth century in man, both neutral and Christian man, was mortally wounded by the First World War and was followed by a profound skepticism concerning man. With this attitude prevailing in general, theology turned toward a concept of the kingdom of God which held it to be a gift of God rather than a fruit of human activity, a future perspective rather than an evolutionary growth. The radically transcendental eschatology of this period mirrored the times in which it was developed. Theology, that is, reflects the atmosphere in which it lives. This fact carries with it certain dangers. It also provides theology with a vital and relevant character.

All this, I say, is pretty well understood. Now, however, the question is raised whether the Church’s confessions are equally conditioned by their day. Is the Church influenced by the conditions of its day as it speaks and writes confessions? For some people, the answer must be negative. The Gospel, they remind us, is unchangeable, lifted above the swirling ...

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