During the twentieth century the God of our fathers has become a philosophical paradox and a theological problem. Now, toward the end of the century, God is emerging as a question with ambiguous answers.

Few volumes survey this distressing religious drift as instructively as Heinz Zahrnt’s The Question of God: Protestant Theology in the Twentieth Century (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969), an overview of big names and mass ideas in Continental perspective.

It is no easy task to square the conviction that theologians are a trained cadre of scholars whose studies are specially ordered for the sake of conceptually clear comprehension of divine reality and truth with their extensive current disagreement over the essential content of Christianity and the significance of Jesus Christ. No longer can one hurriedly laugh off the Bible-institute graduate who defined contemporary theology as a post-apostolic invention of the anti-Christ. Neo-Protestant theologians use the term God variantly, ambiguously, confusedly, and improperly. Contradiction of one another’s views runs so deep that the misuse of God’s name has become an evident feature of current theological inquiry. An ecumenical age ought to be no less concerned about this intellectual misconstruction of Christianity than about the institutional misconstruction of the Church.

The merry-go-round of God-theory rotates from Karl Barth’s early stress on the infinite qualitative difference between God and man to Herbert Braun’s emphasis that God “happens” in interpersonal relations. Hobbyhorses rise and fall carrying banners that proclaim God’s reality, non-objectivity, non-existence, subjectivity, silence, absence, and death. About recent schemas from Barth to Tillich, observers are ...

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