H. L. Mencken described theology as the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing. This slander gains unfortunate credence from the instability of modern ecumenical positions. Much recent theological thought may be viewed as religious rationalism under a variety of pious aliases.

A significant and disturbing development is now overtaking the European theological scene. The effort of the theology of hope to transcend the faltering dialectical-existential theology of the recent past is already showing its weakness. The widely heralded theology of resurrection—affirmed by Pannenberg and Moltmann to give objective historical grounding to divine revelation—is giving ground. In its place a radical social theology is championing Marxism. The theology of revolution has begun to sweep divinity schools in Germany, and there are distressing signs that it is preempting the interest of many theological students. The consequences of this development for European Christianity and for Western civilization may be staggering, the more so because of the ecumenical priority assigned to church-and-society issues in a radical mood.

The “transcendent” world in which this current religious surge is interested is the socio-economic-political future, not the invisible spiritual world of divine realities. Marx, not Jesus, is its prophet; the Nazarene is disowned by the radical divinity students as “a man from yesterday.” Some observers see in this a kiss of death upon biblical studies.

After Bultmannian existentialism became fragmented in the early sixties into competitive strands, Pannenberg and Moltmann gained prominence as exponents of an emerging theological movement promising to outflank the compromises of dialectical and ...

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