Under The Spreading Umbrella

Historically speaking, most new schools of theology have been created by liberals, or at best by the neo-orthodox. Neo-orthodoxy itself began as a new kind of theology, called “theology of crisis” (krisis, a Greek word meaning judgment, had to be left untranslated; otherwise neo-orthodoxy would have begun by sounding like old orthodoxy, which wouldn’t have been the least bit innovative). Other names and trends springing up with the neo-movement were dialectical theology, theology of orders (Creation orders, not military ones), and theology of the Word. Earlier, the liberals had generated a “theology of the social gospel,” but they could not match the neo-orthodox in productivity.

Existentialism was more fertile: it first produced I-thou theology and then Theologie der Existenz. Recent trends—which may involve cross-fertilization by neo-orthodox, liberals, and even some social climbers among evangelicals—include theologies of hope, revolution, the future, play, and the city. Black theology is harder to classify, and women’s theology has not yet risen to epistemological and ontological maturity.

In the midst of all this, what have evangelicals done? Sadly, all too little. Finally, at long last, a school is arising that we can call our own: umbrella theology. The umbrella concept (known to German theologians as der Schirm-begriff—cf. Heinrich v. Schlunk, Der Schirmbegriff in den P-Fragmenten, Heidelberg, 1973—and subdivided into Regen- and Sonnenschirmbegriffe, a subtlety not yet grasped by Anglo-Saxon theologians) is not found explicitly in Scripture. But theologians think it is adumbrated in the gourd-passages in Jonah 4. Others see the umbrella concept prefigured in the veil of Genesis 34. In any ...

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