This is the second part of a two-part article. In the December 3 issue, definitions were given for “Fundamentalism” and “Evangelical.” In this part, “Liberalism” is from “Baker’s Dictionary of Theology,” Everett F. Harrison, editor-in-chief (Baker, 1960), and “Neoorthodoxy” is from “The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church,” J. D. Douglas, general editor (Zondervan, 1974).
LIBERALISM. Religious liberalism (sometimes called “modernism” but more appropriately “neo-Protestantism”) was a post-Enlightenment development in German theology which arose as a protest against the intense rationalism of the Enlightenment and to confessional orthodoxy; and on the positive side was an attempt to harmonize Christian theology with the divers elements of the so-called new learning. It is presumed to have commenced with Schleiermacher’s [On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers] (… 1799), and ended with the publication of Barth’s Epistle to the Romans (… 1919).
It spread to France, England, and America, and then to the mission churches throughout the world. In each country it took upon itself a peculiar national impress of that country. Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection (… 1825) was very influential in introducing neo-Protestantism into both England and America. It appeared in late nineteenth century Roman Catholicism as “modernism” and was efficiently stamped out by the papacy. In America it became virtually synonymous with the social gospel.
Liberalism had a fourfold rootage. First, philosophically it was grounded in some form of German philosophical idealism (e.g., Schleiermacher in Romanticism; Ritschl in neo-Kantianism; Biedermann in Hegelianism). Secondly, it placed unreserved trust in the new critical studies of the ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more