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Switzerland, Contemporary Theology in.

1. The theol. liberalism of F. D. E. Schleiermacher* and A. B. Ritschl* continued in the work of K. G. A. v. Harnack,* E. P. W. Troeltsch,* et al..

2. Ritschl, Harnack, and Troeltsch were intensely concerned with the relevance of Christian hist. for the modern ch.. They believed that the hist. of Christianity must result in repudiation of classical Christian theol., but their interest in the hist. of Christian thought stimulated study and publication of many monuments of Christian hist., e.g., the NT and writings of M. Luther* and other Reformers. Under influence of Harnack's Dogmengeschichte (tr. N. Buchanan, History of Dogma), and Troeltsch's Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen (tr. O. Wyon, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches) the hist. of Christian thought found an important place in theol. scholarship and educ..

3. But this influence destroyed much of the liberalism it was intended to buttress. One of Harnack's pupils was K. Barth.* Hist. study of the NT (e.g., by the Formgeschichtliche Sehule [see Isagogics, 3]; see also Schweitzer, Albert) had begun to stress the dynamic and prophetic character of NT religion as well as its essential unity in acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah. Also, renewed interest in Luther's writings and thought, intensified since the 400th anniversary of his birth (see Luther and the Reformation, Anniversaries of) 1883 had helped make Barth and some of his contemporaries dissatisfied with the moralism and optimism of the Ritschlian school. Besides, Barth had been influenced by S. A. Kierkegaard* and F. M. Dostoevski.* WW I provided the occasion for his final break with Ritschlian idealism and for pub. of his epochal Der Römerbrief (1919).

4. Barth's new departure was that Paul, Luther, Calvin, Kierkegaard, etc. were to be interpreted not merely in terms of their own hist. environment but also in terms of how they speak to our situation. He denounced the ch., world, theol., and philos. in the name of the “wholly Other,” who renders all things of earth fundamentally questionable.

5. Barth found kindred minds among both Luths. and Ref. His theol. has been called dialectical* theol. and crisis theol. (or theol. of crisis, in reference to the assoc. of the Gk. work krisis with concepts of separation, judgment, and catastrophe).

6. H. E. Brunner,* more systematic and scientific than Barth, helped relate many of the latter's insights to the problems of the modern mind and ch. Yet they parted company. Barth's increasing inclination to Calvinism and extreme Biblicism (the latter evident in his Die Kirchliche Dogmatik, tr. G. T. Thomson et al., Church Dogmatics) led him to deny validity to “natural” theol. and to ascribe not only preeminence but absolute uniqueness to all Biblical revelation. Brunner asserted also the revelation of God in creation but often made unfortunate concessions to modern thought.

7. Barth and Brunner shared both an insistence on Biblical realism and a certain arbitrariness in theol..

8. The theol. of Barth and Brunner is subject to valid criticism of all Ref. theol. on the means of grace, ch., distinction bet. Law and Gospel, etc.. But it helped bring a large segment of Protestantism closer to true Christianity, JP

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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