Chapter 26
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Chapter 26. Neo-orthodoxy: Karl Barth and others. Questions to be addressed in this chapter. How was existentialism a precursor to neo-orthodoxy ? Who was Karl Barth and why is he considered one of the most important theologians in history?

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Chapter 26

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Chapter 26

Chapter 26

Neo-orthodoxy: Karl Barth and others


Questions to be addressed in this chapter

Questions to be addressed in this chapter

  • How was existentialism a precursor to neo-orthodoxy?

  • Who was Karl Barth and why is he considered one of the most important theologians in history?

  • What are the main points of Barth’s neo-orthodox theology?

  • What are some ways that neo-orthodoxy has had a lasting influence?


S ren kierkegaard existentialist and forerunner to neo orthodoxy

SørenKierkegaard: Existentialist and forerunner to neo-orthodoxy

  • (1813-1855) Danish philosopher/poet who was deeply concerned about the moral laxity of the religious people of Denmark.

  • Christian faith is more about subjective passion than doctrine and dogma.

  • Dogma leads to paradox; real subjective faith confronts individuals with Christ, who must choose for or against him.


Karl barth neo orthodox theologian

Karl Barth: neo-orthodox theologian

  • (1886-1968) from Reformed Church in Switzerland.

  • Brought Europe and American theology out of the grip of rationalist Enlightenment thinking.

  • Pastor and professor in Switzerland.


Central themes of barth s neo orthodoxy

Central themes of Barth’s neo-orthodoxy

  • Rejection of liberalism: WW2 destroys the liberal optimism of his professors; return to Reformation principles.

  • God’s transcendence, human fallenness, divine revelation.

  • Divine election: Christ is the elected individual, and people could join into this election by following Christ.


Neo orthodoxy s lasting influence

Neo-orthodoxy’s lasting influence

  • Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was an influential interpreter of Barth to Catholics.

  • Emil Brunner (1889-1966).

  • Reinhold Niebuhr (1893-1971) and his “Christian realism” continue the themes of neo-orthodoxy.


H richard niebuhr s description of liberal theology of the nineteenth century

H. Richard Niebuhr’s description of liberal theology of the nineteenth century

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross” (p. 453).


Summary of main points

Summary of main points

  • The Christian existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard required not a rational systematic account of Christian theology, as with liberalism, but rather an authentic faith manifested in a passionate encounter with the living God in Jesus Christ—a central theme of neo-orthodoxy.

  • Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian who turned from liberal theology and brought about a return to orthodoxy—or what is better dubbed neo-orthodoxy or a “theology from above”—in Christian theology.

  • Some of the central tenets of Barth’s neo-orthodoxy are the rejection of liberal theology, the sovereignty, transcendence and the universal love and grace of God, God’s self-disclosure through the event of Scripture, and election in Christ.

  • The influence of Barth’s neo-orthodoxy continued throughout the twentieth century and down to our own day, impacting both Catholic and Protestant theological luminaries.


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