Chapter 27 Major theological traditions and developments in the twentieth century Questions to be addressed in this chapter 1. What shift occurred in twentieth century theology that was characteristic of the liberal Protestant movement? 2. What conservative theological developments occurred in the twentieth century? 3. What were the effects of arguably the most significant religious event in Roman Catholicism in the twentieth century? 4. What is the status of Eastern orthodoxy in relation to the other major Christian traditions in the twentieth-century? Liberal Protestantism: Bultmann and Tillich • Existentialism had become primarily a framework for atheism in the twentieth century, but Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) and Paul Tillich (1886-1965) re-appropriated it for Christian theology. • Bultmann pioneered form criticism of the Bible, shifting the focus from God to the communities who worshipped him. • Bultmann was concerned to translate theological concepts into contemporary ways of understanding. • Tillich’s primary approach to explaining Christian faith was “correlation”, providing answers to traditional questions in contemporary language. • Attempts to ground our lives on anything other than God result in inauthentic life and incompleteness. Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism • The Fundamentals (1910-1915) defended the fundamental doctrines of Christianity to Christian workers all over the world. • The Scopes “Monkey” Trial (1925) drove a deep wedge between Fundamentalists and modern culture. • Evangelicals, led by Carl Henry and Billy Graham, sought to bring conservative Christianity back to cultural relevance. Common commitments of Evangelicals 1. Scripture as the ultimate authority; 2. The uniqueness of Christ and his achievement of redemption through death on the cross; 3. The need for personal conversion, or being “born again”; 4. The importance of personal witness to others in evangelism. Roman Catholicism • Vatican II (1962-1965) most significant event of Catholicism in twentieth century: – Updates the mass from Latin into local languages – Bible is described as God’s manifestation of himself and the ultimate source of truth – Ecumenism: Christ can be found outside the Church • Karl Rahner (1904-1984) and Hans Küng (1928-) are the most influential theologians of Catholicism in the twentieth century. Eastern orthodoxy • Largely hidden from the West until the fall of communism. • Claims to be the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. • Comprised of fifteen separate autocephalous churches, each recognizing the others as canonical. • Distinctive today for its understanding of salvation as participation in the deified humanity of Jesus Christ (theosis). Summary of main points 1. Liberal Protestantism largely adopted the framework of existentialism and emphasized human experience over and above literal doctrines about God. 2. Evangelicalism grew out of Fundamentalism and holds to conservative interpretations of the Bible and traditional Christian doctrine. 3. The Second Vatican Council was the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church and reflected the Church’s readiness to acknowledge the developments of the modern world. 4. By the end of the twentieth century Eastern orthodoxy, while continuing to affirm its central historic beliefs, entered into ecumenical discussions with Catholicism and Protestantism.