{23}     Contemporary Protestantism

ERA 7 << Modern Church (3): Ecumenism & Adaptations (AD 1900–2000) >> SESSION 2

Reference: Gonzalez, volume 2, chapters 34-35

        23.1.1  Bankruptcy of liberal optimism

·         Liberal theology: Protestantism in the beginning of 20th-c was dominated by liberal theology which was founded by Schleiermacher (1768–1834). The main characteristics include: [1] The emphasis of religion is on the experience. [2] The Bible is not an infallible, authoritative book; it has exemplary but not dogmatic value. [3] Religious beliefs must pass the tests of human reason and the findings of science. [4] The supernatural elements of religion are to be excluded. Historical doctrines are rejected because they are based on miracles, such as incarnation and resurrection. [5] Elements of Christianity must be sacrificed in order to adapt to the modern world.

·         Decline of Christianity: Protestant liberalism with its optimistic view about human progress and perfectibility was shaken to its very foundation when the World War I occurred. Areas dominated by Protestantism (Britain, Germany, Scandinavia) witnessed an increase in skepticism and secularism. However, this did not prevent the liberals from taking over most of the mainline Protestant denominations. By mid-20th-c, northern Europe was no longer a stronghold of Protestantism. Rapid decline was also registered in western Europe and North America.

·         Reinterpretation of Luther: During 19th-c, German liberal scholarship had depicted Martin Luther as the forerunner of liberalism. This is totally unfounded. After the war, scholars re-interpreted Luther’s theology. The result was an emphasis of the power of evil and the unmerited grace of God, as presented in Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor [1930] and Ander Nygren’s Agape and Eros [1930].

        23.1.2  Overview of neo-orthodoxy

·         Founding: Barth began his career as a liberal and a socialist. When the WWI broke out, his liberal optimism was destroyed. He came to see the bankruptcy of liberalism, which exalted man at the expense of God. He and his friend Eduard Thurneysen decided to return to the Scripture. He was credited with the founding of a new theological school described as “neo-orthodoxy”, sometimes also called “dialectical theology” or “crisis theology”. The word “neo-orthodoxy” was used by Tillich to criticize the theology of Barth as unduly conservative, allegedly importing an old orthodoxy into a changed situation in which it was no longer relevant.

·         Emphases: [1] the use of revelation of God as the source of Christian doctrine, [2] the transcendence of God, and [3] the use of existentialist philosophy. Neo-orthodoxy is very distinct from both liberal Protestantism and evangelicalism, though its language has much in common with liberal Protestantism, and in partial doctrinal assent with evangelicalism.

·         Initial group: At first, there was a group of theologians with similar direction, including Eduard Thurneysen, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, Friedrich Gogarten. Later, Bultmann and Gogarten left the group because they considered neo-orthodoxy too traditional in its approach to theology and not sufficiently engaged with the questions of modern doubt.

·         Barth vs Brunner: Brunner left the neo-orthodox group after a big argument with Barth. In Brunner’s paper Nature and Grace [1934], he argued that there are two revelations of God—in creation as well as in Christ. For example, our conscience makes us aware of sin and the gospel addressed to this awareness. Barth objected to any natural theology, insisting that Jesus Christ was God’s only revelation. Barth’s uncommonly strong objection was because Nazism was trying to gain the support of Christians using natural theology.

·         Neo-orthodox theologians: Most people recognize the following important contributors to neo-orthodoxy: Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Richard Niebuhr. Some also include Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

·         Errors of neo-orthodoxy:

o        Doubting the Bible: Evangelicals welcomed Barth’s reassertion of the sinfulness of man, the transcendence of God, and the emphasis on Biblical theology. However, they opposed his rejection of an objective, historical, propositional revelation in the Bible. They retained the older liberal Biblical criticism.

o        Universalism: Elements of universalism were apparent in their soteriology.

o        Half truths: Some conservative theologians regarded neo-orthodoxy to be even more dangerous than liberal theology because it is often half truths that lead Christians astray.

        23.1.3  Karl Barth (1886–1968), Swiss—founder of neo-orthodoxy

·         On God: Barth’s Commentary on Romans [1919] signified the founding of neo-orthodoxy. The book broke with liberalism and insisted on the need to return to faithful exegesis. God is transcendent (the “wholly other”), never an object of human manipulation; the Holy Spirit is never something we possess, but is always and repeatedly a gift of God. God is never ours, but always stands over against us; whose word is at the same time both “yes” and “no”; whose presence brings, not ease and inspiration in our efforts, but crisis. That is why neo-orthodox theology is sometimes called “theology of crisis”.

o        Against subjectivism: He reacted against religious subjectivism and declared that in order to be saved, one must be free of individual concern, and be a member of the body of Christ, the new humanity.

o        Gap between God and man: He insisted on the insurmountable gap between time and eternity, between human achievement and divine action. Therefore, man cannot reach God through subjective experience.

o        Social action: While he was still convinced that Christians ought to strive for justice and equality, he insisted that these projects must not be confused with the eschatological kingdom of God.

·         On the Word of God: In Christian Dogmatics [1927], Barth declared that the object of theology is not the Christian faith but the Word of God. Crisis theology became the theology of the Word of God. But he found his book too philosophical so he revised the book completely. It was newly entitled Church Dogmatics [1932–1967], a coherent theology quoting historical theological traditions. He proposed that theology answers our deepest existential questions. The Word of God provides not only the answers, but also the questions. For example, sin is not something we know by nature, and to which the gospel responds. It is the word of grace that convicts us of sin.

o        God’s Word in 3 forms: God’s Word is the event of God speaking to man in and through Jesus Christ; it is God’s personal revelation of Himself to us. Jesus Christ is the revealed word. The Bible, God’s written word, is the witness to the event of God’s revelation. Its function is to point to Jesus Christ. The church today, through the proclaimed word (in preaching, theology, sacrament), also bears witness to the revealed word. The proclaimed word is to be based on the written word alone. The written word and the proclaimed word are not themselves revelation, but they are fallible human words pointing to God’s revelation. They only become God’s Word when God chooses to speak through them. So Barth cannot call the Bible God’s Word. However, Barth goes too far. God’s Word can be understood both as the event of God speaking to us and as the content of that speech found in the Bible.

o        Dynamic Word: God’s Word is seen in dynamic rather than static terms. According to Barth, the old orthodoxy erred by making God’s Word into a static object (such as the Bible) which man can analyze and dissect into doctrines and statements. He believes that God’s Word confronts us not as an object which we can control, but as a subject which controls and acts upon us. And this dynamic event demands a response from us.

o        Encounter: The Bible becomes revelation to the individual in the moment of crisis, when the Holy Spirit uses it to effect a personal encounter with God. Revelation is an encounter, rather than communication of information.

o        Story not history: The Bible records “story” (German Geschichte) but not “history” (German Historie). The events in the Bible are historically unverifiable; in fact, they do not need verification to be valuable for Christianity.

·         On theology: Barth insisted that God’s Word is the sole basis for theology. So he totally rejected natural theology. This principle provided a firm ideological basis from which to oppose the incursion of Nazi ideals into the church. As God’s one word to man is in Jesus Christ and all of God’s dealings with man are in and through Jesus Christ, the entire Christian theology is to be interpreted Christologically. This principle leads to a radical revision and distortion of some traditional doctrines. For example, it is illegitimate to seek to show people their sinfulness by preaching the Law to them. Later in life, Barth slightly modified his position by allowing other “true words” and “lesser lights” such as the physical creation.

o        Against Feuerbach: Besides fearing Nazi incursion, Barth was fighting the threat of German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872) whose book The Essence of Christianity [1841] claimed that all theology is really anthropology. To Feuerbach, cultures create God and attribute to God those qualities which they find praiseworthy. Religion is then man’s primitive and indirect form of self-knowledge; religion is now superseded by philosophy. Both Schleiermacher and Bultmann were influenced by this theory. In opposition, Barth tries to show that God is not made in man’s image.

·         Barmen Declaration [1934]—Hitler’s claim racial superiority of Germans who was called to civilize the world found support in many German churches. Hitler wanted to unify all Protestant churches in Germany and to reinterpret Christianity in terms of opposition to Judaism. A united German Evangelical Church was formed [1933] under the control of Hitler. In opposition, some German Christian leaders met [1934] and issued the Barmen Declaration (mainly composed by Barth) which rejected the acceptance of non-Biblical events, powers, figures as God’s revelation. It called all Christians in Germany to test its words by the Word of God. This became the foundation document for the “Confessing Church”. The Reich forced all Christian leaders to support the government, so Barth returned to Switzerland and taught at Basel until retirement.

        23.1.4  Other neo-orthodox theologians

·         Emil Brunner (1889-1966), Swiss

o        Rejecting liberalism: His book Mysticism and the Word [1924] was a devastating critique of the liberal theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher. He rejected liberal theology’s portrait of Jesus as merely a highly-respected human being.

o        Major works: His theology is represented by his 3-volume Dogmatics [1946–1960] and his ethics by his Divine Imperative [1932].

o        On Christ: Brunner insisted that Jesus was God incarnate and central to salvation. He believed that God does not reveal Himself in truths or propositions but in His person so, like Barth, he stressed the subjective encounter with Christ.

o        On sin: He declared that man is a sinner because he chooses to sin, not because of the inherited sin nature. Man is called to live in fellowship with God and others; failure to do so is self-centredness, which is sin. This could be overcome only through a personal encounter with Christ.

o        On Scripture: He focused on the historic doctrines of the incarnation and the resurrection but he questioned the usefulness of the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible. He dismissed certain miraculous elements within the Scripture and his He denied the historicity of Adam, the virgin birth, and the reality of hell.

·         Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971), German/American

o        Main concern: His concern was in social ethics. He objected the irrelevance of Christianity as “the mild moralistic idealism”. He questioned about the growing tendencies of churches to build their congregations around pulpit eloquence.

o        On sin: He emphasized the Christian doctrine of original sin. However, he believed that sin was more social than spiritual. Sin occurs through man’s misuse of power in destroying others. He believed that unbridled capitalism was destructive. He joined in the Fellowship of Socialist Christians [1930]. In his book Moral Man and Immoral Society [1932], he argued that, left to its own devices, any society is morally worse and more self-seeking than the sum of its members. In reaction against theological liberalism, he shared the doubts of the neo-orthodox concerning human capabilities.

o        On justice: In The Nature and Destiny of Man [1941], he tried to recover a balanced view of human nature, including both a deeper understanding of sin and its ramifications, and a radical view of grace. He trusted that redeeming love in man would bring about immediate social answers to human social needs. He believed that justice will be best maintained in society by ensuring a fair distribution of power between the different groups.

o        On Scripture: Though making Biblical applications to social problems and injustices, he termed the creation account and the Fall a myth.

o        Against Marxism: He criticized Marxism, commenting that “the deepest tragedy of our age…is that the alternative to capitalism has turned out to be worse than the disease which it was meant to cure.”

·         H. Richard Niebuhr (1894–1962), German/American

o        Themes: He was concerned throughout his life with the absolute sovereignty of God and the issue of historical relativism. He believed that God is above history, that he makes commands upon human beings, and that all history is under the control of this God. While God may be absolute and transcendent, human beings are not. Because of this, the ways in which God is apprehended are never permanent. God is always understood differently by people at different times in history and in different social locations. His thought in some respects anticipated latter-day liberal Protestant concerns about pluralism and tolerance.

o        Response to culture: In his most famous work Christ and Culture [1951], Niebuhr gives a history of how Christianity has responded to culture. He outlines five prevalent viewpoints:

          [1] Christ against Culture. For the exclusive Christian, history is the story of a rising church or Christian culture and a dying pagan civilization.

          [2] Christ of Culture. For the cultural Christian, history is the story of the Spirit’s encounter with nature.

          [3] Christ above Culture. For the synthesist, history is a period of preparation under law, reason, gospel, and church for an ultimate communion of the soul with God.

          [4] Christ and Culture in Paradox. For the dualist, history is the time of struggle between faith and unbelief, a period between the giving of the promise of life and its fulfillment.

          [5] Christ Transforming Culture. For the conversionist, history is the story of God’s mighty deeds and humanity’s response to them. Eternity, to the conversionist, focuses less on the action of God before time or life with God after time, and more on the presence of God in time.

o        Social issues: His book The Social Sources of Denominationalism [1929] argued that denominationalism was an adaptation of the gospel to the various racial and socioeconomic strata of society, thus showing “the domination of class and self-preservation church ethics over the ethics of the gospel.” He accused Christians of surrendering its leadership to the social forces of national and economic life.


        23.2.1  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), German

·         Life: He was a Lutheran pastor. He taught briefly in the US and in Berlin [1931]. When Hitler came to power, he openly supported the Barmen Declaration [1934]. He was a pastor in London when the Confessing Church invited him to return to Germany [1935] to head a clandestine seminary. He was a pacifist. But, under persecution by the Gastapo, he believed that pacifism, leaving others to make the difficult political and practical decision, was a way of escaping from his own responsibility. He participated in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler; he was arrested [1943] and executed [1945], just days before the concentration camp was liberated by the American army.

·         Major work: Some theologians put him into the neo-orthodox camp with Barth, whom he greatly admired. He published The Cost of Discipleship [1937] in which he attempted to show the significance of the Sermon on the Mount for contemporary living.

o        Cheap grace: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Sometimes, the best Christians remain sinners and uses grace to justify living a life of sin. Any attempt to lead a serious life of discipleship is branded as legalism.

o        Costly grace: “Costly grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son.” “Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.” This is to pervert the doctrine of justification by faith.

o        Daily effort: Bonhoeffer encourages every Christian to “make a daily renunciation of sin and of every barrier which hinders them from following Christ.”

·         New ideas: His correspondence (collected into Letters and Papers from Prison, published posthumously [1953]) while in concentration camp showed that he was grappling with new ideas that would impact later generations. However, his extreme terminology would cause considerable debate. His radical positions make them difficult for many Christians to swallow.

o        Work of the church: He emphasized on sacrifice and discipline: “The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving.”

o        Independent of God: He spoke of the world “coming of age” and of God’s presence in such a world was like a wise parent, receding into the background as the child grows. The “mature man” who has come of age must learn to live independent of God. With the advent of science, man can learn to solve his own problems whereas previously he relied on God. “Man has learnt to deal with himself in all questions of importance without recourse to the ‘working hypothesis’ called ‘God’.”

o        Mixing sacred and secular: The world is in crisis so man must act responsibly in moral holy worldliness. An existential “worldly Christian” would link the “sacred” and “secular” in daily life. Theology is irrelevant.

o        Against Barth on revelation: He criticized Barth for having moved into a “positivism of revelation”, as if revelation let us know more than it actually does.

        23.2.2  Religionless Christianity

·         Underlying reason: Bonhoeffer was concerned about how to confront secular religionless man. He spoke of “religionless Christianity” because religion is a human effort by which we seek to hide from God.

·         Secular world: He believed that since about the 13-c, mankind has moved steadily towards independence from God. Man has tried progressively to exclude God from the culture, including science, arts, and even ethics. Education and politics have been freed from church control. As the philosopher Kant put it: humanity and the world have “come of age.” In real life, a young adult may make a mess of his life, but he cannot return to become a child under his parents. Bonhoeffer was radical in seeing this process not as man’s progressive apostasy from God but as a right and proper development.

·         Religionless: The new situation caused Bonhoeffer to question what Christianity really is for us today. How do we speak to the secular non-religious world? Bonhoeffer questioned the assumption that people need to be religious in order to become Christian. Instead, we should see Jesus Christ as the “lord of the religionless”.

·         Solution: He proposed that a Christian today must learn to speak of God in a secular way and to live his Christianity in a secular way. The believer “must live a ‘secular’ life, and thereby share in God’s sufferings.” “It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”

·         Changes needed: Barth distinguished between man’s search for God in religion (which leads to idolatry) and God’s reaching out to man in His revelation. Bonhoeffer adopted Barth’s negative evaluation of religion and broadened its scope. In advocating a “religionless Christianity” Bonhoeffer wished to see Christianity purged of certain facets of bourgeois religiosity:

o        [1] Metaphysics: Religion has taken God’s transcendence philosophically and made him abstract and remote. Salvation then comes to be seen as escape to another world—with the result that this world is devalued and neglected.

o        [2] Individualism: Related to metaphysics is individualism—preoccupation with one’s own individual piety. Bonhoeffer recognized the need for an individual, personal faith, but “religion” emphasizes this to the detriment of the church and the world.

o        [3] Partiality: Religion confines Christianity to one area of life—an ever-dwindling area as the process of secularization proceeds. The result is that Christians live increasingly in a ghetto, remote from the concerns of the secular world.

·         Into the world: The “religious” version of Christianity leads to a church composed of individuals preoccupied with personal salvation; they withdraw from secular society and its concerns, and devote their energies to “religious” activities. The “world” is seen primarily as a source of potential recruits. Bonhoeffer wanted to bring God and the church back into the secular world. As God should be the centre of life, a Christian must learn to live his Christianity and speak of God in a secular way. The church is to serve the world. It is to follow Jesus, “the man for others”. There must be a secular interpretation of Christianity and the church.

·         Unexplained: Bonhoeffer wrote enigmatically about this concept. No one is quite certain what exactly the meaning of this concept was and how it can be applied. His untimely death prevented him from explaining and developing his ideas. This left a black hole that puzzles every Christian as German theologian Helmut Thielicke comments, “He has simply left the slogans behind as thorns in our soul to keep us salutarily disturbed.”

·         Problem: By stressing man’s independence from God, Bonhoeffer laid the foundation for the development of secular theology and God-is-dead theology. It also goes against the scriptural call to turn to God in faith after realizing one’s weaknesses (e.g. Second Corinthians 12:9-10).


        23.3.1  Existentialist theology

·         Paul Tillich (1886–1965), German—He was a moderate socialist, who moved to the US to teach in the Union Theological Seminary (New York City) after the rise of Hitler.

o        Theological Method: He was a theologian of culture, not a neo-orthodox theologian, making use of existentialist philosophy to interpret the gospel and its relationship to the modern world. His Systematic Theology [1951–1963] deals with the central themes of Christian theology. He set out his theological approach with: “A theological system is supposed to satisfy two basic needs: the statement of the truth of the Christian message and the interpretation of this truth for every new generation. Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received.” The problem, however, comes with the application.

o        Against orthodoxy: Tillich opposed orthodoxy, which he accused of confusing eternal truths with a particular temporary expression of them. He said that orthodoxy takes a theology which was addressed to the past and addresses it to today’s situation, which it no longer fits. To Tillich, the eternal truth or the unchanging message of the gospel is not the Bible or traditional orthodoxy. It is the existential questions of man.

o        Method of correlation: In contrast to Barth’s emphasis on the Word of God as the starting point of theology, Tillich proposed what he called the “method of correlation” which consisted in examining the most profound existential questions of modern people—what he called their “ultimate concern”—and then showing how the gospel responds to them. Most theologians would accept the validity of this method. But Tillich sacrificed elements of the eternal truth to the situation. His exposition of the Christian faith is predominantly philosophical—very few Biblical passages are found in his books.

o        On God: His God was the ultimate non-theistic “that which concerns us ultimately” or “ground of being” with whom human encounter was experiential and existential. God is not a Being but is Being-itself. In fact, it is as atheistic to affirm God’s existence as to deny it! God can be described as personal, but He is not a person. Tillich said, “The name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depth of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever.”!!! If someone say in complete seriousness that life is shallow, he alone is an atheist.

o        On Christ: Christ is not understood in the traditional terms, not even a historical person. Christ is “a symbol of the ‘New Being’ in which every force of estrangement trying to dissolve his unity with God has been dissolved.” Tillich rejected belief in the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ.

o        On sin: Sin is the disruption of the essential unity with God, that is, alienation is sin. “In existence, man is estranged from the ground of his being, from other beings, and from himself.”

o        On salvation: Man is aware of his finiteness and “non-being”, which results in anxiety. He looks in hope to Christ, who will rescue him from his estrangement.

o        Marxist analysis: He applied a revised form of Marxist analysis to try to understand the shortcomings of western civilization.

o        Problem: Tillich’s theology is not based on the Bible. His books explained theology based on philosophy, not on the Bible. He interpreted the Bible in a modern form of allegorism. He attached new meanings to Biblical words. He denied the person of God. He violated most of the orthodox doctrines of Christianity.

·         Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), German

o        Skepticism about the Bible: Bultmann was one of the pioneers of using the form-critical approach to study the Gospels. He tried to assess the historicity of the Gospels and concluded that most of the recorded sayings of Jesus have their origin not in Jesus Himself but in early Christian communities. But he said it is not necessary to know the historical Jesus because the Reformation principle is justification by faith, not by history. However, the Reformers would never imagine that faith is also based on historicity.

o        Demythologization: In an essay The New Testament and Mythology [1941], he argued that the message of the New Testament is enshrouded with myth, and that for it to be heard today, it must be “demythologized”. Without it, faith is radically misunderstood; and faith is not an effort of the will to believe the unbelievable. In the end, Bultmann’s demythologized gospel becomes a message about man and his need to act authentically in the face of dread and anxiety. Bultmann even admitted himself to substituting anthropology to theology, to interpret statements about God as statements about human life. “It is therefore clear that if a man will speak of God, he must evidently speak of himself.”

o        Experience & ethics: Myth is every attempt to express in images that which transcends this world. The modern world can no longer accept the notion of a world open to supernatural intervention, nor does it view earth as hanging between hell and heaven. Bultmann made individual’s experience and ethics more important than doctrine.

o        Impact: Liberal Anglican bishop John Robinson’s (1919–1983) Honest to God [1963] was an attempt to popularize Bultmann’s views of demythologization. He proposed abandoning the notion of a God “out there”, existing somewhere out in the universe as a “cosmic supremo”. He offered a frankly and openly atheistic reinterpretation of God, whom he defined as Love, spelled with a capital “L”. He believed in universal salvation.

o        Errors: Bultmann rejected liberalism but replaced it with an existential version of Christianity, but his conclusions are as unorthodox as liberalism. His existentialist interpretation reduces the New Testament message to a close approximation to the teaching of the secular existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger—leaving behind only “a few basic principles of religion and ethics”. Such familiar doctrines as incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and second coming are all branded as mythical and are dissolved in an existentialist interpretation. Very little of the Apostles’ Creed is left intact.

        23.3.2  Marxist-Christian dialogue

·         Marxist attitudes: After WWII, the communists dominated eastern Europe. While Marxism saw Christianity as an enemy, different communist governments reacted differently to the church. Some attacked the church while others opted for benign neglect based on the conviction that religion would simply disappear.

·         Josef Hromadka (1889–1969), Czech

o        Favouring Marxism: When the communist regime declared that all churches would have equal standing before the government, Czech Protestants saw it as an act of liberation. This was a response to the oppression of the Hussites by the Catholics. He was convinced that Christians should not be led astray by Marxist atheism, for the God whose existence the Marxist deny is no more than a fiction. The true God of Scripture and of Christian faith is not that God, but is One who is not touched by Marxism’s futile atheism.

        23.3.3  Theology of hope

·         Ernst Bloch (1885–1977), German

o        Leaning to Marxism: He was a Marxist philosopher who agreed with Marx that religion—particularly Christianity—has been used as an instrument of oppression. But he also saw in early Christianity a protest against oppression so he tried to reinterpret Christian doctrines in a positive light.

o        Emphasis on hope: He found the positive value in the message of hope. From the perspective of hope, man is not determined by his past, but rather by his future. This led to 20th-c emphasis on hope and on eschatology.

·         Jürgen Moltmann (1926–  ), German

o        Centrality of eschatology: Moltmann established eschatology as the main factor that moulds all Christian theology. The eschatological perspective means that revelation is interpreted as “promise”, as the ground for future hope. God is not yet finished with the world, but meets us and calls us from the future. Hope for the last things ought not to be the last chapter, but the first, of Christian theology. The future action of God is more important than past revelation.

o        On hope: In his book Theology of Hope [1964] (from the perspective of resurrection), Moltmann argued that hope is the central category of Biblical faith. This is not a private, individualistic hope and “spiritual” salvation, but the hope for a new order. Christians are to join those struggles against poverty and oppression, and fulfil the future of God. History is dissolved into the future, and the future into revolution in which Christ and salvation are related to social development. Social action is grounded in Christian hope.

o        On the suffering God: In his book The Crucified God [1972] (from the perspective of the cross), he rejected the ideas of God as impassible and remote from the world. While God is unchangeable and cannot be forced to change, God is free to allow Himself to be changed by the world and to allow the world to make Him suffer. While God is sovereign, He voluntarily opens Himself to the possibility of being affected by His creatures. It is a free suffering of love. Without such suffering, we cannot speak of a God of love.

o        On the church: In his book The Church in the Power of the Spirit [1970] (from the perspective of Pentecost), he demands an inner renewal in the church by the Holy Spirit. The church is to be: [1] the church of Jesus Christ who is the sole Lord, [2] a missionary church, serving to liberate man from his slavery which extends from economic necessity to godforsakenness, [3] an ecumenical church, breaking down barriers within the church, and [4] a political church, supporting the oppressed and humiliated. He insists on active participation by the church in society to effect change.

o        Other books: In addition to his trilogy on God’s reconciling activities in the world, he also wrote a series of 6 books on his systematic contributions to theology since 1980.

o        Problems: Moltmann’s theology provides new insights to classical doctrines. His message of hope fits the contemporary world very well. However, his support for liberation theology raised suspicion on the direction of his new development on theology. His contribution to the radical Bangkok document of the World Council of Churches [1973] raised the question whether he supports their heretical position.

        23.3.4  Faith rooted in history

·         Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928–  ), German

o        Importance of history: Pannenberg grounded God’s revelation in the events of history—especially in the person of Jesus Christ and supremely in His resurrection. He objected the stand of Barth and Bultmann who ignored the “Jesus of history” and based theology exclusively on the “Christ of faith”. He insisted that theology and truth-claims of Christianity must be open to investigation by other disciplines. While he subscribed to the methods of historical criticism, he claimed that objective evidence can verify the truth of Christianity, especially Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

o        On faith and knowledge: Faith is kindled by the resurrection event. Historical criticism, based on the evidence, shows the probability of the resurrection. Faith is based securely on evidence but goes beyond (but not against) knowledge by giving us certainty. Faith also involves a moral and spiritual dimension to our reaction to Jesus Christ.

o        On Christology: On his book Jesus—God and Man [1964], Pannenberg described two ways of approaching Christology. One is “Christology from above”—which starts with the divine Son of God and then asks how and in what way He became man. The other is “Christology from below”—which starts with the man Jesus and then asks how and in what way He was God. Pannenberg subscribed to the second method as the most important task for Christology today is to demonstrate His deity, not a presupposition of His deity. He said that the resurrection event demonstrates His deity. The incarnation, God becoming man, is thus seen as the conclusion, not the starting point, of Christology.

o        Problems: Pannenberg makes history the authority rather than Scripture. While he stresses the historicity of Biblical events, he also accepts inaccuracies in the Bible. He follows historical criticism by suggesting that the virgin birth is a myth, and that there are inaccuracies in the resurrection accounts.


        23.4.1  Social conditions since WWI

·         Drastic social changes: Partly as the result of WWI, the US entered a period of isolationism, characterized by the fear of everything foreign, and the suppression of dissent. The Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a revival and increase in membership; they added Catholics and Jews to blacks as the great enemies of American Christianity and democracy. There were also witch hunts to search for radicals and communists. Many churches presented Christian faith as the main line of defense against the red threat. In opposition to these tendencies, some leaders of mainline denominations organized campaigns, which a significant portion of the church members did not agree with.

·         Liberals vs conservatives: The conflict between liberals and fundamentalists (conservatives) intensified. Almost all denominations were divided over the issue of fundamentalism—particularly the inerrancy of Scripture which had become the hallmark of fundamentalist orthodoxy. Conservative Princeton professor John Gresham Machen (1881–1937) founded the rivalry Westminster Theological Seminary [1929] and eventually the Orthodox Presbyterian Church [1936]. Faith Seminary and Covenant Seminary were founded under a similar process.

o        Conservative theology: This is a general term that identifies the theology holding to the historic doctrines of Christianity, as opposed to liberal Christianity which changes historic doctrines in order to fit better with the times. Fundamentalism and later evangelicalism are both conservative theologies.

·         Prohibition: Most Protestants were united in one great cause: the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. In 1919, the 18th Amendment on prohibition was added to the Constitution. But the enforcement effort was lacking. Corruption and illicit trading were rampant. Eventually, the 21st Amendment [1933] repealed the 18th Amendment.

·         Social criticism: The Great Depression [1929–1939] led to massive unemployment, bankruptcies, and soup kitchens. Unlike Britain and some European countries, the US did not have social security system and unemployment insurance. Many people were on the brink of survival. In response were the Niebuhr brothers who criticized the economics of laissez faire and stressed on the injustices of capitalism.

·         National Council of Churches [1908]—Coupled with the books of the Niebuhrs, the Methodist Church and the Federal Council of Churches (founded in 1908 by 33 denominations, later called National Council of Churches) publicly supported government participation in economic planning and in providing means to safeguard the wellbeing of the poor. Leaders from mainstream denominations supported the building of social security, unemployment insurance, and antitrust laws. However, many lay people subscribed to traditional fundamentalism and they regarded these measures as radical socialism. They accused their leaders of being infiltrated by communism. They did not distinguish Russian communism and other forms of socialism, and declared that all of them were ungodly.

·         End of Great Depression: President Franklin Roosevelt [1933–1945] created the New Deal to implement policies to relieve the poor and provide security for the labour force. While the New Deal produced some results, it was the WWII that actually ended the Depression.

·         Affluence: The dropping of nuclear bombs in Japan put a quick end to the war. The industrial production of the US had been accelerated during the war, in order to provide materials necessary for the conflict. After the war, the production continued leading to unprecedented prosperity and the building of an affluent consumer society.

·         Suburbanization: With financial and social advancement, many moved their homes to the suburbia. The inner cities were progressively abandoned by the affluent, and remained as the ghettoes of lower classes—particularly poor blacks and other minorities. Many churches also moved out to the suburbs and became churches for the middle class and lost contact with the masses in the cities. There were occasional calls for a renewed mission to the cities but no large-scale movement. In the 1980s, there was a trend of the moderately affluent moving back to the city leading to signs of renewed religious vitality in the inner cities.

        23.4.2  Varieties of Christian teachings after WWII

·         Legacy of revivalism: Under the leadership of Billy Graham (1918–  ), a Southern Baptist pastor, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was incorporated [1950], organizing large scale evangelistic gatherings (called “mass crusades”) to every continent, often with audiences of over 100,000. It was a continuation of the American tradition of revivals. In addition, it enjoyed abundant financial resources allowing groups of evangelists to travel to all parts of the world, thus leaving the mark of American revivalism on the whole globe. It is estimated that Graham has preached to live audiences of nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries. Graham officially retired from public mass crusades in 2007. His work is continued by his son Franklin Graham (1952–  ).

·         Health and wealth gospel: Another feature of post-war revival was an understanding of the Christian faith as a means to inner peace and happiness. Normal Vincent Peale (1898–1993) promoted faith and “positive thinking” as leading to mental health and happiness. This form of religiosity was well suited for the times. While it provided peace in the midst of a confusing world, it also said little about social responsibilities. More importantly, it is a distorted gospel.

·         Black theology:

o        Origin: It grew out of the earlier slavery and the later segregation and discrimination of the black people. It was founded after the founding of the national Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) [1909]. After WWII, the government desegregated the armed forces [1949] and the Supreme Court ordered the integration of public schools [1952]. There are a few different varieties of black theology.

o        Radicalization: The National Council of Churches and many denominations support desegregation. However, Christian initiatives and non-violent organizations did not do enough to channel the frustration and anger in the black community. Some blacks favoured violent confrontations wherever blacks were discriminated against. More militant blacks had seen in Islam a religion not dominated by whites, and thus were the Black Muslims and similar movements born. Some talked about “black power”.

o        Peaceful protests: Some blacks, under the leadership of Adam Clayton Powell (1908–1972) and Martin Luther King (1929–1968), both black clergies, defied the oppressive laws by mass action through sit-ins and riots, resulting in arrests and beatings.

o        Otherworldly: Some in the black community tried to find refuge from their difficulties by emphasizing the promised otherworldly rewards, without challenging the existing order. In some cases, this led to new religions with leaders who declared themselves to be incarnations of the divine. However, these were the minority.

o        Recent trend: Churches became gathering and training places for protesters. Preachers articulated the connection between the gospel and the movement. A black theology emerged, affirming black reality, hope, and struggle. It is a form of liberation theology although the doctrines are largely orthodox.

·         Feminist theology:

o        Origin: In early church, some women assumed leadership in churches. However, since 3rd-c, women had been excluded from ecclesiastical leadership. In 19th-c, women strengthened their political muscle in the anti-slavery campaign and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They won the right to vote in the 19th Amendment [1920]. Though some women were ordained in 19th-c, most denominations still did not allow the ordination of women by mid-20th-c.

o        Leaders and objectives: Feminist theology was led by Presbyterian Letty Mandeville Russell (1930–2007) and Roman Catholic Rosemary Radford Ruether (1936– ), both university professors. It is a movement to reconsider the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies from a feminist perspective. Some of the goals of feminist theology include: [1] increasing the role of women among the clergy and religious authorities, [2] reinterpreting male-dominated imagery and language about God, [3] determining women’s place in relation to career and motherhood, and [4] studying images of women in the religion’s sacred texts.

o        Ordination: In the 1950s, battles on feminine issues were fought on two fronts: women’s right to have their ordination, and the critique of a theology traditionally dominated by men. By the 1980s, most Protestant denominations accepted ordination for women.

o        Issues: Feminists have attempted to counter perceptions of women as morally or spiritually inferior to men; as a source of sexual temptation; as dedicated to childbearing, their homes, and husbands; and as having a lesser role in religious ritual or leadership because of such inferiority or dedication.

·         Theology of the death of God:

o        Origin: “God is dead” was pronounced by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) in his book The Gay Science [1882]. Bonhoeffer also said that man must learn to live without God.

o        Meaning: It doe not mean literally that “God is now physically dead”; rather, it is Nietzsche’s way of saying that the Christian idea of God is no longer capable of acting as a source of any moral code or teleology (philosophy of design and purpose). God is no long relevant in the world.

o        Leaders: In the 1960s, a group of theologians held a similar view, including Gabriel Vahanian (1927–  ), Paul van Buren (1924–  ), William Hamilton (1924–  ), and Thomas Altizer (1927–  ). Most of them emphasized that the concept of transcendence had lost any meaningful place in modern thought—modern secular culture had lost all sense of the sacred. Ours is a post-Christian society; Christianity has been eclipsed by the modern scientific and technological age. The essence of Christianity is now secularization.

o        Variations: For them, God is dead either: [1] psychologically, because He has ceased to exist in practice; or [2] historically, because He seems irrelevant in the world that witnesses world wars, Jewish holocaust, Great Depression; or [3] ontologically, because He died in the death of Christ. For some, it could mean all of these. However, Altizer believed that God truly died in history when Christ died on the cross.

o        Errors: This “theology” rejects all major Christian doctrines, including God, Christ, sin, salvation, and Scripture. Secularization—entering into the problems of the world—is their gospel. It is man-centred rather than God-centred. It cannot honestly be called theology.

·         Secular theology:

o        Secular concerns: Harvey Cox’s book The Secular City [1965] sought to reinterpret the Christian message in the light of an urban and secular society, and to see the opportunities and challenges that such a society offers. He argued that the church is primarily a people of faith and action, rather than an institution. “God is just as present in the secular as the religious realms of life.” Man can find fulfilment in society, in which the hidden God may be discovered. Far from being a protective religious community, the church should be in the forefront of change in society, celebrating the new ways that religiosity is finding expression in the world.

·         Process theology:

o        Themes: This is originated from Moltmann’s theology of hope and A.N. Whitehead’s (1861–1947) process philosophy. There are 3 common themes: [1] an orientation towards the future, [2] an interest in socio-political realities, and [3] an attempt to bring these two together. In other words, the attempt is the recovery of eschatology as a future hope ending in social involvement.

o        Leaders: They include Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), John Cobb (1925–  ), Schubert Ogden (1928–  ), and Harold Kushner (1935–  , Jewish rabbi). They sought to develop a theodicy to explain evil in the world.

o        Process philosophy: Greek philosophy thought of “being” and permanence as primary, “becoming” and change as secondary and relatively unreal. God is thought to be unchanging and therefore free from emotions and suffering; He inhabits a changeless eternity and is outside time (“the Unmoved Mover”). Process philosophy maintains that the primary most real thing is not “I” as an individual (this is only secondary abstraction) who happens to pass through time, but the series of experiences which make up the process of my life. So as opposed to Greek philosophy, it is process, becoming, change that is primary and ultimate. This fits well into the present world where reality is seen in evolutionary terms as dynamic and unfolding.

o        Teachings of process theology:

          On God: God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. God uses persuasion rather than coercion. Anselm said that God is compassionate and changing in terms of our experience, while not compassionate and unchanging in terms of His own being. Process theology has a bipolar concept of God. God is unchanging in His “abstract existence” and His act of creation (cause); but He is not unaffected by His creation in His “concrete actuality” (effect).

          Penentheism (neo-classicial theism): Classical theism teaches that God is not affected by the world; pantheism teaches that God is identified with the world. In contrast, panentheism teaches that God affects the world and is affected by it. All that happens takes place within God—the world is God’s body. God and the world are like mind and body. God and the world move together through time.

          Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect. All experience (male, female, atomic, and botanical) is important and contributes to the ongoing and interrelated process of reality.

          The universe is characterized by process and change, carried out by the agents of free-will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free-will by offering possibilities. To say it in another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God’s will.

          The nature of reality is “becoming” rather than “being”. Both God and His universe are becoming rather than being. God is guiding creation to a higher level in order that He and His creation may overcome evil and avert chaos in a new order.

          Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.

o        Impact: Process theology was one of the factors that led to liberation theology.

          God is relational, experiencing both the joy and suffering of humanity. God suffers just as those who experience oppression and God seeks to actualize all positive and beautiful potentials. God must, therefore, be in solidarity with the oppressed and must also work for their liberation.

          God is not omnipotent in the classical sense and so God does not provide support for the status quo, but rather seeks the actualization of greater good.

          God exercises relational power and not unilateral control. In this way God cannot instantly end evil and oppression in the world. God works in relational ways to help guide persons to liberation.

o        Errors:

          Today, the irreconcilable difference between the concept of God in Greek philosophy and the God in the Bible is widely recognized. But process theology denies that God knows the future. This is clearly contrary to what the Bible teaches. If classical theism makes the mistake of seeing God as outside time, process theology makes the opposite mistake of making Him the prisoner of time.

          Process theology is correct in reacting against the classical theist view that creation cannot affect God. But it makes God dependent upon the world, and even says that God needs the universe. This again is clearly contrary to the Bible which teaches that God is not dependent of the world.

          Process theology is not derived from Biblical revelation but from mathematical and scientific hypotheses, and rationalistic speculation.

        23.4.3  Pentecostalism

·         Wave 1: Old Pentecostalism or Classic Pentecostalism (1901–1960)

o        Theme: The advent of Pentecostalism is often described in 3 waves. Wave 1 Pentecostals emphasized the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” as a separate experience from conversion which must be accompanied by speaking in tongues in order to be genuine.

o        Beginning: Charles Parham (1873–1929) has been called the father of modern Pentecostalism. In his Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, he and his students concluded that baptism of the Holy Spirit is expressed and evidenced by speaking in tongues [1901].

o        Expansion: [1] Pentecostalism spread next to Norway, Sweden, England, Chile, and Brazil. [2] Pentecostal believers from around the world gathered at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles for a 3-year [1906–1909] revival meeting. [3] The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination, was founded in a meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas [1914]. The Church of God was the second largest denomination [began in 1886, founded in 1903]. [4] The first worldwide conference of Pentecostals met at Zurich [1947].

·         Wave 2: New Pentecostalism or Charismatic Renewal (1960–1980)

o        Theme: These Wave 2 Pentecostals still tended to speak of a second experience of the Spirit—a baptism or filling of the Spirit. They also stated that tongues “usually” accompanies this experience, although they would admit that all Christians in some sense have the Spirit.

o        Characteristics: It was a new movement in the sense that it crossed denominational lines and barriers. The New Charismatics are not separatist but rather reformist in character. They are not interested in separating from old ecclesiastical structures. Rather, they are told to stay in these churches and to renew them by their continued presence within. This is what is meant by Charismatic Renewal.

o        Expansion: The beginning was marked by an outburst of tongues in an Episcopal church in California [1960]. After that, the movement spread like wildfire in the Episcopalian Church and then among Lutherans and Presbyterians. It then spread to universities in the east [1962] and to Catholic churches and other Protestant denominations [1967]. It was estimated that there were 10 million charismatics in America by 1977.

·         Wave 3: The Signs and Wonders Movement (1980–now)

o        Theme: These Wave 3 Pentecostals will tend to identify “baptism with the Spirit” with conversion, and not refer to a second crisis-like experience of receiving the Spirit. They would prefer to emphasise the ongoing nature of the experience of the Spirit. Tongues may not be emphasised at all, and will usually not feature in public meetings. Some third wave leaders would themselves not speak in tongues.

o        Characteristics: This movement is also called the Vineyard Movement. The leaders are John Wimber and Peter Wagner, professors at Fuller Seminary School of World Missions. It has been a rapidly growing movement, drawing adherents from both charismatic and non-charismatic churches. The movement stresses “power evangelism” whereby the gospel is explained and demonstrated by way of supernatural signs and wonders. The Toronto Blessing and Eternal Grace are also an expression of this movement.

o        Less emphasis on tongues: In the Signs and Wonders movement, tongues speaking can be found, but the gift of tongues is not stressed as much as it is in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. This movement does stress the gift of prophecy (insisting on the importance of modern day prophets) and the gift of healing.

·         Worldwide expansion: Pentecostalism does not concentrate in North America only. It is estimated that there are over 100 million charismatics worldwide—North America: 30 million; South America: 30 million; Europe: 10 million; Africa: 40 million; Asia: 15 million. However, one 2005 estimate by Pentecostals was 588 million.

·         Doctrines:

o        Orthodoxy: Besides emphasis on spiritual gifts, particularly tongues, Pentecostals subscribe to orthodox doctrines similar to other evangelicals. Some extreme Pentecostals insist on the speaking of tongues as an evidence of true salvation. This would mean that the majority of Christians will fail the test and be counted as unsaved. This is unbiblical.

o        Deviations: However, there are some called One-ness Pentecostals who deny the doctrine of Trinity. They believe that God is absolutely and indivisibly one, and that Jesus was the one God manifested in the flesh. The division of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are some of God’s titles or manifestations rather than persons. This is similar to Sabellianism which was denounced as heresy in early church. Leading denominations of this group include United Pentecostal Church International, and Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.



[1] treasure our heritage

God raised up the Pentecostal Church to extend His kingdom. Yet, it is important not to fall into extremes in some of those churches.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

The speculative theologies never become major movements.

[3] avoid past errors

Over-emphasis of social responsibility of Christians led to the heretical Social Gospel and liberation theology.

[4] apply our knowledge

The rise of neo-orthodoxy proved that liberal theology has no future; yet, neo-orthodoxy can lead Christians astray.

[5] follow past saints

Conservative theologians recognized the fallacy of liberal theology so they separated from those churches to establish their own orthodox churches and seminaries.



        What were the main teachings of Karl Barth, widely recognized as the most important theologian of the 20th-c? Were they Biblical?

o        Main teachings:

          There is a need to return to faithful exegesis of the Bible. God is transcendent, never an object of human manipulation.

          Theology of Word of God: God’s Word is dynamic rather than static. The old orthodoxy erred by making of God’s word a static object (such as the Bible) which man can analyze and dissect. But God’s Word confronts us not as an object which we can control, but as a subject which controls and acts upon us.

          God’s “revealed word” is the event of God speaking to man and revealing Himself through Jesus Christ. The Bible, God’s ‘written word’, is the witness to the event of God’s revelation. The church, through the “proclaimed word” (in preaching, theology, sacrament), also bears witness to the revealed word.

          The written word and proclaimed word are not themselves revelation. When God chooses, the written and proclaimed word actually become revelation.

o        Most of his teachings are Biblical. However, his idea that the Word of God “contains” revelation but not by itself revelation makes the interpretation of the Bible subjective. In addition, he also had a universalist tendency. Some Evangelicals think that the slight deviation of his theology from orthodox faith is more dangerous than liberalism whose errors can be easily detected.

        In face of rapid secularization in the western society, what were the answers given by: [a] Bonhoeffer, [b] Moltmann, and [c] Bultmann? Were they Biblical?

o        [a] Bonhoeffer: religionless Christianity, close to secular theology

o        [b] Moltmann: theology of hope, concentrating on hope and eschatology, but also joining the struggle against poverty and oppression (leading to liberation theology)

o        [c] Bultmann: demythologization of the NT, de-emphasizing supernatural intervention of God

o        Their teachings contain good and Biblical points not found in the past. But they also lead to later false teachings—universalism from Bonhoeffer, liberation theology from Moltmann, distrust in the Bible from Bultmann.

        Is there any Biblical support toward the government’s policies of organizing a system of social security?

o        The Bible is clear about Christian duty to help the poor. In times of economic downturn, the poor are hit most hardly. Christians must try to alleviate their hardship by all means possible.

o        It is true that a system of social security is a type of socialism, giving the government more power to control our lives. This is a movement exceeding the Biblical mandate for governments. In old times, the poor could rely on their families, friends, and religious organizations to help. Today, in this age, the same source of help is not always available. When the poor are in dire circumstances , the government is the final source of assistance. Therefore, organizing a system of social security is appropriate.

o        However, Christians must be wary of government’s wholesale seizure of power, as governments are always vulnerable to corruption and unwarranted intrusion into our lives, particularly because of the dominating philosophy of secular humanism in today’s society. For example, the governments in the US and Canada have limited freedom of religious expression (but only against Christians) and have forced Christians to accept homosexuality as a normal lifestyle, against Biblical commands.

        Is there any Biblical support for the emphasis by Norman Vincent Peale on positive thinking as leading to mental health and happiness? How about the modern-day health and wealth gospel?

o        The Bible asserts that Christians will receive peace and joy. Therefore it is not erroneous to say that salvation leads to mental health and happiness.

o        Peale’s teaching was erroneous in 3 ways: [a] He put positive thinking as of equal importance with faith. [b] He emphasized only the positive aspects but neglected the responsibility of Christians as a disciple. [c] Mental health and happiness are not predetermined results. People may lose faith if they are not realized.

o        Modern-day health and wealth gospel came out of Peale’s teachings. They are characterized by the same mistakes. The emphasis of physical blessings over spiritual blessings is unwarranted and wrong.

        Can we support: [a] black theology, and [b] feminine theology?

o        Black theology: affirms black reality, hope, and struggle

o        Feminine theology: fighting equality (the right to vote), ordination of women, orthodox corrections of traditional male theology

o        Both movements originated from the Biblical position of human equality. We should support their foundational principles. Even today, we can support the traditional feminists such as the Concerned Women of America.

o        Problems of black theology: Because of past injustice, anything they dislike can be treated as white Christian concepts, to be disregarded or ignored. They also see God as in flux or always changing. Like liberation theology, the greatest problem is their concept of salvation. For them, salvation is physically liberation from white oppression rather than freedom from sin.

o        Problems of feminist theology: They rejected any male imagery in the Bible leading to the heretical teaching of waiting for a “female incarnation of God.” They led to the gender neutral theological terms and concepts such as describing trinity as ‘Mother, Child, and Womb’ and the inaccurate gender-neutral translations of the Bible.

o        In addition, both movements have led to the radical positions—radical black theology emphasizing the victim status and lack of personal responsibility, radical feminists emphasizing struggle with the male sex and anti-family. These we must not support.

        Liberals tend to concentrate on the questions of social and international justice, suffering, hunger, oppression, human rights, and environmentalism. Conservatives tend to concentrate on the questions of orthodox faith, moral values, personal salvation, inerrancy of the Bible. Which side is more Biblical? Do we need to emphasize one set of questions to the exclusion of the other set?

o        The issues emphasized on both sides are legitimate questions of concern for Christians. So both sides can be Biblical. In addition, there is no need to just emphasize any of the issues to the exclusion of all others.

o        However, liberals today behave unbiblically and un-Christianly by their behaviour.

          They support the unbiblical and immoral positions, e.g. pro-abortion, supporting same sex marriage, believing that social work being more important than personal salvation.

          The oppose or at best sacrifice orthodox beliefs, e.g. inerrancy, Jesus as the only salvation.

          They attack conservatives unfairly and side with secularists and atheists.