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Directory of Neo-Orthodoxy Resources

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Neo-Orthodoxy, a stream of 20th century Protestant theology which attempted to recover some essential elements of Reformation theology, notably emphasis on the sovereignty and grace of God, human sinfulness, and the primacy of revelation through Scripture. Karl Barth (1886-1968), Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), Helmut Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962), and Emil Brunner (1889-1965), while differing from one another in some important respects, are influential voices in this stream. Neo-orthodox theology, forged in the crucible of post-World WarI Europe and refined there and in the United States during the World War II years, strongly criticized aspects of 19th and early 20th century liberal theology, liberalism's emphasis on the immanence of the divine in the human spirit, its tendency to view sin as a result of ignorance or natural impulse rather than willful wrong, and its optimistic view of history as a progressive overcoming of evil and gradual building of the kingdom of God. The publication of Karl Barth's book on the Epistle to the Romans in 1918 (English trans., 1922) marked the beginning of neo-orthodox theology. Concerned about theology's turn to the human subject, a direction set by Friederich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) early in the 19th century, Barth asserted in Romans that the starting point for theology is not humankind or human thoughts about God, but God and God's Word. Revelation, not religious experience, is the foundation of theology.


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