Contemporary Christian Thought: a Whirlwind Introduction
A Messy Century (aren't they all?)
Christian thought in the twentieth century goes in many directions: sacramentalist, fundamentalist, revisionist, radical, secular, traditional, synchretist, isolationist, multicultural, missionary, patriotic, high-tech, low-tech, modern, premodern, postmodern ...
Historians lend coherence to any era by sorting, generalizing, and typifying
This course concentrates on major highlights by pursuing four main themes:
Division and Reconciliation (cf. Newbigin)
Protestant Christianity continues to splinter
Political strife and missionary competition injure the unity of Eastern Orthodoxy
Ecumenical movements strive to return to visible Christian unity, and partially succeed
A Long, Conflictual Dialogue with Modernity (cf. Frei, Olson)
What counts as (past and future) history, especially regarding events recorded in the Bible?
Quests for "the historical Jesus"; historical criticism of Israel, Mary, the early Church; Hegel; predictive eschatologies
What is the relationship between nature and supernature?
Liberal/Deistic naturalism; Darwinism; fundamentalistic supernaturalism; Barthian dialogical theology; Catholic neo-Thomism
What is faith, and what is its relationship with reason?
Rationalism; anti-intellectualism; experientialism; postmodern 'perspectivism' and narrative theology
What is the relationship between believers and the modern (political, economic, cultural) world?
Troeltsch's typology; Marxist opposition, Weberian capitalism, individualism, isolationism, Neibuhrian Constantinian realism (nationalism), post-Constantinian sectarianism; liberation and black theology
What is religion? Is it essentially ideological, experiential, practical, political, anything at all?
Lindbeck's typology; modern propositionalism; Schleiermacher's expressivism; Freudian psychology; Wittgenstein's forms of life; Marxist political suspicion
What is the relationship between religion and Christianity?
Christianity as a specific (and equivalent) instance of religion; Christian faith as sui generis (Barth)
What does Christianity look like after modernity?
Demographic Upheavals (cf. Jenkins)
The Church declines in Europe, where "Christendom" ends
Liberalism, fundamentalism, Catholicism, and Pentecostalism grow in America
Christianity survives communism
Traditional, Pentecostal, and new Christianities explode in the developing world
Friction grows with Islam abroad, and now in America
Stability in the Instability (cf. Catechism)
Liturgical change is widespread, but ultimately not revolutionary
For all its differences, the faith in 2000 is much like the faith in 1900
The era closes with a growing sense of the importance of tradition
So any course in 'contemporary Christian thought' is still primarily descriptive of Christian practice