Karl Barth opposes both liberals and fundamentalists as he builds a Neo-Orthodox theology. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 38A – Chapter Thirty-Four “Neo-Orthodoxy Transcends the Divide” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson
1. Some neo-orthodox thinkers have referred to Fundamentalism’s “paper pope”. Who is this “pope”? What led to this designation; that is, how did this come about? How do the neo-orthodox theologians view the “Word of God” relative to the words of the Bible? If the Bible “is not a set of divinely revealed propositions”, as Prof. Olson describes the neo-orthodox perspective on scripture, what is it?
2. Prof. Olson points out that “the essence of neo-orthodoxy lies in its unique concept of divine revelation”. How would you summarize their position, this “essence”? How did this position contrast with Schleiermacher’s?
3. Barth and his followers, according to Olson, “discovered” Kiekegaard and his writings and applied his insights in their theology as they analyzed the deficiencies of both the liberals and the defenders of Protestant orthodoxy. What specifically in Kierkegaard was most useful to the neo-orthodox thinkers, that is, how was he adapted to their theological purposes?
4. Karl Barth wrote a commentary The Epistle to the Romans and later restated in an essay the thesis that guided his approach to Romans. How would you summarize this basic thesis? How for Barth could the term “self-authenticating” be used when discussing the gospel?
5. What was the prevailing liberal perspective on revelation that neo-orthodox theologians rejected? What was the fundamentalist perspective? What does Deus dixit mean and how does it relate to this debate? What is the “scandal of particularity” in this context? What was Barth’s perspective on the claim that the Bible was “propositional revelation”? How did Barth assess “biblical inerrancy”?
6. How would you summarize Barth’s doctrine of God? What is the central paradox he identifies in our understanding of God’s attributes? In light of classical Christian theism and its formulation of a doctrine of God, what is “radical” in Barth’s theology, as Olson describes it?
7. What is most significant in Barth’s doctrine of salvation? Was Barth an Origenist? Why is this an ambiguous issue? How does his dialectical theology influence this issue of ambiguity?
8. What is the legacy of neo-orthodoxy?
See Lesson 38B for correlated readings
Videos on Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Bible Verses for Reflection