The complexity of contemporary theology. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 39A – Chapter Thirty-Five “Contemporary Theology Struggles with Diversity” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson

1. What does Prof. Olson mean when he speaks of “metanarratives”? How does he apply this concept to the story of Christian theology in the post-WWII period? What are the negative and positive factors to consider when employing a metanarrative to help explain contemporary Christian theology?

2. Dr. Olson discusses five theological movements in theology. The first discussed is Evangelical Theology. How has this often difficult to define concept (“evangelical”) been used here in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries? How would you define doctrinally those who are most commonly identified as “evangelicals”?

3. How would you describe these two movements: the Puritan-Princeton paradigm of evangelicalism and the Pietist-Pentecostal paradigm? Who were their respective theological forefathers? What do they have in common? Their differences?

4. What was the “most significant change” in Roman Catholic Theology brought about by Vatican II? How did Karl Rahner within the Catholic Church contribute? What did Rahner mean when he spoke of the “supernatural existential” and “anonymous Christianity”?

5. How would you define Process Theology? As you will recall from our earlier chapters in Olson’s book, Hellenistic culture believed “perfection of Being” demanded static Being as change meant imperfection. How have the Process theologians responded to this central Hellenistic concept?

6. John Cobb is cited as a leading Process theologian (see 39B lesson for a Cobb video) . How would you summarize the doctrine of God he and other theologians in this movement advocate? Why does this doctrine appeal to participants in this movement, according to Prof. Olson?

7. In Olson’s final chapter he discusses three liberation theologies: Black Liberation Theology, Latin American – Catholic Liberation Theology, and Feminist Theology. How have these movements, especially Black Liberation Theology, fallen subject to the problems Karl Barth discerned in pre-WWII German theology? (See the second video by David Clough on lesson 38B for an excellent discussion of Barth’s perspective on this issue.)

8. Jurgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg, who return in lesson 39B, are cited as two leading Eschatological theologians. What were the theological goals of these two German theologians? What in Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, a very popular book in the U.S.,  attracted so much attention among Christian readers? Why did Pannenberg’s eschatology stir up the contemporary Christian theology community?

See Lesson 39B for correlated readings

Videos on Jurgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg

Bible Verses for Reflection


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