The “Social Gospel” In The “Theology Op Crisis” -- By: Werner Petersmann

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:349 (Jan 1931)
Article: The “Social Gospel” In The “Theology Op Crisis”
Author: Werner Petersmann


The “Social Gospel” In The “Theology Op Crisis”

Werner Petersmann, Ph.D.

I.
Emil Brunner’s American Lectures and the “American” Question: the Problem of the Social Gospel.

The American reader now possesses authentic writings of the ‘Theologians of Crisis’ in English. There is firstly Douglas Horton’s translation of Karl Barth’s addresses on “The Word of God and the Word of Man’ (1928). Perusing the pages of this debut one felt, however, more like having been ‘hit squarely between the eyes with a particularly solid mallet wielded by a particularly heavyhanded mallet-wielder’, than getting clear and thorough fontal information. Though Professor Gustav Krueger-Giessen, on his lecture tour in America, had also recommended this book for translation as containing the quintessence of Barthian thought (cf. The Harvard Theol. Review July 1926), it could not satisfy completely. Its style and way of presentation is quite heavy, burdened with paradoxes and cryptograms characteristic of the “Prophet of the Absolute.” It presents merely a bouquet of single, occasional articles instead of an organically systematic introduction; preaching challenges rather than scholarly lectures, compiled from very different periods of Barth’s theological development (1916–1923). Above all, it is addressed to the German conditions, not to the American reader in his American environment. .

We therefore welcome the ‘Theology of Crisis’ by Barth’s fellow-worker Emil Brunner, the ‘Systematic Theologian’ of the movement. It reproduces in the old reliable ‘radio’ of print the live lectures delivered 1928 at seven different American Seminaries by this former fellow of the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, 1919–1920, who certainly was just the one to render this service. Here we have now an authentic, scholarly, clear and simple introduc-

tion into, and the fundamental appeal of, that new-reformational theology to the American public, addressed to the American student in his peculiar American situation. Does is really satisfy him? Does he get all the essential information he desires? Does he get above all a sufficient answer to the peculiar ‘American’ question, the problem of the ‘Social Gospel’?

II.
Postulate of a ‘regenerated’ ‘Social Gospel’.

Prom the previous reviews, treatments and discussions of this new-reformational ‘biblicism’ it seems to be the first and fundamental impression, and seems to have become a ‘dogma’ already, that the ‘Theology of Crisis’ tears to pieces the ‘Social Gospel’ and is thoroughly destructive to all social ethical activism, as it...

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