Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BETS 11:3 (Summer 1968) p. 152
Understanding God: The Key Issue in Present-Day Protestant Thought. By Frederick Herzog. New York: Scribner’s Trinity, 1966. 191 pp. $4.50. Reviewed by John W. Montgomery, Trinity Evangelical Divinity school, Deerfield, Illinois.
Even the most theologically unsophisticated layman is aware of the radical revolution going on in current Protestant thought. Death-of-God theologians Altizer and Hamilton, situation ethicists Fletcher and Rhymes, and popular advocates of a secular Christianity such as Robinson and Pike have made the national news media with increasing frequency. Clearly, in spite of all the hoopla, these new emphases reflect vitally important underlying shifts in Protestant theological orientation. Professor Herzog of the Duke Divinity School has written his first book in an endeavor to understand, interpret, and constructively criticize the theological roots of the current radical theology. His approach has four foci: the problem of God (as raised by the theothan-atologists); the post-Bultmannian “New Quest” (James M. Robinson, et al.); the related problem of acquiring a “historico-ontological hermeneutic (Fuchs, Ebeling), illustrated especially by the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel; and the ethical issue as displayed in nonviolence and the new morality. In a concluding chapter, Herzog seeks to pull the four strands together, thereby expressing “the present-day task of systematic theology”: “In the diakonic word and the diakonic deed Jesus’ words take on new meaning today… Perhaps we are seeking for a new articulation of the Name we have known all along.”
Bewildered we are, but this book is not going to reduce the confusion; if anything, it is going to increase it. The reason is not primarily its technical and scholarly flaws (its discussion of the post-Bultmannian New Quest with no mention at all of Conzelmann or Kasemann, mere en passant reference to Bornkamm, and woefully inadequate treatment of Pannenberg); the difficulty chiefly lies in the fact that the author has become so mesmerized by the jargon of contemporary theology that he allows verbal formulations to substitute for clear thinking.
Had Herzog confronted in depth (instead of relegating to footnotes) theologians such as Hick and Ian Ramsey, who have been applying the insights of analytical philosophy to contemporary theological problems, he might have been able to find his way out of the semantic thicket of unrecognized metaphysical a priori that vitiates most mainline theological investigation today. Similar benefits would have accrued if the author had entered into meaningful dialogue with orthodox theologians, whether Anglo-Catholic or evangelical. Both the analytical and the orthodox theologians would have reminded Herzog that...
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