Pacesetters For The Radical Theologians Of The 60s And 70s -- By: Vernon C. Grounds

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 18:3 (Summer 1975)
Article: Pacesetters For The Radical Theologians Of The 60s And 70s
Author: Vernon C. Grounds


Pacesetters For The Radical
Theologians Of The 60s And 70s*

Vernon C. Grounds*

Conservative Baptist Seminary, Denver, Colorado 80210

If contemporary theology is like a rushing, muddy river, as indeed it is, a pertinent question naturally arises: how did it ever become so turbulent and turbid? A related question also obtrudes itself: what were the tributaries somewhere upstream which poured themselves into this now swirling flood? An exhaustive answer to these questions would require a study that reached back into the remotest depths of human civilization and ransacked the vast resources of specialized scholarship. But we are at least entitled to say that in the more recent past the potent influences of four men have converged to swell this river. Our task, therefore, is to consider briefly the distinctive input which individually Rudolf Bultmann, Teilhard de Chardin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Paul Tillich have made to the onflowing tide of present day theology.

I. Rudolf Bultman

Born on August 20, 1884, at Wiefeldstede in Oldenburg, Germany, Rudolf Bultmann has spent his entire career in the academic world. He taught at Marburg from 1912 to 1916; then he was assistant professor at Breslau until 1920; very briefly he held the rank of full professor at Giessen, returning to Marburg in 1921, where he remained until his retirement in 1951. Though not a political activist, he supported the Confessing Church during the Hitler era.

An encyclopedic scholar, he moves with competence and distinction, not to say critical creativity, in the fields of Judaism, Old Testament, Biblical Criticism, New Testament studies, classical culture, historical theology, modern science, contemporary theology, and world religions. Let Schubert M. Ogden give an appraisal of his importance.

Rudolf Bultmann is one of the most significant figures on the contemporary theological scene. By whatever criteria one judges such significance—whether quantitative or qualitative, whether with reference to specific areas of concern (i.e., “historical,” “systematic,” or “practical” theology) or to theological inquiry as a whole—his contribution is unchallengeably among the most important of our time. In the course of a long and productive scholarly career, which already spans half a century and still continues with unabated power, he has come to be one of the most decisive influences on the direction of Protestant theology in the

*From a forthcoming Moody Press book (1976) on Options in Contemporary Theology edited by S. Gundry and A. Johnson.

twentieth century. The basic reason for this, undoubtedly, it that to an ex...

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