Protestant neoorthodoxy: origins, essence and influence
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neo-orthodoxy, theology, hermeneutics, Dogmatics, Christology, liberalism, Karl Barth

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Shymanovych, A. (2020). Protestant neoorthodoxy: origins, essence and influence. Multiversum. Philosophical Almanac, 1(1), 108-120.


Since the 19th century liberal historical exegesis made its way into the academic sphere and firmly established itself as one of the leading and dominating methods of perception of biblical texts along with other literary works of the past. After the World War I in the first decades of the 20th century Swiss theologian and Calvinist pastor Karl Barth was the first to make a revaluation of commonly used liberal approaches towards Bible and, as a result, he made a radical U-turn from liberal tendencies in theological and hermeneutical methodology towards reestablishing the value of the protestant tradition of the 16th century Reformation (mainly its Calvinistic version). Along with that Barth also reemphasized the importance of the main doctrinal Christian issues in the field of Triadology, Christology and Antropology. Such movement was called neo-orthodoxy and it gained wide popularity in the departments of theology in many European and American universities since 30s till 50s. The most prominent representatives of neo-orthodox theology are K. Barth, P. Tillich and R. Bultmann, though the theological views and priorities of each of them had their own specific features. For instance, Barth’s emphasis on the concept of “leap of faith” was deeply grounded in the philosophy of S. Kierkegaard, while his colleagues developed more rationalistic and philosophical versions of neo-orthodoxy. The neo-orthodox movement was thoroughly studied from the prospects of theology (E. J. Coffman, S. Grenz, A. E. McGrath, J. Webster, G. Hunsinger), hermeneutics (B. Ramm, K. Vanhoozer, A. Thiselton) and sociology (P. Berger), all of which are taken into account in this paper. Many scholars blamed neo-orthodoxy for its radical transcendence, anti-modernism and non-critical ultra-conservatism. As a result, neo-orthodoxy made a great impact on the contemporary theology but in time (since 60s) it gradually lost its popularity among scholars and was either ousted on the margins of academic life or was transformed into some more immanent, rationalistic and acceptable form. That is why nowadays we are witnessing the new dominance of historical critical approaches to the biblical studies in many departments of theology throughout the world.
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