Living Options in Protestant Theology: A Survey of Methods

By John B. Cobb | Go to book overview

6: Emil Brunner

WHEN NEO-ORTHODOXY, NEO-REFORMATION THEOLOGY, THE NEW BIBLIcal theology, or theological positivism is spoken of in America, the first name that comes to mind is that of Karl Barth. Yet when one undertakes to state the position in question, it is more likely to sound like that of Emil Brunner.

Brunner associated himself so closely with Barth's theology that he was long taken as its spokesman in this country. In 1934, disagreements between them came to focus in public debate,1 but Brunner has ever since then continued to stress their agreements rather than their differences. Only gradually has the full meaning of these differences become clearly apparent.

In approaching Brunner's theological position, we are fortunate that it is available to us in a recently finished systematic form, complete with methodological prolegomenon.2 Brunner's work runs to some 1,200 pages, but in comparison with Barth's monumental and still unfinished opus, it is a model of clarity, brevity, and simplicity. Basically, Brunner's Dogmatics is only a clarification and reorganization of the ideas that he has been expressing for several decades. Hence, it can be used here quite safely as the basis for expounding his general position.

Brunner has formulated his theology as a third way, rejecting both

____________________
1
The essays in question are Brunner's "Nature and Grace" and Barth's No! published in Natural Theology, Baillie, ed.
2
Of the three volumes of Brunner's Dogmatics, the first two, which are most directly relevant to methodological questions, are in English. They constitute Brunner's doctrines of God and of creation and redemption. The third volume, published in Switzerland in 1960, contains his treatment of the Holy Spirit and eschatology. The methodological section of the Dogmatics is supplemented in a valuable way by Revelation and Reason: The Christian Doctrine of Faith and Knowledge. Other books by Brunner have been used only incidentally.

-143-

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Living Options in Protestant Theology: A Survey of Methods
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • 1: the Historic Role of Natural Theology 17
  • 2: the Thomism of E. L. Mascall 33
  • 3: Boston Personalism 60
  • 4: Henry Nelson Wieman 91
  • 5: the Nineteenth-Century Background 121
  • 6: Emil Brunner 143
  • 7: Karl Barth 171
  • 8: What is Existentialism? 199
  • 9: Rudolf Bultmann 227
  • 10: Paul Tillich 259
  • 11: H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr 284
  • Personal Conclusions 312
  • Bibliography 324
  • Index 332
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