Describes the rise and fall of liberation theology between as the "dominant tradition" of divinity schools and mainline seminaries.
Clearly Dorrien is a gentle champion Volume I of III. Dorrien is an Episcopal priest. Now we have a fourth contender: Liberal Protestantism succeeded by identifying with bourgeois culture and insinuating its values into American society. Actually, the cultural victory idea is not new. This was the legacy of the Social Gospel, Neuhaus said.
The Making of American Liberal Theology
The mainline pledged itself to the enlightened leadership of the nation, providing religious cover for bourgeois liberalism. It succeeded to the point of making itself dispensable. The mainline was barely thanked for its efforts, and afterwards it fell for liberation theology, because, having lost confidence in its own tradition, the mainline found the terms of its remaining prestige to be unacceptably demeaning.
It was hard to debate neoconservatives without coming off as defensive about the shrinking, shrinking, shrinking trajectory of the churches that they derided. But that reflected that I had as much at stake in this many-sided theological, social ethical, and political argument as they did.
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The new books are coming mostly from scholars who do not carry battle scars from the culture wars. They take a more sanguine view of what happened, suggesting that liberal Protestantism is overdue for some credit. The mainline, for all its faults and illusions, built up a huge stock of cultural capital and helped to unify American society.
It crafted a persuasive rhetoric about modern Christianity and America, and for a while it built an impressive ecumenical national church. For the past half-dozen years I have felt the comeback coming, on the lecture circuit, where conference organizers ask me to represent liberal Protestantism.
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Sometimes the conference is an interreligious conversation sponsored by a Catholic, Jewish, or Evangelical institution. It does not exist at Union Theological Seminary, where I teach. Neither is it spoken at a long list of other former bastions of liberal Protestant theology, including many divinity schools and denominational seminaries.
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Theology versus religious studies is not the issue. These institutions still teach theology, and religious studies too, but we do not say that we are liberal Protestant schools.
Most of us say that we are pluralistic, ecumenical Christian institutions that study the variety of Christian and non-Christian traditions. Roman Catholic institutions have dealt with similar issues and made a similar range of responses. For the formerly liberal Protestant schools, to be identified with liberal Protestantism would smack of provincialism and the cultural presumptions of the mainline from a bygone time. Liberal theology in the early twenty-first century is more diverse, complex, and marginalized than ever before in its history, he concludes, but its essential idea--creating a progressive, credible, integrative third way between orthodox over-belief and secular unbelief--remains as necessary as ever.
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An Episcopal priest, he is the author of eleven books and over one hundred articles that range across the fields of theology, philosophy, social theory, politics, ethics, and history. What would you like to know about this product? Please enter your name, your email and your question regarding the product in the fields below, and we'll answer you in the next hours.
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