AFTER FUNDAMENTALISM: The Future of Evangelical Theology by Bernard L. Ramm

AFTER FUNDAMENTALISM: The Future of Evangelical Theology

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Despite a certain ungainliness and naivetÉ, this survey of the work of Karl Barth from an Evangelical perspective makes some solid and suggestive points. Professor Ramm (American Baptist Seminary of the West) has good conservative credentials in theology, but he argues here that the Fundamentalist war against modernity is both a lost cause and an exercise in hypocrisy (since Fundamentalists make heavy yet highly selective use of modern rationality and technology). As Ramm secs it, thinking Christians have to avoid the extremes of liberalism and obscurantism. The whole liberal tradition, up to Bultmann and beyond, embraces the Enlightenment so indiscriminately that it ceases to be Christian, while Fundamentalism resists the Enlightenment so blindly that it's bound to have a painful collision with reality (e.g., evolution). One way out of this dilemma lies in the intellectually responsible orthodoxy expounded in Barth's monumental Church Dogmatics. Barth, for example, insists on the uniqueness of ""salvation history,"" on its ultimate irreducibility to the canons of secular history, but he remains open to the findings of scientific biblical scholarship, and he admits the presence of error, even theological error, in the Scriptures. Here and elsewhere Barth exemplifies what Ramm quaintly calls a ""split-ticket theology""--unshaken loyalty to the Reformers' exaltation of the Word of God, combined with awareness of the ""diastasis"" between It and the radically imperfect text that post-Kantian, post-Marxist, post-Freudian Christians have to read, Ramm has some reservations about Barth (too purely Christological, too friendly towards universalism), though not many. Theologians may occasionally find Ramm embarrassing (as when he devotes a straight-faced appendix to proving Barth's superiority over the insignificant Lewis Sperry Chafer) and laypeople may be put off by Barth's rigidly Continental-philosophical framework, but this book makes a case that every thoughtful Evangelical should consider.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row