Neo-orthodoxy is a theological approach that arose following World War I in response to the liberal Protestantism of the early Twentieth Century. It was popularized by two major European theologians, Karl Barth and Emil Brunner.
Neo-orthodoxy emphasizes the revelation of God Himself as the source and foundation of Christian beliefs. In other words, rather than reason or Scripture as the foundation of belief, the teaching is that God Himself is the revelation. Barth was known for popularizing the idea of revelation being "the Word within the word" rather than Scripture itself as the focus. The focus on the transcendence of God and His being "wholly other" stood as a point of importance.
The term "Neo-orthodoxy" developed because some Reformed writers saw this approach to God and theology as a new form of orthodoxy in contrast with the liberal Protestantism that was common in European theological studies at that time. While this was an accurate description, many theologians dispute whether the views of Neo-orthodoxy are fully orthodox in comparison with biblical teachings.
Neo-orthodoxy teaches that the Scripture is a communicator or medium revealing God rather than being revelation by itself. The Word of God is Jesus Himself rather than Scripture serving as God's Word. The emphasis is on an encounter with God rather than a focus on the inspired words of Scripture. While it is true that Scripture communicates revelation about God, Scripture itself teaches that its words are "God-breathed" or an extension of God Himself. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
Some have attempted to teach that Neo-orthodoxy is a middle ground between liberalism and evangelicalism. However, this is not completely accurate as the views of Neo-orthodoxy stand on their own and have never sought to provide any such bridge. Instead, it is perhaps better to evaluate Neo-orthodoxy by its own descriptions as a worldview that affirms parts of biblical teachings, while neglecting others.
In addition, the focus on an encounter with Jesus as emphasized in Neo-orthodoxy must be based on the teachings found in the Bible itself. Romans 10:17 (NIV) teaches that, "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." The facts upon which a person believes and comes to faith in Christ are rooted in historical actions affirmed by the early Christians as being of primary importance (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
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