Hope, History and Redemption in the Theology of Richard Roberts (1874-1945)

Michael Bourgeois
2003 Toronto Journal of Theology  
While World War I catalyzed the crisis of theological liberalism early in the twentieth century, the crisis had begun well before the summer of 1914. Both contemporary commentators and later historians have pointed to various factors precipitating this crisis, including the rise of secularization, the reassessment of earlier understandings of the relationships among theological, historical and scientific knowledge, and the consequent breakdown of certainty in religious truth, all of which were
more » ... lready apparent by the turn of the century. Nevertheless, World War I sharpened the crisis of theological liberalism, largely because of the shock to previously held convictions about the inevitability of progress and the perfectibility of humanity. In the years during and after the war, many pastors and theologians spoke of the "disintegration" or even the "death" of liberalism. Some looked to the emerging "neo-orthodox" theologies of Barth and Brunner in Europe and the Niebuhrs in North America for theological resources adequate to the crises of the time. Others worked to articulate a theology that retained what they regarded as liberalism's enduring strengths, both discarding the weaknesses of liberalism and rejecting what they regarded as the shortcomings of neo-orthodoxy. 1 As John Bennett wrote in 1933, "Whatever the new theology may be which is to take the place of liberalism, of one thing I am sure: it will not be any of the other systems of theology which now have names." 2 One way in which some worked out their theological reassessments in these decades was through debates about the place of violence and non-violence in Christian life and the implications for theologies of hope, history and redemption. These debates intensified as Europe moved towards war again in the late 1930s. In its winter through summer issues of 1940, the American quarterly
doi:10.3138/tjt.19.2.157 fatcat:vtnundg4jndbhgxacnn3iycecq