Question: "What is contemporary theology?"
Answer: Contemporary theology is generally defined as a study of theology and theological trends from post-World War I to the present. Roughly covering the twentieth century to today, the major categories typically addressed by contemporary theology include fundamentalism, neo-orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, evangelicalism, neo-liberalism, Post-Vatican II Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox theology of the twentieth century, and the Charismatic Movement.
In addition to these larger categories, contemporary theology also deals with specialized areas such as liberation theology, feminist theology, and various ethnic theologies. With the wide variety of credos involved, few scholars would claim to serve as “experts” in contemporary theology. Rather, the trend is to specialize in one or more areas of contemporary theological research.
A more recent branch of contemporary theology is the study of interfaith dialogue. Historic Christian theology is compared with the worldviews of non-Christian belief systems as the basis for dialogue between different faiths. Recent pursuits have focused on the shared values between two or more faiths, such as the “Abrahamic Faiths” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) or Eastern Religions (including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christian movements such as the underground Chinese Church).
Contemporary theology is primarily a field of academic scholarship. As such, it addresses intellectual challenges facing theology, including science, social issues, and religious practices. While many contemporary theologians share a Christian heritage, not all do. In fact, many agnostic or even atheist scholars have entered the field and are teaching their views regarding faith and belief in contemporary society.
For the Bible-believing Christian, contemporary theology is import, as it traces the development of beliefs in recent history. However, it is critical to realize that contemporary theology often departs from traditional Christian theology when it evaluates faith in the context of various social movements or in comparison with other belief systems. Adhering to a biblical worldview is not usually the goal.
Those who want to understand what God’s Word teaches on today’s important topics can find helpful information in wide variety of contemporary theological materials. However, the Bible itself does not change. It is the standard of truth for the believer, both now and forever (1 Timothy 3:16-17).
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