Not Dead Yet

A Review of 'Reinventing Liberal Christianity'

Reinventing Liberal Christianity
Theo Hobson
Eerdmans, $30, 327 pp.

Theo Hobson believes that liberal theology disintegrated decades ago and needs to be reinvented. The last liberal theologians worth mentioning, in his telling, were Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, both of whom did their major work over half a century ago. Every noteworthy theologian since their time has “dismissively” rejected the liberal tradition—and even Niebuhr and Tillich attacked liberal theology for its idealism, rationalism, and sentimentality. Hobson, a Cambridge-trained theologian who has written extensively about reform in the Anglican Church, allows that there are still a few liberal theologians out there, but they are either “dispersed among single-issue theologies” or reduced to “low profile” invisibility. In the academy and the church, he says, “identity politics has conquered all.” This judgment covers both Britain, where Hobson grew up and was educated, and the United States, where he now lives.

According to Hobson, three theologians have broken the stranglehold of identity politics to win recognition and influence the field of theology: the U.S. American theological ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, who is loosely connected to Yale School “postliberal” theology, and British theologians John Milbank and Rowan Williams, who are leaders of the Radical Orthodoxy movement. (Williams was also...

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About the Author

Gary Dorrien teaches at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. His book Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit: The Idealistic Logic of Modern Theology (Wiley-Blackwell) won the American Association of Publishers’ PROSE Award.