Neo-liberal theology in the thought of Walter Marshall Horton
Mountcastle, William W.,1925-
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The problem of this dissertation is to contribute to the drafting of a more precise definition of the term "neoliberalism." It centers in the thought of Walter Marshall Horton, who is an outstanding contributor to the development of such a theology. The following method is employed: (1) Horton's theological biography is presented. (2) A working criterion of neo-liberalism is established on the basis of the thought of John C. Bennett and L. Harold DeWolf whom Horton cites as examples of neo-liberals. (3) A criterion of liberalism is established on the basis of the thought of the important American liberal theologians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (4) An intensive study of Horton's thought (1919 to 1958) is made and all liberal, non-liberal, and post-liberal elements are identified. (5) His thought is related to the liberal and neo-liberal criteria in order to determine its relation to the old and new liberalism. (6) Horton's thought is summarized with regard to the liberal and non-liberal elements and evaluated as to originality. The dissertation concludes with a definition of neo-liberalism. The chronological analysis of Horton's thought shows how his mature thought combines liberal, non-liberal, and postliberal elements. His method combines the use of reason with an emphasis upon the importance of Biblical revelation. His doctrine of God recognizes both the personal love and the holy wrath of God. In his doctrine of man he balances "titanism" and "nihilism." His Christology is liberal with regard to the Incarnation but tends toward nee-orthodoxy in ita emphasis upon the objective factor in the Atonement and the doctrine of the Parousia. His doctrine of the Church draws heavily on data from the ecumenical movement and reveals a high regard for Catholic concepts. His doctrine of the Kingdom of God includes both liberal activism and orthodox eternalism. The manner in which Horton has drawn these various elements into one comprehensive theology closely parallels the efform of Bennett and DeWolf. The conclusion is that Horton's thought is predominantly liberal but merits the prefix "neo" for two reasons. (1) The incorporation of many of the elements of the older liberalism into his mature thought witnesses to the fact that liberalism is making a "new" appearance, i.e., appearing again. In this sense, Horton's thought is not original but "new" to much contemporary thought. (2) The outstanding characteristic of Horton's mature thought is the balancing of liberal, neeorthodox, and Catholic concepts. This re-stating and modifying of liberal ideas within an ecumenical framework witnesses to the fact that liberalism is appearing in a new guise. The fact that Horton's thought, though basically liberal, has been greatly enriched by ideas from non-liberal sources, justifies his appropriation of the term neo-liberal. The similarity of his thought to that of Bennett and DeWolf suggests that the term can serve as a common label for their systems. Neo-liberalism is a theological system which retains the characteristic features of the older liberalism, e.g., respect for human reason and concern that men respond actively to the ideal of the Kingdom, but has been enriched by emphases derived from neo-orthodox thought, e.g., regard for the seriousness of human sin and recognition of the eternal dimensions of the Kingdom that transcends history, and Catholic theology, e.g., recognition of the importance of the Church and insistence upon its essential unity, and is especially marked by an ecumenical quality, e.g., appreciation for the contributions which all the branches of the Church can make to the continuing world-wide conversation between the churches.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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