What do Niebuhr, Barth, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer, and Tillich have in common? More than you might imagine.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rudolf Bultmann, and Paul Tillich are the most well-known Protestant theologians of the twentieth-century. All downplay the mythical worlds of heaven and hell. The eschaton is now; we have already been saved by Christ’s intervention in history; he need not come again. What we have to do is live up to what we have been given gratis. Bultmann, Bonhoeffer, and Barth hold this view most strongly, Niebuhr less so, and I’m ignoring important differences among them.
Bultmann and Barth come to this view because there is nothing left but faith. If we regard the Bible as historically bound, while at the same time conveying an essential truth, then that truth must be known by faith alone. The Bible provides symbols, such as the cross, to help us discover and express that faith.