Last summer I returned to Heidelberg, Germany, for the first time in over thirty years. Sitting in an outdoor cafe on the Hauptstrasse, I mused on the great changes that had taken place. Trolleys and automobiles are now banned from central Heidelberg, and the “old city” is a vast shopping mall. I reflected on other, even more significant changes. Back in 1958, when I spent a sabbatical sojourn at the University of Heidelberg, the great theologian Gerhard von Rad was lecturing on “Old Testament Theology.” Students came from all over the world, even from fields like law and medicine, to hear his engaging lectures. Murray Newman (now teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary) and I would retire afterwards to a Bierstube on Main Street to discuss von Rad’s revolutionary approach to Old Testament Theology.
But now the whole scene has changed. The great theological giant von Rad is gone, along with the cars and streetcars. Some maintain that in this new generation we must go beyond his theology to something else. A psalmist reminds us that all human achievements are soon “gone with the wind”: