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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

"Neo" means "new." So when someone chooses to use the word as a prefix to an established religious tradition, you can bet there are changes in store. The idea behind the use of the word is that traditions can easily get cemented in old-fashioned language and cultural habits. Things that made sense hundreds of years ago may sound, to twenty-first-century ears, quaint rather than intrinsically important.

Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), for instance, thought the world was created over the course of one week in October in the year 4004 BCE (see Creationism). That was the orthodox view of his day, the early 1600s. Today there are people who disagree with his date, but not necessarily with his ideas about a higher power behind the creation of the universe. So they want to maintain certain Christian principles while updating their interpretation. In other words, they seek a "new" orthodoxy for today that unites eternal scriptural principles with modern scientific discoveries.

In the same way, orthodox pagans of ancient Europe probably personified deities of mountain and forest. Neo-pagans today are more apt to think in terms of nonpersonal forces at work in the cosmos. These powers are as real as gravity and electricity, but, unlike the ancient deities, they don't have faces and don't speak in an audible voice.

So whenever "neo" precedes a term describing a belief system, it reflects an attempt to maintain that belief system's underlying philosophical structure, perhaps even its practical application, while rethinking its language and cultural images.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
She shows that Pieris and Wickremasinghe were able to find more adequate ways of relating to religious plurality by moving away from neo-orthodoxy and Kraemer's highly contested understanding of religions.
Neo-orthodoxy was passe in theology and theologians were debating the death of God.
In so doing he carefully situates himself between the critical camps of (Western) postmodernist anti-theism and (Russian) post-Soviet neo-Orthodoxy, respectful of the ideological framework of both, while not shirking the critical disdain of either.
The creation myth theory of neo-orthodoxy stipulates that the creation is a myth.
In the theological universe of the first three decades of the twentieth century, when many German Protestant theologians were busily demythologizing Jesus of Nazareth and developing more individualistic, subjectivist interpretations of the Gospel (interpretations that, strikingly, also ultimately facilitated accommodation with Nazism), Barth caused a sensation by advancing a neo-orthodoxy that insisted on the radical Otherness of God, in the face of which all human reasoning was inevitably puny and wrongheaded.
Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and other leaders of last century's "neo-orthodoxy" see Schleiermacher as the headwater of a stream of culture-Protestantism, the progenitor of a theological movement that ended up accommodating itself to the culture around it and having no critical leverage against it.
It reads easily, but the author uses terms like "dispensationalist" and "neo-orthodoxy" an expectation that readers will be familiar with them.
New forms of Jewish religious life developed in the United States: a Reform Judaism quite distinct from its German antecedents, though always growing in their shadow, (4) an observant neo-orthodoxy that represented a fresh synthesis unparalleled in Jewish history; and a freshly minted Conservative Judaism that expressly tried to mediate between the old and the new, between Jewish law and American opportunity, meanwhile creating an absolutely new version of Judaism with only the faintest of approximate historical antecedents, all the while claiming to be the most authentic of all possible Jewish theologies.
Yet with Roosevelt it is possible to be critical and credulous: in economic terms the record of the New Deal was arguably no greater than that of the National government in Britain, whose policies of neo-orthodoxy and Imperial Preference were seemingly the opposite of the New Deal's quasi-Keynesianism.
The answer, as Professor Marry well knows, is that there was plenty of it, in the popular form of Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism and in the intellectual movement of neo-orthodoxy, each of which he ultimately treats at some length.
Niebuhr sought to position himself somewhere between the liberalism of Schleiermacher and the neo-orthodoxy of Barth, as he understood these.