There's plenty of Mormon doctrine but very little Mormon theology (although SmallAxe at FPR feels differently). That's either good or bad, depending on what you think of theology. But if you're inclined to sample what theology has to offer modern Mormonism — or if you just want to understand modern Christianity a little better — it will be Christian theology you will turn to. Here are a few comments on modern theology (post-Enlightenment) based on material in the last four chapters of Roger E. Olson's History of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform. After a whirlwind summary, I'll add a couple of Mo apps.
Liberal theology followed in the cultural and intellectual wake of the Enlightenment. A simple definition of liberal theology is "maximal acknowledgment of the claims of modernity within a Christian framework" (p. 550). It was built on the philosophical thinking of Hegel and the theological thinking of Schleiermacher. Hegel taught that an immanent God (or World Spirit) worked through history, a view that is obviously very comfortable with both society and progress. Schleiermacher was "the first professional Protestant theologian to call for sweeping changes in Protestant orthodoxy to encounter and come to terms with the Zeitgeist of modernity" (p. 542).
Conservative theology (aka "fundamentalism") was an early 20th-century reaction to the the excesses of liberal theology. While the term "fundamentalism" now has negative connotations, one can hardly object to its initial goal of rescuing essential Christian beliefs from a fatal compromise with modernity that the liberals seemed intent on pursuing. Here's a short paragraph that tries to capture what fundamentalism was about:
[T]he essence of fundamentalist theology may be described as maximal acknowledgment of the claims of Protestant orthodoxy against modernity and liberal theology. Its core attitude and approach is what has been called "maximal conservatism" in Christian theology. Its passion is to defend the verbal inspiration and absolute infallibility (inerrancy) of the Bible as well as all traditional doctrines of Protestant orthodox theology perceived as under attack by modern thought and liberal theology. (p. 555.)
Later, premillenialism and young-earth creationism were added to the fundamentalist worldview, as well as a "literalistic biblical hermeneutic." At every step, fundamentalists were battling the influence of higher biblical criticism and science (particularly evolution) on Christian doctrine and belief. Fundamentalism, and its gentler cousin Evangelicalism, have had a much greater influence in America than in Europe.
Neo-Orthodoxy emerged in the middle of the 20th century as a theological alternative to the extremes and flaws of both liberals and conservatives. It flowed from the thinking of the 20th century's greatest theologian, Karl Barth. Barth rejected the centrality of modernity in both liberal thinking (which embraced it) and orthodoxy (which reacted against it).
There is no simple way to describe what Neo-Orthodoxy held out to transcend the divide between liberals and conservatives. A sense of its rejection of the liberal view can be gleaned from the role of Kierkegaard as a precursor. Neo-Orthodoxy rejected liberal Protestantism the way Kierkegaard rejected Hegel:
The true kingdom of God [said the neo-orthodox thinkers] is eschatological and not historical-cultural. It is not a human possibility ... but a divine ideal set in judgment over against all human achievements. ... Kierkegaard's critique of Hegelian immanentism (God as immanent within the historical evolution of culture) and the cultural Christianity built on it foreshadowed and paved the way for neo-orthodoxy's emphasis on God's transcendence and the purely eschatological nature of God's kingdom. (p. 574-75.)
Finally, when the sixties hit, the center could not hold. Diversity arrived with a vengeance, making theology the unruly mess that it is today. Liberation theology blossomed, and feminist theology was not far behind. There was a short and jarring "death of God" theology preached by some theologians. The conservative side of the spectrum was active as well: Post-Vatican II Catholic thinkers like Karl Rahner and Hans Kung reinvigorated Catholic theology. Fundamentalism got a cultural makeover and emerged as Evangelicalism. What Olson calls "eschatological theology" built on the thinking of two German theologians, Jurgen Moltmann and Walter Pannenberg, who made their own attempt to bring liberal and conservative thinking together. Pannenberg defended the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event; both proclaimed the coming kingdom of God in the historical future, not just as a metaphor or a moral concept.
I'll save reflections on how Mormonism maps onto this theological menu for another post or maybe for the comments. Just one observation: the simple dichotomy we Mormons often see between religious liberal and conservative views — reflected in the terms "liberal Mormon" and "orthodox Mormon" — reflects theological thinking that is fifty to a hundred years old. To really understand how Mormon thinking relates to contemporary Protestant and Catholic thinking requires a much better understanding of what has happened in theology since, say, the Scopes trial. That is quite a task, more work than one might initially expect. I suspect the only Mormons who can really attempt that sort of discussion are those who have taken a graduate degree in religious studies or theology. (That won't stop any determined blogger from taking a shot at it, of course.)