Monday, April 13, 2015

Demythologizing Debate---Part 2: Schniewind

This post continues our series on demythologizing by looking to parts of Julius Schniewind's rejoinder to Bultmann, whose essay was the first part, for deeper insights.

Julius Schniewind

In Part VII of his critique, Schniewind faces some of the terminological problems of Bultmann. 
"Historic" existence is contrasted with "nature". Nature is the sphere of the demonstrable and calculable, the realm of causality. "Historic" being, on the other hand, is realized in decision (p.11) and resolve (p.22). 
Schniewind then goes on to extend that definition excavated from Bultmann.
Nature, we may add, is always consistent, and is therefore patient of experimental research. History, on the other hand, is characterized by Either/Or, and therefore bears the stamp of uniqueness, contingency and spontaneity. (p.76)
Bultmann had argued in the discussion with Thielicke that
... we know that the act of God is what it claims to be only when we realize that it happened pro me. (cited (p.77))
The paradox of the Christian Gospel is just this---those events are present realities although they belong to past history. (cited (p.77)) 
Schniewind largely agrees with Bultmann.
... faith is soemthing given "in with and under" the testimony of the cross and resurrection. ... The event of salvation is valid for all time; it is a permanent Now. For here is the unique and final revelation of God. (p.78)
But Schniewind worries that Bultmann's sense of eschatological is too wide, covering all of religious experience, not just the "last things" as the literal meaning would suggest (p.78).

Schniewind then goes on to criticize the temporal structure with which Bultmann operates. To Schniewind, the present, the now,
... is never an object of possession: it is the mathematical point between the past and the future. (p.81)
Schniewind equally objects to the identification of the present with the eschatological (p.81).
Eschatology deals with the telos, with the meaning and the goal of the time process, not with the eternal present. (p.81)
Here, Schniewind and Bultmann pass company on their interpretation of the Gospel of John, which is not illuminative to the problem at hand.
Schniewind also challenges Bultmann's notion, that the "historic" (geschichtlich)  can be defined as decision, because of the event separation within the decision of the before and after.
... both decisions and events imply a time-process rather than an immediate and unconditional present. (p.82)
Schniewind then turns to the problem, how Geschichte and Historie relate to each other, a problem that he traces back to at least Martin Kähler (p.82).
Geschichte means the mutual encounter of persons, Historie the causal nexus in the affairs of men. The latter is the subject matter of historical science, which seeks to divest itself of all presuppositions and prejudices and to establish objective facts. Geschichte, on the other hand, cannot achieve such impartiality, for the encounter which it implies vitally affects our personal existence: it demands resolve and decision, yes or no, love or hate. (p.82)
[[RCK: One wonders where Schniewind got that distinction of Geschichte and Historie from, maybe this is Kähler 1892, like Schniewind writes; cf. (p.82).]]

Schniewind now denies that it possible to "run away" from the relativism of Historie to Geschichte, as Bultmann seems to do (p.83).
We cannot reject Historie because it is not vitally present for us and accept Geschichte because it is so. (p.83)
[The, RCK] ...  inseparability of the historic-contingent and the historical-relative reappears in historical research on the level of scientific thought. The mainspring of historical research is historic encounter, and the uniqueness of events, whether singly or collectively. On the other hand, all historical research worth the name leads simply in the pursuit of its pre- || cision work to the question of decision, to the historic encounter. (pp.83f)
Schniewind then loses steam and returns to the preservation of the "skandalon" (p.86) in Bultmann's reconstruction.
Bultmann says .... commenting on the mythoi of the Pastoral Epistles, that every religion rejects the claims of its opposite numbers as myths, and claims absolute truth for itself. (p.86)
Instead, Schniewind ends up reconstructing a different anthropological constant, the desire for rebirth, which he finds even in Indian philosophy (p.94).

Bultmann's Reply

Eschatology tells us the meaning and the goal of the time process, but that answer does not consist in a philosophy of history, like pantheism, where the meaning and goal of history are to be seen in each successive moment, or like the belief in progress, where the goal is realized in a future Utopia, or myth, which offers an elaborate picture of the end of the world.  (p.116)
Indeed, eschatology is not at all concerned with the meaning and goal of secular history, for secular history belongs to the old aeon, and therefore can have neither meaning nor goal. It is concerned rather with the meaning and goal of the history of the individual and of the eschatological community. (p.116)
Bultmann is also very clear on the kerygmatic, non-historical style of the New Testament.
Neither St Paul nor St John mediate an historic encounter with the historic Jesus. Even if the synoptic gospels appear to do so, that is only when they are read in the light of the historical problems which have arisen since their day, not when they are read in their original sense. (p.117)
To understand Jesus as the eschatological phenomenon ... is to proclaim that he has come, and that is what St John does so clearly. (p.117) 

Bibliographic Record

Rudolf BULTMANN, Ernst LOHMEYER, Julius SCHNIEWIND, Helmuth THIELICKE, Austin FARRER, Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, edited by Hans Werner BARTSCH, translated by Reginald HORACE, New York -- Evanston (Harper and Row), 1961.

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