Thursday, April 16, 2015

Demythologizing Debate---Part 5: Schumann

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


Schumann sets out with summarizing Bultmann's argument (p.175). Schumann sees Bultmann as arguing that an interpretation of the mythical framework must come from principles inside the New Testament that avoid abandonment or subtraction of the mythology.
... the interpretation [of the mythical parts, RCK] must be derived from the New Testament itself, from the aim which led it to select just these mythological elements. Now, the aim of the New Testament is to offer an existential understanding of the message of Christ. (p.176)
In short, it [i.e. the true and authentic life, RCK] means "eschatological existence".  Such an interpretation appears to have two advantages: first, it secures the essential truth of the New Testament message, and secondly it emancipates it from myth, and particularly from the eschatology of Jewish apocalyptic and Gnosticism. [sic!] (p.177)
Schumann reminds us of Bultmann's attempt to preserve the mythical figure of the Christ as a historical figure through Jesus of Nazareth.
Thus the peculiarity of the New Testament is that it speaks in mythological language of an historical figure and of the history of || that figure. (pp.178f)
Schumann then rightfully asks,
Why is it necessary to transcend the language of history in this peculiar way ["in this particular instance", RCK]? (p.179)
The question is therefore whether the mythological language is the only possible vehicle for conveying the meaning of Jesus for salvation history, .... (p.179)
The "acutest form" of this question poses itself with respect to "the proper language for the cross and resurrection of Jesus" (p.179), as the crucifixion designates a historical event, but its significance is mythical. Bultmann's solution is to regard the crucifixion as "the eschatological event" (p.180). The problem then, according to Schumann, becomes how we know that this particular historical event is supposed to be treated in this fashion.
So in attempting to emancipate the cross from mythology we are thrown back to a similar question with regard to the resurrection. (p.180)
Bultmann then points to the "inseparable unity of the cross and resurrection" (p.180), which Schumann agrees with, but finds as merely adding "to our difficulties" (p.180), because the redemptive quality of the cross is not established through the resurrection, but is termed to be equivalent to it, and this is indicated through the way it is preached, that is "proclaimed" in Bultmann's word (p.181).

This brings Schumann directly to the problem of whether the modern system of science permits such a notion as an eschatological event (p.182), even if it is, with Bultmann, "an historical event wrought out in time and space" (quoted (p.182)). Schumann believes that Bultmann understands that this is the residual paradox of the New Testament.
... the idea of a single historical event in time and space as the judgement pronounced by God over the historical process in time and space and the radical transformation of its whole constitution is inconceivable for those who accept the modern world view, and it would be impossible to make such a notion intelligible in terms of such a view. (p.182)
Bultmann in Schumann's reconstruction accuses mythology from attempting to supply "secular proof" for something that is eschatological, i.e. immune to such proof (p.182).

Schumann then turns to key points of methodology (p.184).

Schumann is unconvinced that the fit between philosophical theories of existence and fallenness on the one side and the Christian view of this situations, which is only mediated in Christ, have enough overlap (pp.184f).
To be fallen to "nothingness" is quite different from being fallen to sin and guilt and being fallen under the wrath of God. (p.185)
Schumann is skeptical of Bultmann's optimism that a formal description of the human condition can be had independent of personal existential attitudes thereof (p.185), and is convinced at least that Heidegger did not succeed in providing such a formal description (p.185). The Bible at least, in the phrase "created in the image of God", denies that man's Being can be described independent of his relationship to God (p.186).

Schumann prefers to interpret the mythological speech, such as Jesus calling God his father, by treating it as metaphorical speech, analyzing the relation between the literal meaning and the relevant features of the relationship between Jesus and God. (p.190) [[RCK: This is very akin to Barth's God as the original father argument.]]

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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