Thursday, April 16, 2015

Demythologizing Debate---Part 6: Bultmann's Reactions

This post continues our series on demythologizing by giving Bultmann, whose essay was the first part, a chance to respond to his German critics: Lohmeyer, SchniewindThielicke, Schumann.

Bultmann's Reaction

... it is important to remember that every interpretation is actuated by the framing of specific questions, and without this there could be no interpretation at all. Of course, these questions need not be frame explicitly or consciously, but unless they are framed the texts have nothing to say to us. (p.191).
Bultmann believes that "the question of human existence" is the right way  to frame Biblical inquiry "at any rate within the Church" (p.192). This contribution to the question is also what drives history, in Bultmann's mind.
For the ultimate purpose in the study of history is to realize consciously the possibilities it affords for the understanding of human existence. (p.192)
Though the existential setup is such that man is oriented toward God, as Bultmann reminds us with St Augustine (p.192), the tools of the exegetical [and hermeneutical, RCK] trade are profane.
Every exeget is dependent upon a terminology which has come down to him by tradition, though it is accepted uncritically and without reflection, and every traditional terminology is in one way or another dependent upon a particular philosophy. (p.193)
Bultmann is looking for an appropriate terminology, without agreeing to the philosophical answers or to the specific solutions of a philosophical system. Bultmann believes that this terminology is abstract from the contents [just as Schumann argues that the myths are capable of expressing Christian truths, RCK].
... apart from the resolve to be a human being, [that is, RCK] a person who accepts responsibility for his own Being, not a single word of Scripture is intelligible as a word with an existential relevance. (p.194)
This is an acceptable approach, because there is an anthropological constant to this process.
Discussion on this subject is possible because every existential self-understanding lies within the possibilities of human existence, and therefore every existentialist analysis based upon an existential self-understanding is generally intelligible. (p.195)
And if the acting of God is in a category different from other worldly action, how can anyone speak about it except if they are affected by it?
... if the action of God is not to be conceived as a worldly phenomenon capable of being apprehended apart from its existential reference, it can only be spoken of by speaking simultaneously of myself as the person who is existentially concerned. (p.196)
This is the reason that natural actions are dependent on the observer in their interpretation.
To every other eye than the eye of faith the action of God is hidden. Only the "natural" happening is generally visible and ascertainable. In it is accomplished the hidden act of God. (p.197)
This is not pantheism, because the identity asserted is "paradoxical", not "direct" (p.197).
In faith I can understand a thought or resolve as something which is the work of God without necessarily removing it from its place in the chain of cause and effect. (p.197)
Bultmann believes Christianity not to be a Weltanschauung, because it requires the constant receptiveness of the believer to hear what God has to say (p.198). Unlike Pantheism, God does not lose the hidden quality.
But from time to time the believer sees concrete happenings in the light of the word of grace which is addressed to him, and then faith can and ought to apprehend it as the act of God, even if its meaning is still enigmatic. (p.198)
The conception of miracles as ascertainable processes is incompatible with the hidden character of God's activity. It surrenders the acts of God to objective observation, and thus makes belief in miracles (or rather superstition) susceptible to the justifiable criticisms of science. (p.199)
To the proclamation of the word of God's grace, as found in the New Testament, man responds by faith (p.200). But that word has to have a specific structure:
It is so only when Scripture is heard as a word addressed personally to ourselves, as kerygma---i.e. when the experience consists in encounter and response to the address. That Scripture is the Word of God is something which happens only in the here and now of encounter; it is not a fact susceptible to objective proof. The Word of God is hidden in Scripture, just like any other act of his. (p.200)
Bultmann also objects to being accused of destroying eschatology (p.205). Bultmann clarifies the relationship between historical event and historical investigation as follows:
That God has acted in Jesus Christ is, however, not a fact of past history open to historical verification. That Jesus Christ is the Logos of God can never be proved by the objective investigation of the historian. (p.207)
The eschatological interpretation of Jesus Christ is not the problem; the cosmic eschatology in which the NT places it (p.208).
The eschato- || logical event, which Christ is, is consequently realized invariably and solely in concreto here and now, where the Word is proclaimed (2 Cor 6:2; Joh 5:24) and meets with faith or unbelief (2 Cor 2:15f; Joh 3:18; Joh 9:39). (pp.208f)
 Though the context of discovery for demythologizing was the scientific world view, Bultmann now sees this need as coming from faith itself.
... the restatement of mythology is a requirement of faith itself. For faith needs to be emancipated from its association with every world view expressed in objective terms, whether it be a mythical or a scientific one. (p.210) 
This is a variant of "justification by faith alone apart from the works of the Law" in the Paulo-Lutheran tradition (p.211).

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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