According to Rudolf Bultmann, God is the Totaliter Aliter (Wholly Other), there are no points of contact between us and him. God is, but we cannot know him objectively. God is hidden and thus neither God nor his actions are open to verification. This world is a closed system of cause and effect; we can never find God by empirical processes. There are no breaks in the links of causation; thus, there are no miracles. No event can ever be ascribed to God; all are natural causes. There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and the world, which makes it impossible for God to objectively act in the world. Paradoxically, the hidden God reaches down to finite humanity and reaches himself (via the kerygma). Miracles would be intrusions of God into the natural realm.
Definition: That step forward in which one allows his reason to move along with the movement of the Truth in order to acquire the mode of rationality for apprehending the Truth that moves and lives and acts upon us in history.
More about the term: The Reformation opened up the historical perspective of understanding and initiated a historical mode of thinking, due as much as anything else to the Old Testament studies. However, the Reformation did not have the philosophical or intellectual tools with which to consolidate that insight and elaborate the change in method, and so Protestant theology soon fell back upon the old Aristotelian tools of thought. Consequently the development of historical thinking was severely retarded. When it did finally break out, however, it developed in two ways, each involving a fundamental error at the root, i.e. the historical thinking of the Enlightenment on the one hand and of Romanticism on the other hand. It is this duality that is ultimately responsible for the false problem in which the Dilthey-Troeltsch-Herrmann-Bultmann line of thought is entangled in their distinction between Historie and Geschichte.
Definition: God’s gift, the call of the Gospel, whereby a person can come out of bondage and can now become an authentic self.
More about the term: This was predominately advocated and used by Rudolph Bultmann. Kerygma is the means by which one can come back to his or herself into authenticity out from the fallen self. It allows for the transition from seeking to establish a worldly security leading to the one’s desire to live totally unto God. The kerygma is given as a gift. It is the power to overcome inauthenticity, estrangement, and the ability to obey the Gospel call and to obey God.
General summary of his theology: Bultmann’s theology is quite faceted but for this Theology Thursday I’m just going to focus on his view on miracles. The early and mid 20th century theologian Rudolph Bultmann argued that “man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world… the modern conception of human nature as a self-subsistent unity immune from the interference of supernatural powers must take its place.” According to Bultmann God is the Wholly Other, there are no points of contact between us and him. God is, but we cannot know him objectively. God is hidden and thus neither God nor his actions are open to verification. This world is a closed system of cause and effect; we can never find God by empirical processes. There are no breaks in the links of causation; thus, there are no miracles. No event can ever be ascribed to God; all are natural causes. There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and the world, which makes it impossible for God to objectively act in the world. Paradoxically, the hidden God reaches down to finite humanity and reaches himself (via the kerygma). Miracles would be intrusions of God into the natural realm.
The more I study recent theologians the more I discover how much Newton and Kant permeate modern philosophy and theology. Kant reshaped knowledge to his twelve categories of the mind and the two intuitions of space and time from Newton. Many 18th, 19th and 20th century theologians denied God’s immanence and activity in creation and over-emphasized God’s transcendence. It wasn’t until the rise of Einstein and relativity did the relationship of science and religion be rekindled. Rudolf Bultmann denied miracles and embraced science and had much esteem for it. Listen to his words:
It is the word of God which calls man away from selfishness and from the illusory security which he has built up for himself. It calls him to God, who is beyond the world and beyond scientific thinking. At the same time, it calls man to his true self. For the self of man, his inner life, his personal existence is also beyond the visible world and beyond rational thinking. The Word of God addresses man in his personal existence and thereby it gives him freedom from the world and from the sorrow and anxiety which overwhelm him when he forgets the beyond. By means of science men try to take possession of the world, but in fact the world gets possession of men. We can see in our times to what degree men are dependent on technology, and to what degree technology brings with it terrible consequences. To believe in the Word of God means to abandon all merely human security and thus to overcome the despair which arises from the attempt to find security, an attempt which is always vain. (Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, 40.)
I don’t agree with Bultmann’s de-mythologizing hermeneutic or his use of the kerygma. However, I do appreciate his emphasis on reliance on God. I’m sympathetic to existentialists because it’s honest philosophy (for the most part). Notice how Bultmann treats science in this section. Man selfishly builds security in his own attempt to overcome his despair by means of science [which seems to produce more despair], taking possession and control–a personal transcendence via his own means. I agree with Bultmann here, the Word of God is what allows man to transcend this despair and this encapsulation of vanity.
I’m certainly a proponent of emphasizing the inseparability of science and religion and Bultmann is pointing out that science without religion is vain. The Word of God, according to Bultmann, is abandoning your own security in the world and keeping that security in God. It’s not abandoning the world [or science].