Bultmann on NT Christology
'What is Christology, then? It is not the theoretical exponent of practical piety*. It is not speculation and teaching about the divinity of Christ. Rather, it is proclamation, address. It is the "teaching" that through Christ our righteousness is won, that he is crucified and risen on our behalf' (Rudolf Bultmann, Glauben und Verstehen, 1.260, "Die Christologie des Neuen Testaments")
For Bultmann, New Testament Christology is first and foremost proclamation of the Christ event (that proclamation itself caught up in this event as Christ is present in the Word). It is essentially the work of divine love and judgement in Jesus, that God is involved and met in this Jesus (who is himself the event of revelation). New Testament Christology thus boils down to the proclamation of the activity of God in Christ as he justifies sinners. The second level of Christology is faith's response to this proclamation, namely the explication of faith's understanding of its new self in light of the divine address (Anrede). This means that New Testament Christology is not an idea, it is not about the religious personality of Christ, not about metaphysical speculation over Christ as a heavenly being, nor an exponent of Christ-devotion. Christology is the divine address, the proclamation of the event of Christ as it is accepted by faith.
What is more, and something sure to get the Evangelical in plenty of us squirming, the early merely Christians used, Bultmann argues, contingent mythical and mystical categories to express this Christology (such as Christ's preexistence as a heavenly being, Jesus as 'Messiah' etc.), but these were only Jewish (or later Jewish-Hellenistic**)-bound ways of expressing the truth concerning Jesus, namely that God is met in this Jesus. As Jewish language and manners of thinking, they are not binding on modern people, who need to find different ways of proclaiming and reflecting in faith on the Christ-event.
While all of this is very clever, I tend to think that Bultmann has perpetuated the problematic (though understandable) dissolution of Christology into soteriology, and I'm pretty sure he overstretches the appropriateness of the significance of 'proclamation'. This is not to mention the huge problem of pretending to sift an eternal truth from its original form (hence Hart's searing rhetoric in my post a couple of days ago). I would also argue that his argumentation cannot account for the nature of Christology as it is found in Paul's letters - a decisive problem for me. Yet Bultmann's critique of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule and liberal Protestantism in this essay is witheringly powerful, and his scope of intellectual vision is simply a delight to take in.
BTW, I intend to show in my doctoral work that there is another way of thinking about NT Christology, particularly of the Pauline variety, and a correspondingly fruitful way of thinking about Christology today. But that is a story for another day.
*this in contradistinction to the claims of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule with which Bultmann had an interesting relation (cf. Sinn, Christologie und Existenz).
** Bultmann adopted the historical development scheme famously promoted by W. Bousset, a model that modern scholarship has all but entirely rejected. Cullmann was the first to raise his finger up and ask what this model did with 1 Cor 16:22. Hengel firmly hit the nail into its overdue coffin.