Eleven Reasons why I like Bultmann
I was asked by a friend last week what I like about Bultmann:
- He's German. So is my wife (that should score me points with the ladies)
- He sounds like a character from an old Frankenstein movie, which is kinda cool
- He smoked a pipe and had big friendly cheeks
- His theological vision, together with its relationship with NT exegesis, was breathtaking in its scope. He sought to answer many problems all at once, and in many ways was arguably successful.
- He was a fine exegete. Cf. especially his commentary on 2 Corinthians.
- He recovered the centrality of the gospel, of God's word to us in Christ, from some of the more fanciful projections of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, and wedded it to a healthy Lutheran spirituality.
- His faith was fearless. He looked the loin of critical scholarship in the mouth and said 'do your worst!' – and he, in fact, led the way in developing new tools for understanding the text.
- His preaching was, at least at one level, highly practical, existential, demanding of a decision for Christ.
- He wrote succinctly and clearly.
- Theology for Bultmann was not mere speculation; to speak of God is about the faith and life of the believer.
- Theology for Bultmann was, at least in principle, grounded in exegesis, in his dealing with the biblical texts.
Oddly, in almost all of the above points I also see a dark shadow cast. Precisely in his strengths one finds the roots and/or evidence of his most detrimental weaknesses. But they are for another post.