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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 81||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||May 1999|
by John F. McCarthy
a) For the Catholic theologian the Word of God is focused essentially in the Person of the Word Incarnate, who is at one and the same time truly God and truly man.21. But Marlé includes another series of statements which weaken or contradict these points:
b) In addition to the corporal Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension and the gift of the Spirit have also an essential significance for our faith.
c) In order to be faithful to the apostolic witness in all its realism, we must not begin to accuse it of myths.
d) It is the very same Jesus whom the disciples saw living after his death.
e) It is a world of extra-conceptual realities that is expressed in religion.
a) Bultmann has a very pure and very demanding theology of paradox; the ideal Catholic theologian is the moderate follower of Bultmann who recognizes in Bultmann's program a justified concern, but rejects the radicalism with which he has defined it and brought it into operation.22. In making these second affirmations, Marlé plays into Bultmann's hands:
b) The guiding viewpoint of Bultmann's theology is that of a resolute believer, although the idols of New Testament mythology that he has marked out for destruction do seem artificial and contrived.
c) The imaged and symbolic language of myth could be the proper language of religion.
d) What Bultmann calls "myth" we call "mystery"; whatever may be the obscurity in which the Resurrection is enwrapped in the New Testament narratives, the humanity of Our Lord and Savior is not for us merely the expression of a speculation concerning the metaphysical nature of Christ; the dogmatic lack of flexibility in the Church has given way to the rediscovery of the value of images, symbols and myths; this re-evaluation of the imagination will enable us to rediscover the value of the images through which the divine revelation is given to us; revelation and salvation will always be communicated to us in the world of images; these images are reality itself, because they have been formed by the Spirit of God.
e) The man of today can no longer be content with literal repetition of the biblical formulas; if the fundamental biblical images contain in themselves all reality, then the only way to establish contact with the world of the Apostles is to recognize our needs as twentieth-century men and abandon the attempt to recover an ingenuousness forever lost.
a) Since Bultmann totally rejects the truth of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and categorically excludes the entire object of Catholic faith, a Catholic theologian cannot reasonably be a moderate follower of Bultmann.
b) Bultmann flatly and totally denies the Incarnation, the corporal Resurrection, the Ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, all of which Marlé admits to be essential for faith. If Marlé seriously thinks this, it is conceding too much to say that the guiding viewpoint of Bultmann's theology is that of a resolute believer, with the soft qualification that it does seem artificial and contrived for Bultmann to have eliminated these elements from his faith. How can this "guiding viewpoint" of Bultmann's theology, which does not contain at all these essential elements of faith, be the viewpoint of a "resolute believer"?
c) Marlé has more than begun to accuse the apostolic witness of myths; he makes myth the proper language of the apostolic witness.
d) Bultmann opposes the creation by preachers and theologians of "improvised mysteries" like the Trinity and the bodily Resurrection. But Bultmann does not reduce the Resurrection to a speculation concerning "the metaphysical nature of Christ"; he gives it the status of an "eschatological event." And has Marlé reflected deeply on what he is saying when he affirms that the images are the reality? Is the Person of the Word Incarnate, whom according to Marlé we encounter in faith, an image which is the reality? The Fathers of the Church did indeed see various biblical images as reflecting deeper realities, but they did not maintain that the images were the realities. Marlé seems here to be attempting to enunciate an important truth, but he expresses it confusedly.
e) In the conflict with Jaspers, Ellwein, Künneth, Kinder, and Barth over the question of symbols of revelation and supernatural reality, the theory of Bultmann attained a subtlety of which Marlé seems largely unaware. Marlé does not expound his notion of "extra-conceptual realities" or clarify what they could be, and he aggravates this lack by his attack on conceptual realities. Faith, he says, cannot be reduced to Bultmannian logic, Catholic logic, or any logic. But we must ask whether any theology can get along without logic. It may be that opposition to logic is the cause of Marlé's confusion. How can he logically say, for instance, that Catholic theologians object only to Bultmann's premises, and not to his conclusions except to the extent that they illustrate the weakness of the premises. Are not the conclusions just as offensive as the premises? But which are the premises and which are the conclusions? Marlé tells us himself that in Bultmann's writings it is futile to try to distinguish the premises from the conclusions, and that he has never succeeded in doing so at all. Without the use of logic, he never will. When Marlé calls for the processing of the text of the Bible in order to produce a formulation that is acceptable to "modern man," he has virtually conceded the debate to Bultmann.
a) Bultmann eliminates from his theology the objective consideration of God.32. But Cahill weakens these points with other affirmations:
b) The categories of religious experience must be capable of objective presentation, because man is a psychosomatic unity.
c) Bultmann fails to realize that dogma is the terminus of a transit from the descriptive to the explanatory.
a) Bultmann preserves the biblical categories while interpreting them existentially in the thought-patterns of modern man.33. By not clarifying these affirmations Cahill plays into Bultmann's hands.
b) There is a striking possibility of natural revelation in Bultmann's notion of pre-understanding; while the inside of strictly supernatural events may transcend directly historical investigation, "the validity and necessity of the strictly historical method for a reconstruction of certain past outer events which the believer apprehends with a new magnitude and dimension as revelation cannot be minimized or distinguished out of existence."
c) Since theology means thinking about the faith, accurate historical investigations must always be a part of theology: no amount of subjective a priori speculation or postulation can substitute for critical investigation of the divine events in the theological sources.
a) Once Cahill admits that Bultmannian existentialism accords with the thought-patterns of modern man, the burden of proof is on him to show that the elimination of the objective consideration of God and of his revelation is an error. Bultmann has provided false arguments of considerable length for this elimination.
b) Bultmann makes much of the fact that man is a unity. If it follows from man's psychosomatic unity that the categories of religious experience must be capable of objective presentation, it would be interesting to see how the convincing argument for this is constructed. Nevertheless, Bultmann admits that the categories of religious experience are capable of objective presentation. He calls this presentation "myth." Again, Cahill sees in Bultmann's notion of pre-understanding a "striking" possibility of natural revelation which Bultmann excludes. Cahill claims to see in Bultmann's notion what Bultmann denies is in it. It is incumbent upon Cahill to show clearly that this possibility is there. Furthermore, Cahill accepts Collingwood's thesis of the "inside" and the "outside" of events, a distinction which has served Bultmann's existentialism well. Cahill does not spell out how, on the basis of Collingwood's philosophy of history, he can legitimately speak of the "inside" of "strictly supernatural events" which may transcend direct historical investigation. Has Cahill meditated on the meaning of these terms in the philosophy of Collingwood? Finally, is Cahill admitting that revelation is not itself an historical event, but just a magnitude and dimension that is seen by the believer in certain past ("outer") events? This would seem to be a fatal concession to Bultmann.
c) Bultmann makes the results of a certain kind of so-called "historical investigation" a presupposition of his theologizing. He is a master of this kind of work. What Bultmann rejects is, to use Cahill's own words, the "new magnitude and dimension" that is said to have been "projected," or "objectified" by the primitive Christian believer into supernatural events that "critical historical investigation" finds to be a product of purely subjective speculation. And Bultmann does not deny that dogma is a transit from the descriptive to the explanatory; he simply repudiates dogma as being a false and uncritical explanation derived from speculation upon fanciful ideas that modern man can no longer accept. Cahill, in the admittedly short space of his review, does not give a convincing reply to Bultmann's basic contentions.
1. R. Marlé, Bultmann et l'interprétation du Nouveau Testament (Paris, 1956 [henceforth referred to as MBI]).
2. Marlé, MBI, 179.
3. Marlé, MBI, 174-175.
4. Marlé, MBI, 171-172.
5. Marlé, MBI, 62-63.
6. Marlé, MBI, 64.
7. Marlé, MBI, 66-69. Cf. MBI, 63.
8. Marlé, MBI, 180-181.
9. Marlé, MBI, 99.
10. Marlé, MBI, 101-103.
11. Marlé, MBI, 135.
12. R. Marlé, "Demythologizing Assessed," in The Heythrop Journal (1961), 42-47.
13. Marlé, MBI, 169-170.
14. Marlé, "Demythologizing Assessed," 45-46. "Catholic theologians object first and foremost to his premisses, and if they point out the weakness or - hollowness - of his conclusions, it is only to bring more into the foreground the fundamental weaknesses contained in these premisses. In this connection, some insist on his narrow philosophical anthropology others on the indefensible assumptions of his exegesis others on his Lutheran premisses whose full danger is eminently clear in his system. It is indeed possible to show how all these different factors are not unconnected" (ibid., 46). However, in MBI, 176, note 5 (to which he here refers the reader), Marlé seems to admit an inability to distinguish with any degree of success which are Bultmann's premises and which are his conclusions: "Il nous semble assez vain de nous demander si la position de Bultmann dépend de la manière dont il pose son problème initial, des catégories qu'il utilise, de la philosophie dont il se rèclame, ou de la foi qu'il confesse. Tout, peut-on dire, est a la fois chez lui cause, conséquence, symptôme ...."
15. Marlé, "Demythologizing Assessed," 47.
16. R. Marlé, Bultmann et la foi chrétienne (Paris, 1967 [henceforth referred to as MBFC]); Engl. trans., Bultmann and Christian Faith (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1968 [henceforth referred to as MBCF]).
17. Marlé, MBFC, 79-80 (MBCF, 52).
18. Marlé, MBFC, 81-82 (MBCF, 53-54).
19. Marlé, MBFC, 77 (MBCF, 51).
20. Marlé, MBFC, 154-155 (MBCF, 106). "Aussi bien ne pouvons-nous nous contenter de voir en Bultmann un péril dont il faudrait exorciser le monde chrétien. Ce théologien intrépide nous a alertés sur l'urgence de problèmes que nous ne pouvons pas éluder. Par le caractère radical des solutions qu'il propose, et qui présentent au moins le mérite d'être des solutions réfléchies, il provoque en outre chaque confession à rejoindre les fondements mêmes de la foi dont elle se réclame. C'est pourquoi la 'crise' de conscience chrétienne qu'il a très largement contribué à formuler, voire à précipiter, ne devrait pas seulement, selon nous, être stérilement déplorée. Elle doit plutôt convaincre toutes les Eglises de l'urgence renouvelée de la tâche théologique" (ibid.).
21. Marlé, MBFC, 77-78 (MBCF, 51).
22. Marlé, MBFC, 84-85 (MBCF, 55-56).
23. Marlé, MBFC, 85-87 (MBCF, 56-57).
24. Marlé, MBFC, 154 (MBCF, 106).
25. P. J. Cahill, "(Notes concerning John Macquarrie's) The Scope of Demythologizing," in Theological Studies, 23 (1962), 79-92 [henceforth referred to as JCSD]).
26. Cahill, JCSD, 79.
27. Cahill, JCSD, 86. "The Logos is the self-revealing, self-giving God - God in action. This action only is the subject of the New Testament. Therefore, all abstract speculation about the 'natures' of Christ is not only a useless undertaking, but actually an improper one" (O. Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, 266).
28. Cahill, JCSD, 86. Cf. Charles Davis, "The Danger of Irrelevance, " in The Downside Review 79 (1961), 100; K. Rahner, "The Prospects for Dogmatic Theology," in Theological Investigations (Engl. trans., Baltimore: 1961), 2-37.
29. Cahill, JCSD, 89.
30. Cahill, JCSD, 90.
31. Cahill, JCSD, 89.
32. Cahill, JCSD, 80, note 4.
33. See Carl Michalson, in Christian Century (1961), 553.
34. Cahill, JCSD, 85.
35. Cahill, JCSD, 84. Cf. Ian Henderson, Myth in the New Testament (London, 1952), 49.
36. Cahill, JCSD. 82, note 7.
37. Cahill, JCSD, 83-84.
38. Cahill, JCSD, 87-89.