23 September 2008

Bultmann and the Emerging Church

On a recommendation from one of my brothers I'm slowly working my way through Robert Yarbrough's The Salvation-Historical Fallacy? Reassessing the History of New Testament Theology. I have been struck by the similarities between those who have taken a more existential (vs. salvation-historical) approach to biblical theology and the (dying?) emerging church. At one point Yarbrough describes "Bultmann's view of New Testament theology as a presentation of certain New Testament writers' believing self-understanding with reference to a kerygma which is conceptually ineffable and indescribable." Footnoting this statement for further clarification, he says: "I.e. its content is not accessible by cognitive means and does not admit to being expressed in or apprehended by means of propositional statements. The kerygmatic proclamation does not convey information but opens up relational possibilities."

Whoa. For a moment there I thought I was reading one of our friends from the emerging church. The truth is, I have learned much from reading Doug Pagitt, Tim Keel, Tony Jones, Erwin McManus, and others. They have helped me. I approach theology and relationships with others and how to practically live out my faith differently (for the better) as a result, and I need to continue to listen to them, because many of them put hands and feet on their faith in a way that consistently, and rightly, rebukes me.

But I see in both Bultmann and Co. (I would take it back to Schleiermacher) as well as some associated with the EC the same impulse to downplay concrete propositions for the sake of more fuzzy subjectivity in speaking of truth and knowledge--a downplaying which is, in my opinion, shooting oneself in the foot. It is in (not in avoiding) propositional clarity that existential experience of God ignites.

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