In 1924–25 existentialist philosopher Heidegger, New Testament scholar Bultmann, and philosophical theologian Tillich were colleagues at the University of Marburg. All three have had a marked interrelated influence on twentieth century thought and all three have utilized the now well-known existentialist approach to the “human predicament.” Actually, Bultmann tends to adopt Heidegger’s anthropology directly and (according to Tillich) limits himself to an ethical interpretation of theology. He differs from the older Ritschlian moral liberalism, however, in that he asks for a personal decision concerning the Christ of the cross, concerning the Christian kerygma or message, because of its relevance for “meaningful” existence. Tillich, too, delineates this existential-ethical approach in his discussions of God as man’s “ultimate concern.” Since 1925, however, Tillich (in contrast to both Heidegger and Bultmann) has been developing an ontological interpretation of theology that centers in the Being of God and requires man’s participation in the New Being manifest in the Christ. This fact points to important philosophical differences between Tillich and Bultmann, despite their theological agreement about the necessity of form criticism and demythologization to arrive at a kerygma that is communicable to the “modern mind.”
This summary indicates the extensive similarity between Tillich and Bultmann both as to theological method and as to existentialized doctrine. Whether a merger of the two can take place is really beside the point because in a fundamental sense one already exists. One reason Bultmann has not stirred America as he did Germany after 1941 may be in part Tillich’s development in this country of a similar theology that ...1
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