Second in a Series by Evangelical Scholars

Bultmann’s theology sets out in opposition to the rationalistic and idealistic misunderstanding of Christianity by the earlier liberal theology. Two themes characterize Bultmann’s theological program, and he develops them thoroughly and applies them assiduously. They are:

1. The Entmythologisierung (demythologizing), the method whereby Bultmann proposes to open for modern thought a way (apologetic and pastoral) to the Gospel.

2. The existential interpretation of the Gospel, whereby he intends to disclose the true meaning of the biblical kerygma.

Though closely related and interdependent, these themes can be distinguished from one another, and we propose to deal with them successively.

Bultmann’s theology is often labeled with the catchword Entmythologisierung (demythologizing). The Entmythologisierung is, however, not the most characteristic aspect of his theology. Nor does Bultmann himself regard it as such (Bultmann sees the real theme of his theology rather in the motive of existentialism). The method of the Entmythologisierung had been applied before Bultmann, although under other names. Bultmann’s own application of this method does little more, basically, than to observe the great traditions of the Enlightenment. In this respect he follows the radical biblical criticism of the liberal and “history of religions” schools of which in more than one sense he is the executor. It is true that Bultmann criticizes these predecessors of his for their interpretation of the purport of the Gospel, but on the whole his program of the Entmythologisierung follows their line.

It cannot be said that Bultmann’s definition of “mythos” is lucidly clear. Nevertheless there can be no doubt about his intention. ...

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