Is Jesus Necessary?

The Theology of Rudolf Bultmann, edited by Charles W. Kegley (Harper and Row, 1966, 320 pp., $5.75), is reviewed by Clark H. Pinnock, associate professor of theology, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

This volume of essays was prepared in honor of Rudolf Bultmann’s monumental contribution to modern theology, and with the desire to elucidate aspects of his profound thought. Introduced by an autobiographical sketch and concluded by a full bibliography of Bultmann’s writings, the book contains seventeen constructive essays written for the most part by outstanding scholars who share his theological frame of reference. A fine feature of the book is the concise evaluation and response made to each essay by Bultmann himself; this creates a feeling of live discussion. Controversy arises only when attempts are made to modify one aspect of his theology or extend another. But no writer in the symposium appears to regard Bultmann’s influence in theology as negative (unless perhaps Michel), and most prefer to point ahead to new areas of relevance for it. What criticism there is comes chiefly from the “left,” from Ogden, who believes Bultmann should press on to greater consistency and cut back his insistence on the exclusive relevance of Jesus Christ. In the words of the editor, “Granted that Jesus actualised an authentic self-understanding, is man capable of acting freely and responsibly today independent of that historic paradigm?” (xvi). This is essentially the same complaint voiced by Bultmann’s non-Christian critics like Jaspers, who resents this arrogant restriction placed on the freedom of God. The book never really answers the problem, except by repeating an assertion (without ...

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