One indicator of the health of a society, or of groups within that society, is the attitude taken toward history. There is a deep psychic involvement of individuals and groups in the entire subject of the past, whether it be the past of universal history, or that of smaller human units. It is not surprising that groups alienated from their fellows—and such groups are usually made up of individuals estranged from themselves—tend to be contemptuous of history.
Many alienated and inwardly sick persons are, like Marx, disdainful of the environment or the class that produced them. More often than not, this disdain has deep religious roots, and involves the spiritual heritage of the families from which these dissident persons come. This causes the thoughtful person to examine the more general attitudes that have been taken, in religious as well as secular circles, toward history in our time.
Few trends within the theology of the recent past have been more conspicuous or more controlling than the trend toward the splitting of history into two kinds, corresponding roughly to the Kantian division of knowledge. Seen from one point of view, this is what the Bultmannian movement has been all about. What concerns us here is the impact of this bifurcation upon the thought climate of our time.
We are familiar by now with the distinction between Historie and Geschichte. The former concerns itself with the analysis of the largest possible quantity of verifiable facts from the past. The latter is concerned primarily with discovering phenomena from the past that are meaningful in the present individual situation, and that challenge personal interest and commitment.
In biblical studies, this division of history has created a number ...1
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