As an -ism existentialism has reached the taken-for-granted stage. It is seldom defined or made explicit. It persists as an underlying mood and mind-direction, and is usually accepted uncritically as a basis for thought.
The usual existential themes—Angst, authenticity of existence, subjectivity of truth, the boundary situation, to name a few—are no longer usual subjects for discussion. Their impact upon today’s theological discourse is, however, much greater than is commonly recognized.
Certain terms signal the submerged influence of the existential mode of thinking upon theology. Among these are: “culture-conditioned,” “encounter,” “open-endedness,” “interpersonal,” “authentic,” and “meaningful.” These terms often cloak “new” approaches to theology, to ethics, and to Christian proclamation.
The motif of “culture-conditioned” underlies much of today’s biblical criticism. It provides a rationale, not only for the Bultmannian criticism, but also for the so-called critical-historical method, currently a sacred cow to the neo-liberal theologians. Let it be said at once that no literate evangelical rejects a proper attitude of analytical investigation, nor a careful regard for history in approaching the Scriptures. But the critical-historical method is something else.
As currently applied, this method is clearly anti-supernaturalistic, always giving preference to a possible naturalistic explanation for biblical phenomena. While pretending to be neutral in their handling of data, the advocates of this technique almost invariably bracket off events that do not lend themselves to a naturalistic interpretation as outside ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more