Full Text for The Relationship of Neo-Orthodox And Existentialist Theology To Philosophy: a brief retrospect (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER December 1971 Volume 35, Number 3 The Relationship of Neo-Orthodox And Existentialist Theology To Philosophy: a brief retrospect -4ctztrg ,A~-tr~lerrl~c l)~'r711 Concordia I heo1ogic;ll Scnlin:~r\ ' I 96 h- W E HAVE COhlE TO THE EAD ot: XI cuLi in thcolug\. \\rites Perry LeFevre of C:l~icago Thcologic;~l Sc.niin;:r)-. T11c gi;intsl \\-honl he identifies as Barth. Brunner. Tillic.11 nncl Bult~llann, are departing the scenc (both litt.r;~ll\- i~nd infl~rc~~ltiirll\., I \\.oul~l add). Theology ~vilI now follon- new dircction~; and the‘ rc1;itionship bc- tween thcology and philosoph~ n~ill bo aylx-oac.Iic.tl in hcbll ~vii\*s.: This paper \\-ill brieflv tract: thc relationship \\-hicll obtains between Seo-orthcdoss-, as l'el>ri.scntc.d b\- Barth and Brur~lier, and radical existentialist thl'olog5 as reprcsrnt&l I>\ Tillicll ;\nd Hrrltmann, and philosophv. Such 3 rrlntionship bcconici particulnl-1,. bignificant when it is gendmIIy assumett that theologinrls of the past clccddcs \\-ere hostile toward yhiIosophy. Such 3n nssrl~nptioll is, of course. just not true. Seo-orthodos theologians tended to adop~ an anti-philosoj~hicd stance. 17et it must be remembered that tl~cv clid rcliitc positi\-el>- to existentialism, which of all recent pbiloso2~h7ical ~noyernel~ tr* hi~s per- haps exerted the greatest single impact on rcccnt Protcstimt thcolog!. On the other hand, the other two major theologians of the time, Ti1licl.r and Bultmann, \\-ere an\-thing but Ilostilc to philosophical thought. The question of the relation of philosopll\- to theolog\- 1ia.z been cdled a unil-rrsal problenl in Christian thouglit. Itoman Catholicism has in the past felt niore at C~SC with in\.ol\-cnlcnts \\-it11 yhilosoph!. than has traditional Protrstantism. Rcccntl\., hone\-cr. Rc)nli>n Cath- olic thcolog\- has been caught up in the att&npt to securc: it3 freeclom fro131 phi16. ?VLIS led ill his stud!. of the biblical ivitness to draw 5tl.i~~ .IIIL~ 1)i)lil IIIICS of de~nnrcatioil bet~reen philosol~hy and theology. \\'l1c11 Ilc LIIIC~C~.~(~K)]~ his drastic revision of the Christiaiz Dogr~atics, 11~. ~;~,~clc. it cic.ll- tliat hc \\.anted to free theology of any.anc1 all iit.l~~?:ic~~~~ c i~po~i l?liilosoph!- or a general anthropoIogica1 approach. 111 tile f'orciii~rtl of 11is 11c'\\- CIt~trcJz Dogr~ll~tics IIC states that to thc t)c>t of liis hili lit? llc cut out 111 this SCCOI~~ issue of the book everr- tllillg tI1:it in tllc first issue ~llight gi\-e thc sliglltest appearance of ui\ ins to thcnIug:. a basis, support, or cycn a rnere justificrition in the > 11,ii of c.xi\tcntial philosoyh!.. Along \\-ith this he reyudiatecl the b,~s.ic~klIr mcclic\-nl approach to a natural line\\-ledge of Gocl based 111:trn the tllltl!Oosnl as an object of kno\vledgc. Hc pro\.cs hinisclf 3s Lol-tl in thc fact that he alone gives the kno\.rlecIge of himsclf, :tnd th:~t 1112t1 I~rls no ..- power at his own disposal to enable 1linl to accjuirc this l;lla\vlc~t?gc. ' Truth is personal encounter. iind this tr~~th is not ;!plvopriatcil in an act of objective perception of truth, "IJLI~ o111i- ill an act of ~x>l-sonnI surrender and clecision."' As to natural theolog!-, I3runnr.l- aclmits that ;I c.crti~in l,rlo\\.lcdgc of the nloraI law, which reffccts something of thc originnl rc.i.ckIfition of God in the human mind, is possiblc for 1lurn;ln rcnson. 1-ct this reason is liillited "in the ii~cayacit!. to detcrmi~ic I\.JI~.I~~L> this 1'1\v comes, in the incapacity to knoiv evil in its ~)llil~sopli!- and thcolog!.. I~Ic stated this \.cry clearlv: ":Is ;i thcoiogiirn I h:~\.c. tricld to rcnl:~in n philosoyhcr, aiid \-ice YCI-53. It ~\-o~~ltl ll,i\-cs I1cc:1 c.;~sicr to aballdo~l tlic houndarv and to choose ollc or thc ot!lci-. In\\tlrtll~. this c.oursc \\;IS impossible for me.'"' Tillich w:as ;11\\.ii15 intcrcstcil 'in tlic ilc\~cIoplncnt of a philosophy oE culture. F3c undcktooct ~~hilosopfiv as ;L theor\- of thc principks of meaning. .liicl thc philosophy cjf rcligioll rclatci thosc principles to a theory of thc csscnc:~ of rc.ligioli. Philosoph!- l~ns to be taken seriously by' the hit~liciil tl~c.cilo~i;~ri. 1-Ic \\.rotc3 that "no theologian shculd bc take11 scriousl~~ ;is it thcnlogi;tn, cvcn if lic is a great Christian and a great scholar, it' his 1101-1; she\\-u that hc tlocs not take philosoph~ scri- ,. . . ousl\,. . : .Sinc.c tiic'oJog!. clni~~is tliat jt cunstitutes a special realm of I;no\\.lc\clgc. the tli~ol~cii~~~ is placed under the obligation of giving an account of tllc ; trhiclr lic rclatcs tlieolog~ to other forms of knon.1cdgc.. F-ic 11!l15t ;~IIZ~\L~~ t11.0 cjit~stions: ''\\.hat is the rclatioii- ship of t hcolog!- to tllc special sciences and \\-hat is its relationship .. . to pliilosol)ll! .- Tjllic11 ans\i-ers the first question b!. asserting that "if nothing is an o'ojcct of thcology \yhich does not concern us ultiliiatcl!., thcolo~;: is anconccrnc(1 about scientific procedures and rtbsi~lts 2nd \ ice. \ cr-s:! ." Tficology has neither the right nor obligatio~l "to 1~rc.i~:~lice ~)l!! ~ic..!l or historica1. sociological or ps!-chological, *! ' ii Tllc (;r;c?iion of tlic relation of theology to the special scie~~ccs mo.gcs jrlii, tlic cluestion of the relationship between theology nnct pliilo~oph?.. ' 'Tfiis rcliitionship bct\iccn thcology and yhilosoyhv is cltarl~ stiltctl ill his S~,rtri,mti~ Theulug!,, 1-01. I. He defines philosophy is ontology. It ijucstions tllc structure of being. The object of theology is \\.hat conccrns n Jiian ultimatel!.. And what concerns a li~an ulti- ~liiltcl!. must hc. rcal: it must he relatcd to being. Furtherinore, "it must hc. thc groiincl of our hcing, that \vhich cletcrmincs our being or not- f~ciilg, thc ultjnii~tc ant1 unconctitional power of being."'VVhile pliilosoph~ is illtcrcstcd in the structure of being, thcoIog!- is inter- cstctl in thc rncani~ig of bcing. Philosoyh\. and theology ask the qucstio~~ of hcilig; but thcv ask it fro111 different perspecti\-es. The philosopher attempts to nlalntain a detached objectiritr toward being ant1 its structurcs. He tries to a11 personal -and historical contlitions ~vhich ~iiight clistort an objective vision of reality. The thcologinn, on thv other hand, "is not detached from his object but is in\ olvctl in it. Hc looks at his object with passion, fear, and love." This is not the eros of the philosopher of his passion for objective truth; it is the lo\-c which accepts saying, and therefore personal truth ."'" TIic attitude of the theologian is "existential"; he is in~olved wit11 thc whole of his existence, with his finitude and his anxiety, his self-contradictions and dispair, with the healing forces in him and in his social situation. \\'he~lever hc abandons this existential attitude he is drircn to statements the reality of which will not be ~~cknowl- edged by r~nybody v.ho shares thc csistc.ntia1 p~-c.h~;i?pos!ti,~!l\ of tjlc empirical theologian. Thc 01lc reality ancl thu str~~cL~irc.~ tllat ;lljljcnr in it, alid the l~lnnifcstntioll of lvhat concern> m;lli ~ilti~il.tt~l\. con- cern both philosopher and theologian. Tlilrs tl~cri: ih ill (:\ i.1-i. 'i>lliloh- opher a hidden thcologii~n, i~nd in c.1 cr! tli. ,I' hitldcri philosopher. The relations21ip bet\vt.cn philosophv i~licl tlicolog! i, .~l.o ;ii)lj;li-- ent in Tillich's undcrsta~iding of the thcdogical mithod. Hi5 rollccpt of correlation unites niiln's existential qucstiol~s a~i(l tl1t'o1o,qi~;\I ;);I- swcrs. Tlie theologian assumes n phi1osophic:il t;~sl; \\hc;l ll~ formu- lates the questions implied ill liuman csistc.l~cc; but ilc rc~:l;lins :I theologian when he insists that the :tns\\-crs nlust I)c f'c:~~:ltl iri ~71e synlbols of the Christian fi~itli. 1-hc ;IIIS\YCTY ;LI.C S~>O~\C.II tci 11~t111:11i esistc~lcc from beyond it."' Tillich holds that thcrc is no conflict bct\\cc~l pliilobopi~i a11cl theology, but thcrc is no syntlicsis eitlicr. ;4 comllion basis is I;l;.l;i~i~. He states that the idea of n synthesis hctwccn thcoloq and pl~ilosop!i\. has lead to the dream of n "Christian l'hilc~so~7hv." For rillicl~ il~k tern1 is ambiguous. It can mcan n yhilosophv n-11osc cxtcntiul hasii is historical Christianit!.. Or it can denote a 'pliiloso1~h~~ \\.i~icli docs not look at the universal logos but at the assumcd or nctnal dcll~a~ltls of a Christia~l theology. The idea of n CIlristia11 ~~hilosoph\- in thc narrower sense of n philosophy ~vhich is in tentinnnlly Christi'nn ]nu>( be rejected, savs Tillich. Christianitv does not nc:ct? ;I C'llristian philosophy in tlie narro\ver sense of the tvord . I\'. RCDOLF BCLT_\lI1\ \ lludolph Bult~llann also claims '1 positijc role for philo~oph~. 50 much so, in fact, that Sels Ferrc has chargecl both 13ultm,inli .tnd Tillich with being neo-naturalistic philosophers. Eultnl,rnn \\ ,ttlts to usc phiIosophy; at the same time he wants to ,i\oid n coll,\pw 3t theology into any kind of philosophy, because thcolog!. In-c.,irplwsc.s the exclusi~c act of God in Christ which is disclosed 0111~ to faith. For Bultmann kno\vledge nhich docs not comc through f,~itIl in response to Christ is not knowledge of God ah Ckd. l'hiloso~~h\, thercforc, cannot reach genuine line\\ lcdgc of God. Yet I>hilosol~l;\ plays an inlportant role. Bultnlann is concerned about proper sul f-undcrstandirig I\ 11 ici~ issues in authentic existence. This is an csistential undcrst,lndi~ig of life. AII~ the basis for such existential intcrprctation ]nust, sLi!s Bultmann, be found in philosopli?-. So he takes oter thc concepts of existential analysis. "The object of my theological rcscarcli IS not existence in faith, but rather thc 11atilraI man. Thc philosopher completely disregards whether something like faith or unfaith can take place."?' In this way theology becomes clcpcndcnt upon philos- ophy's interpretation of human existence. Philosophy inquires onto- logically into the formal structures of human eaistc~icc, \vhiIc theology deals with the concrete man in so far as ho is to bc cncoun- terd by a specific proclamation. Bultl~lann expresses t1lc differcncc between philosophy and theology in this way: philosophy shows that 1ny l)i.:'11~ 'i 111:11: unique11- belonus to rne, but it does not speak of rnv 5' unicjuv c~i~tencc: this. hoi~ct-cr. 1s cxactlv what theologi- Phiio.opi~y sccs rnm ns a particula; concrete man-n-ho is dctcr- rnint>ti hi- srmc ~pccific "hot\-": it si)taks of the "that" of this "how," hut ~iot 6f the "flo\t-" itself. The0103 spcalis of ;I specific "hon." but not b\. iumpinq into ii hole that has heen left open by philosophy in thc totalit\- of what is kno\vabIc. or in the system of the scien'ces. Enthcr it can I~~lr.~ its olvn original :~~oti\-c onl~. because the man who is rletcsmirlcri hy tl1:it bpccific "ho\\" has need bf thc010gy for his own rcali7iirion .' -Thc rcal thcrnc of philosoph\- for Bultmann is not esistence, but c.si~tcntinlit!-. not thc factual bur: tactualit)-; it inquires concerning csistcncc. n-ith rcspcct to csistcntialit~ but it does speak to concrete csistcncc. Evcrv interpreter, s3!-s Bi11t1iiat111, depends upon tbe con- ccpts of .! phiIosoph\-. .4ntl Bultnlann believes that existential philos- opIi\- is rhc. corrcct .ussu~n~tion. Theoloqs -, can make fruitful use of thc i,hilosophical 'tnal!.sis of human esistence. "For the man of faith is in an) c,jsc :i man. just as the proclamation out of 1x-hic71 faith ariscs cncczuntcrs !:in; as 3 IILI~I~III \\-ord."" And he beIie1.t.s that 3Iartin Hcidrggc~r is corrcct in his r;utfcrstanding of human existence. "I le~rnvcl from hi111 rlCii t\-hat theology has to sa?, but how it has to sit!- it, in ortfcr to sj~eiik to the thinking man toclay in a n-av he can understand. "" I'hilosophi thus pro\-ides the categories of Gsistence within which ,t l~,ir:icular understanding which is gained by faith C311 h~ ~lld~I3t<~)d 11) thf2010~. In his autohiographica1 reflections Bultniann acknowledges that thc. nt.11. theoli,g!- (Barthianism) had correctly seen that Christian faith is thc itnsivt'r to the word of a transcendent God who encoutiters marl; it is ttic. task of theologv to deal with this \vorcl and the man who has been ilicountcrrd b!. it.' In pursuing this theological quest Bult- rnann arsclrtc that the n-orli of esistential philosophy, \vhicli hc had colllc to koorr through his discussion with Heidegger, had become of dccisi\-c signiticancc for him. "I found in it the conceptuality in \shich it is p0~5iblt.. to speak adequately of human existence and therefore ufso of thc. csistence of the believer." He adds, incidentallv, that in his efforts to iliakc phjlosophr fruitful for theolo~, "I have more and rnorc cornc into opposition to Karl Barth, Severtheless, I remain grateful to him for the decisive things I have learned from him.'"" At the same tin~c BuItrnanrl insists that philosophr can nevcr become n substitute for theology. Philosophy is limited because the true meaning of csistencc comes only through faith which is response to divine revelation. Bult~nann admits that there is a kind of revelation to he found both in nature and in history, a revelation accessible therefore to the philosophical spirit. This points toward the revelation of God spoken in the frryb?a. But Christian faith insists "that all annvers apart from the Christian answers are ilIusions."" Bultmann sums up his u~lrlcrstanding of the limitations of philosophy when he \\-rites : I do not consider such a philosophical theology pssible. It is onl!- possible to makc God the object of conceptual thought in so far as thc co~lccpt 'Gocl" can hc obic:ct i: I.]! j In- deed, that mu~t bc tlic case SJIICC lo , I,, ,ililc to say wh:it it nlenns a-hcn it speaks of God. 1, thl-rc- fore clarify in a conceptual 1r.q--for i.st~li~plC2 till. i.l),,lL:l,ts transccndence. of oninipotence. of tllc ss ; tiin concepts of gracc and forgiveness. 'r11i5 ci~~i~i~t i,J,, I,~~,,~ ci cr; that dlroloyy spa.ahs rlirectl\ of God anil of lli5 i,L~ , It cannot speak of God as hc is in l~iniseli. I)lrt (,nli- lilit lie does for us.?' Bultmann would nc\-cr cunceii-c his task AS tllc: ~c~~].ccclllc.nt (,f traditional Christian faith. Esistcntialist pI~ilosopli\- is c.OIlcc,.l,ccl to demonstrate the reasonablcncss or validit!- of tllc ,o-c.I1~lctl c,-i- dences for the existence of God. It docs 11ot ;lttcmpt ;I nlrt,ll,ll\-5ic, although jt docs concern itself with those c.spcric.ncc3 1, l,icl1 .pjIc. rise to God-talk."' It is significant to note that I l~itlc.~~~ 1- tul.llcc] fwn1 his early analysis of human Dnsei~t to being in it 11luc.h \\ cnsc. Bultinann used Hcidegger's earlv Ivork; hc sho\is intcl-est. however, in his ontological ill\-cstigations. 1ZuItmanll lirlnl~. I,l.lic.\.cs that neither theology nor philosopliv can speak ob jcct ii-cl\ ibou ~.~d or divine being. "If b~ spcaliing of cod one undc.rsta~icls iu talk ;Ibout God, then such style has no sense at all. One can spcnk of God on]\- from out of the depths of personal relationship with G(x1." ,! This brief survey of the relationship of yco-orthodos :inct existentialist theologies to philosophv serves as :L rc*ntindc.r that Christian theology has often conie under the slx.11 of arcui:ll- jrllilns- ophies, Many of Bulhilann's critics hastily c.oncluclc.cl that hc \\.i?;hcd to set the clock back and return to the theolugv pr;lctic.cd ill tht. 19th centt~ry, wliich Barth calls "Egyptian bol~da~e" to philosophy. T'hco- logians, writes Professor John 5lacquarrie, used prc\.;~iIing philo- sophical thought ayologeticalIy, that is, they attcrnptcd to find il pint of entrv into the contemporary ini~ld in orctcr to prcscnt rhc Christian faith in terms intelligible to their o~vn agc. Tliey soln('tinics used current philosophical concepts e\-en when tilt!. \vi.rc dra\~- ti from systems which \\-ere quite alicn to Chiristiani t!,.', ' There are certain dangers attendant upon this kind of thcoIogi/- ing. RIacquarrie draws attention to three: prcoccul>ation wit11 &I secular philosophv rrlight lead to a distortion of Christian tciiciiing through o~er-eniphasis of certain elements which seonl particularly congenial to the philosophy concerned; ideas qriite foreign to CIlris- tianity mriy slip into theoloe; at worst, there may be 3 plain ncconl- modation of the Christian faith to the prevailing philosoph! of age. Did Bultmann, for example, fall into this kind of trill, I]!' granting undue inf!uence to rxistcntialist philosopl~y? Did he, in fact, malie Christian theology conform to a current secular tho~ipht' Quite obviously Bultmann used existentialism, which appeared 3s philosophical reaction to scientific hunlanism, to present Christianit!' as a &rant issue in the mid-twentieth century. fit salnc Bultmann certainly did not intend to expound Christian thought ln concepts which may bc nothing more than a passing phjlosoP1lica1 moad. j;~llll~i;!~l~l i~lbi>t> that thc philosoyhv of existence stands in a .. ., -I h;-!i~!.:i ;~i:?iion\bip ro tl,colog!. - Hc believes that the presuppo- .sit ion< r ;t f!;ciili;tcnct. th.tt is giien with human existence. For BuItmann it all hinqc, 011 tile Fr-trgcstclhiirg, the putting of the question. Ill~en Ruftnl,tnn gocs to the Bible fic asks the question oE hullran existence. Of 'our-sv, llc. i concerned grrrl theologian about God; hut about God in 30 far ,I. hc is significant to ~nan as existing. \Ian and his being arc cvrltval ill 311 thcnlogical problems." I11 1n;ti;lns d~is clai111 Buhnann believes that he is following the ichcnlc ot the Se\\- Testament. Such a Fragestellung, in Bultnlann's thinkin%, *. clots not predetermine the answers which Biblical exegesis pro\idc itnct from which the theologian interprets the Christian faith. To the cuntrart. it rather oycns the theologian's eyes to the content of the trst. In f;lc.t, i11 cmploving esistentialism Bultmann feels that hc is rrnlaining truc to the teichings both of St. Paul and Jesus himself. St. I',tr~l'h Lrsc r~f i~ocl\ ti~lcl spirit relates, thinks Bulhnann. to the distinc~tic~~~ betn ccn a; thcntic and inauthentic existence. .And there is Iittl? clut.r;tion for ISultmann that Jesus demanded authenticic-. The worst that can happrn to a man is to lose himself as he sets his heart on thc thi1.1~~ ot' thc \vorld, Jesus presses 3 man to radical rlecision. >fan 121ust chousc between God and the world, between heing his true self in obediencc to God or loosing himself in sen-ing the ereaturel\., Brrltn>;inn thinks he success full^ escaped the trap of pinning his thcoIog! to \\-hat might prove to be a passing philosophy. He did nothing jnorc than usc contemporary philosophical concepts to assist in his prcsmtation of the Christian faith. Theologs al\vays rnakes ontological ausurnptions about man, and existentialism stands jn a \-erk- special relationship to Christian theology because it reflects inui.h of the basic teaching of the Sen- Testament. Bultlnann is con~inced that Pauline theology expounds a doctrine of man \shich is parallc.1 to that of Heideggerian esistentialism. The life of man lvjthout Christ and thc life of man in faith matches what Hcidegger calls inautllentic and authentic e~istence.'~ 3ldcquarrie suggests that Bultmann did not fully escape the trq hccausc of his preoccupation with the existentialist elements which hc found in the teaching oE Tesus. According to Bultmann, thc historic Jesus \\-as little more than 3 teacher of practical philosophy ith certain resernblrnces to existentialism and who is stripped of the numinous charactcristics which the Gospel ascribe to him. Did Jesus have no llcssianic consciousness*r \YouId people have taken him seriously if he had not at least claimed to be the llessiah, especially if he had not risen from the dead? Alacquarrie sees in Bultrnann's negative attitude to such questions an indication that he was uncon- sciously biased in his presentation bccausc of thc irlfli~c~ncr of: philos- ophy in his thought. 1. If'hnt Ihilosoph\..:" ;it the same time theology 113s cithcr fcarccl that l>l~ilosopf~\. \vouid rule against it clecisivelv or that it ~vould si~nplv take 01-cr thcc_lIoc:\- , .- and dictate whatever theological solutions that ~onsidercll ncccssarv. For a theologian eyer to assume that a particular philosopliv is dkmtcd to him is a faultv presupposition \vhic11 can somctin~c~ prn\-c fatal to the theological enterprise. But to belieie th:lt ;I thcolorian ciln ever undertake his task entirely frcu of philosophy is cn~aginq in self-delusion, Sontag describes hot11 contlitio~~s as the \\.orst uotl- ceiveable state for theology. IVith what kind of philosophy \\.ill thcolog! 5t;tnrl in intimaic relationship cluring the coming Jecaclcs? ;\ continuing i~lllx~ct of existentialisnl on theology is not automaticall\. r~rlccl out >imply bc- cause various forms OF the plliIosophica1 nio\'cmcnt I1a1-c so grc;ltlv influe~xred the0109 during the first decodes of our centun . Pl~eno~ii- enology presents ltself ns a candidate, even though its l~rioccupntion with phenomena n~akes of God an entity quite beyond its self-imposcc-1 range of experience. Logical positivism is clccidcl!; ;lnti~nctaph\-sical and contemporary analytic philosophy scarccl\- qualifius as pro- ponellt of biblical revelation, ex-en though its stress on carcful :ulal\.sis of terms, definitions, and statements might to bc morc c;ircfull!- hecdcd by theology. In a certain scnsc process philosophi. is the most Iikelr candidrttc since it nffcrs :I metaphysical conccril for thc cli\.inc which is distinctly absent fro111 111ost of its collt~111porar!. ~~11001s of philosophical thought. IVhitehead, Hartshornc, iincl dc Chilrtlin ]la\-u den~onstrated a pronounced interest in thc unfolcling naturc of the divine essence, even though a11 brands of prwcss philosoph\- tcncl to enunciate a 1i111ited Gocl \vho is simpl\ not itt 11oli1c in' llihlicril thought. Karl Bxth inforl~ls 11s that ~vhcn the faculty of thc L'lli\.crsity of Kocnigsberg made its annual pilgrimage to the to\v11 church for divine servicc, E