Science and Religion From Rudolf Bultmann

by Max Andrews

The more I study recent theologians the more I discover how much Newton and Kant permeate modern philosophy and theology.  Kant reshaped knowledge to his twelve categories of the mind and the two intuitions of space and time from Newton.  Many 18th, 19th and 20th century theologians denied God’s immanence and activity in creation and over-emphasized God’s transcendence.  It wasn’t until the rise of Einstein and relativity did the relationship of science and religion be rekindled.  Rudolf Bultmann denied miracles and embraced science and had much esteem for it.  Listen to his words:

It is the word of God which calls man away from selfishness and from the illusory security which he has built up for himself.  It calls him to God, who is beyond the world and beyond scientific thinking.  At the same time, it calls man to his true self.  For the self of man, his inner life, his personal existence is also beyond the visible world and beyond rational thinking.  The Word of God addresses man in his personal existence and thereby it gives him freedom from the world and from the sorrow and anxiety which overwhelm him when he forgets the beyond.  By means of science men try to take possession of the world, but in fact the world gets possession of men.  We can see in our times to what degree men are dependent on technology, and to what degree technology brings with it terrible consequences.  To believe in the Word of God means to abandon all merely human security and thus to overcome the despair which arises from the attempt to find security, an attempt which is always vain. (Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, 40.)

I don’t agree with Bultmann’s de-mythologizing hermeneutic or his use of the kerygma.  However, I do appreciate his emphasis on reliance on God.  I’m sympathetic to existentialists because it’s honest philosophy (for the most part).  Notice how Bultmann treats science in this section.  Man selfishly builds security in his own attempt to overcome his despair by means of science [which seems to produce more despair], taking possession and control–a personal transcendence via his own means.  I agree with Bultmann here, the Word of God is what allows man to transcend this despair and this encapsulation of vanity.

I’m certainly a proponent of emphasizing the inseparability of science and religion and Bultmann is pointing out that science without religion is vain.  The Word of God, according to Bultmann, is abandoning your own security in the world and keeping that security in God.  It’s not abandoning the world [or science].


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