Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Liberal Marcionism, Andy Stanley, and Bultmannian Demythologization

"And he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Today we want to consider a much more self-conscious form of Neo-Marcionism found in some British and American scholarly circles, it also dominates German New Testament scholarship.

German scholar Rudolph Bultmann and his followers maintain that the New Testament Gospel comes to us shrouded in myth that needs to be “demythologized.” In particular, say these men, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that salvation results from the verifiable actions of God in history. Rather, salvation is “punctiliar:” it happens in a moment of personal existential encounter with God. 

Salvation, for Bultmann, has no real relation to the development of the kingdom in the Old Testament as it climaxes in the revelation and work of Jesus Christ. Thus, says Bultmann, all this Old Testament background is “myth,” and in order to get at the core of the Gospel, we need to strip it away and filter its message out of its Old Testament context and worldview. Think about this the next time Andy Stanley says we need to unhitch from the Old Testament. Where does that logic lead?

Orthodox Christian scholars maintain against Bultmann that the Gospel is an act of God in history. God prepared the history of the world by His sovereign providence so that the person, message, and work of Jesus Christ would be abundantly clear. The Old Testament events brought the world to the point of historical maturation for the events of the Gospel to take place. The Old Testament events also typologically foreshadowed the events of the Gospel and shed light on their meaning. The Old Testament worldview establishes the true picture of the world, against all pagan worldviews. Only in that true world-picture do the events of the Gospel make sense.

The irony is that by demythologizing the Gospel, Bultmann actually has substituted myth for truth, because if anything is a myth it is the “Jesus” of Bultmann. The essential characteristic of a myth is that it is a “religious truth” not grounded in real history. The real Jesus is not myth, but fact.

While we heartily accept the miracles of Christ, too often there are aspects of His life and teaching we try to strip away—particularly His hard teachings on eternal punishment. In this year’s study of the Old Testament, commit to see and worship Christ as He is, rather than as we would like Him to be.