Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann

From: Burgy (
Date: Mon May 19 2003 - 21:27:33 EDT

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    Howard asked: "Interesting comment. Could you elaborate on that a bit? In your judgment, what was/is the character of the misunderstanding of science that "liberals" manifest?"

    I like George's answer, but mine is a little bit different. As I read Bultmann, he seems to have been so awed by the success of modern science that he decided that the resurrection and other biblical miracles had been quite thouroughly disproven. For him, it is the story (symbol) of the resurrection which works within us to transform us. When I read him, I conclude that while he was misled about science, he was none the less a Christian, converted by the power of the myth-story.

    Tillich is more opaque (to me), but I see him doing much the same thing. Both men, observing correctly that (1) the resurrection cannot be proven true and (2) belief in a particlar historical fact alone seems to be a poor basis for a Christian worldview, focus on the symbols of the Christian faith and how we handle them (or they handle us). Tillich does very well, I think, in introducing the necessity of doubt into the Christian's faith as an integral part.

    Hume had shown 150 years earlier the induction fallacy of science; I find nothing in the writings of either man that they understood the significance of that -- however, I have by no means read everything each man wrote. I did peruse Tillich's magnum opus, his SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, through all the index entries for "resurrection." I'm sure george has read more of both men than I have, so if he takes an agrument with anything here, he's probably right. Still -- it is useful to return to primary siurces for what each man actually wrote, and that's what I have been trying to do.

    Popper's falsification ideas came along later -- I wish both Bultmann and Tillich had had a chance to interact with those concepts. Observing that sciece proceeds by induction, Popper suggested that science advanced by deducing testable theories from the data; if a theory passed all tests, it had a place at the table -- until, of course, some data came along that falsified it or some other theory, either simpler, more beautiful or more consilient with other theories came along, in which case it might be supplanted. See UNENDED QUEST by Popper.

    Anyway -- that's my 2c worth. All the books are packed now for our move out of Denver -- it will be at least a month before I see them again. Otherwise I would have tried to give some citations.

    Burgy (John Burgeson)

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