Analogy, Demythologizing, and Eberhard Jüngel: Once More with David Congdon

I provided an introduction of sorts to Congdon’s tome in an earlier post. Today I want to return and highlight a piece of his text that seems particularly valuable to me.

David W. Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology (Fortress, 2015).

One of the tasks that Congdon undertakes in this work is to clarify just what sort of a thing Bultmann gives us with his “demythologizing” business. He accomplishes this in manifold ways, but one of the most helpful ways that he does so – in my humble opinion – is by connecting the dots between demythologizing and the doctrine of analogy. What I give you below comes primarily from a footnote and puts Bultmann into touch specifically with Jüngel’s account of analogy as an “analogy of advent.” I will, however, begin with some of the main text that elucidates Jüngel’s discussion of “the Christ-myth.” As usual, italics are from the original text and bold is from me. I will also remove the bibliographic information interspersed throughout the footnote – if you want that, get yourself a copy of the book and look it up!

Jüngel argues that the Christ-myth demands the very creator-creature differentiation that calls into question myth’s attempt to provide a theoretical explanation of the world. The Christ-myth, which refers to an identification of God with a human being, “fails if one considers it conversely as the annulment [Aufhebung] of the differentiation between creator and creature. God became a human being in order concretely and definitively to differentiate between God and humanity.”[30]

[***And now on to footnote #30***]

This is one of Jüngel’s central claims, and it is repeated throughout his writings. His work – and, I would argue, that of Barth and Bultmann as well – can be understood as one long exposition of the statement Luther made in a 1530 letter to Spalatin: “We are to be human and not God. That is the summa.” . . . In his 1969-70 theses on christology, Jüngel states that “the revelation of the definitive unity of God with Jesus constitutes the definitive differentiation of God and humanity.” In his 1985 summary of his theology, . . . he discusses as his fifth point the thesis: “I believe, therefore I differentiate.” He argues that faith “differentiates first and foremost between God and the world, between creator and creature, in order to emphasize the right relation between both in terms of an unsurpassable nearness.” And in his 1988 essay on the historical Jesus he concludes by saying that “God and humanity [Mensch] are so differentiated, that God and humanity can be together without restriction.” . . . The simultaneity of both differentiation and nearness in the relation between God and the world is at the heart of Jüngel’s doctrine of analogy as well, which he defines as an “analogy of advent.” Unlike the analogia entis, which defines God in terms of a still greater dissimilarity in the midst of such a great similarity, Jüngel – following Barth’s analogia fidei and his notion of God’s humanity – understands the analogy between God and the world in terms of a still greater similarity or nearness in the midst of such a great dissimilarity or differentiation. . . . It is not widely recognized, at least within anglophone scholarship, that Jüngel’s doctrine of analogy functions exactly like Bultmann’s program of demythologizing. This is due in no small part to the fact that Jüngel’s work on Bultmann remains untranslated, and thus he is perceived strictly as an interpreter of Barth and not equally as an interpreter of Bultmann. This has the unfortunate effect of leading readers of Jüngel to think that he is demonstrating the creative possibilities of Barth’s theology when in fact he is also demonstrating the equally creative possibilities of Bultmann’s. (451–52)

P.S. and N.B. David has a new website that you should be sure to check out: dwcongdon.com

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