Page 6, 27th February 1970

27th February 1970
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Page 6, 27th February 1970 — The puzzling philosopher finds a modern Boswell
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The puzzling philosopher finds a modern Boswell

by Dom PETER FLOOD, O.S.B.

The Thought of Rudolf Bukmann by Andre Maser (Irish University Press 85s.) THIS summary of the thought of Rudolf Bultmann by the professor of Philosophy at Dijon, offers a preface by Bultmann himself in which he says, "Whom shall I congratulate the more heartily? You for writing a major work with such intellectual precision and vigour? Or myself for finding so perspicacious an interpreter?". Truly the old philosopher might hav'e said the same of Boswell. After such an avowal by the original himself, one can hardly criticise comparatively the author and his treatment of his subject. Perhaps, he demonstrates the illogical form of Bultmann's demythologization better than he intends, but it is a conclusion that one can hardly avoid when reading him. To read Scripture with a category in mind into which it must be fitted, and one which would logically deny to Faith its natural higher mode of knowledge, must lead to results which are hardly less than blasphemous to a Catholic. The study in chapter 14 ,of Christianity and Humanism has a sort of ambivalence that one finds in so much of Bultmann, particularly when his own progression of thought is being considered. The author ends somewhat unexpectedly, by stating that Bultmann "takes up the theme we have been considering. He adds nothing new; but we must note that he defends humanism more stoutly than ever against its modern Christian detractors, who would lay at its door the blame for two global wars, and. more generally, the plague of technology and organisation which threatens our present world. He shows that contrariwise our abandonment of humanism has led to this contempt for and even denial of the human person". If anything, it is basic to Christianity to ennoble the human person in the Mystical Body of Christ beyond the wildest dreams of humanism. In view of the preface one does not care to wonder whether there is not a distinction, not drawn by the author, in Bultmann's thought here? In part III, Professor Malet reports and assesses the rela tion, more especially, in terms of dependence of the work of Bultmann and the thought of Jaspers, Heidegger and Barth. The reader will hardly go all the way with him in this assessment. but it is fair to say that Bultmann himself approves of it, especially the comment that `Bultmann is more Bartian than Barth', a remark that would have considerably astonished the last mentioned. It is too wide a statement to be strictly correct. The author's "conclusion" contains several unproven assertions which reduce his syllogisms to fantasy, if not unconscious misrepresentation; but the saddest sentence in his book, which highlights his thought, is one attributed to Bultmann: "no one can use electric light and the wireless, and accept modern clinics and medical techniques when ill. and at the same time believe in the world of spirits and the miracles of the New Testament". This surely is a sort of inverted mediaeval fear of science. Though costly, the book is a fair summary and comment on the works of Bultmann. It has an adequate index.




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