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May 28 , 2009

The Mission of Demythologizing

Rudolf Bultmann's Dialectical Theology


Since 1941, Rudolf Bultmann’s program of demythologizing has been the subject of constant debate, widely held to indicate Bultmann’s departure from the dialectical theology he once shared with Karl Barth. In the 1950s, Barth referred to their relationship as that of a whale and an elephant: incapable of meaningful communication. This study proposes a contrary reading of demythologizing as the hermeneutical fulfillment of dialectical theology on the basis of a reinterpretation of Barth’s theological project. The volume argues that dialectical theology is fundamentally governed by a missionary logic. Bultmann’s hermeneutical theology extends this dialectical, missionary theology into the field of interpretation. Bultmann’s program addresses a false relation between gospel and culture. Negatively, demythologizing is a program of deconstantinizing, opposing the objectifying conflation of kerygma and culture that he calls “myth.” Positively, demythologizing is a form of intercultural hermeneutics, composed of preunderstanding and self-understanding. Demythologizing is therefore a missionary hermeneutic of intercultural translation.
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