Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

God, according to Bultmann, is wholly other and beyond the world, makes no impact on the closed chain of causality in nature or history, and cannot be objectified in general statements or proven to exist by arguments. Yet God cares that an individual’s life choices be authentic and is the eternal one; a relationship with God is the interpersonal context within which decisions take on final significance. Faith is the gritty determination to live life out of a relationship with God, even though naturalism may be well on the way toward explaining everything in the world without recourse to the hypothesis of the divine.

Our salvation depends on God, not ourselves, Bultmann says. God’s saving work is grounded not on the historic atonement and vivification of Jesus, as traditional Christianity teaches, but on God’s unpredictable presence in the Word preached here and now. When God encounters us in the Word, he shatters our tendency to draw from our own resources and awakens us to an eternal dimension, in the light of which we see life from a transformed perspective.

According to Bultmann, freedom means that our decision in a given moment need not be imposed by society or by our own past choices, nor need it limit the choices we will make tomorrow, but is our spontaneous response to the heart of God who meets us at the crossroads of the present. God calls us to responsibility before him, that is, to love him and to love our neighbors in each concrete situation. In the matter of behaviors, the content of Christian ethics does not differ from the secular, by which Bultmann has in mind the moral expectations of post-Enlightenment Germanic civilization.