Relativism and the Kerygma

  • Joseph Runzo


Theology is inherently both theoretical and practical. Through its theoretical aspect, theology has primarily tended to be absolutistic; through its practical aspect, it has tended more recently to become relativistic. Theology involves the attempt to provide a theoretical scheme for human soul-making. But this theoretical aspect serves the practical end of providing a foundational scheme for understanding faith and salvation in the diverse lives of real persons. Evolving out of the community of faith which it serves, theology must address the actual relativity of human thought. Yet counterpoised against this relativist pressure, theology retains an absolutist impulse, finding its point of origin and a final arbitor in the enduring scriptural tradition of its community of faith.


Conceptual Schema Absolute Truth Christian Faith Sentential Operator Biblical Text 
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  1. 1.
    For a concise explication of the notion of the kerygma and of kerygmatic formulations in the New Testament see C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (New York: Harper and Row, 1964).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rudolph Bultmann, ‘A Reply to the Theses of J. Schniewind’, in Rudolf Bultmann et al., Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, ed. Hans Werner Bartsch (New York: Harper and Row, 1961, p. 116).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Rudolph Bultmann, ‘The Case for Demythologization’, in Myth and Christianity: An Inquiry into the Possibility of Religion without Myth. trans. Norbert Guterman (New York: Noonday Press, 1958) p. 58Google Scholar
  4. and Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955), vol. 2, p. 251.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See, for example, Rudolph Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, trans. Louise Pettibone Smith and Erminie Huntress Lantero (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), p. 3.Google Scholar
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    Rudolph Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), p. 18.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Cf. Rudolph Bultmann, History and Eschatology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1957), p. 12Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    For a discussion of some difficulties not considered here which arise from Bultmann’s ambiguous usage of ‘myth’ see Ronald W. Hepburn, ‘Demythologizing and the Problem of Validity’, in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, eds. Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre (New York: Macmillan, 1955), pp. 227–242.Google Scholar
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    See Ernst Troeltsch, The Absoluteness of Christianity and the History of Religions, trans. David Reid (Richmond, Va.: John Knox, 1971), p. 117.Google Scholar
  10. 28.
    Rudolf Carnap, ‘Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’, in Semantics and the Philosophy of Language, ed. Leonard Linsky (Urbana, Ill.: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1952), pp. 209–10.Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), p. 111.Google Scholar

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© Joseph Runzo 1986

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  • Joseph Runzo

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