Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brunner's Existentialism

   If you have been reading this little blog, you will notice that a theme is starting to develop. Or at least a few themes are developing. First of all, everything is problematic. Brunner holds that the majority of Christians have deficient views of who God is, who we are, and how both act in the world. This, however, is only secondary.

   The main theme of Brunner's work is existentialism. You have probably noticed by now that everything is about communion and relationship. For Brunner, this is the key to the entirety of Revelation. Without focusing on relationship and it's aspects, we lose the meaning of the Revelation.

   I thought I'd take a second and post what James W. Sire (in The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalogue) says about Existential Theism, which Brunner seems to follow pretty closely. In Sire's book, he says that Existential Theism is all about personalizing theology, and trying to correct a perceived error of traditional religion that is de-personal.

   For traditional theism, sin is breaking a rule, repentance is admitting guilt, forgiveness is canceling a penalty, faith is believing a set of propositions and the Christian life is about obeying rules. In contrast, Existential theism states that sin is betraying a relationship, repentance is sorrowing over personal betrayal, forgiveness is renewing fellowship, faith is committing oneself to a person, and the Christian Life is about pleasing the Lord, who is a Person. (pg. 131)

  The main traits of existential theism are that: "1. Human beings are personal beings, who, when they come to full consciousness, find themselves in an alien universe; whether or not God exists is a tough question to be solved not by reason but by faith." (pg. 128) "2 The personal is valuable" (pg. 129) "3. Knowledge is subjectivity, the whole truth is often paradoxical" (pg. 132) "4. History as a record of events is uncertain and unimportant, but history as a model or type of myth to be made present and lived is of supreme importance." (pg. 135) 

   In reading my commentary on Brunner's work, I think that all of these are highlighted, especially the first three. I am not saying that this is the way to believe, I am just trying to shed some more light on the background on Brunner's work. Brunner is largely indebted to the Christian Existentialist Kierkegaard who tried to combat dead theism and dead orthodoxy. In doing so, Kierkegaard changed the focus of Christianity from "sheer morality" (Sire, pg. 139) taking it on a "subjectivist turn" trying to lift "religion from history" and focus it "on inner meaning." (Sire, 139)  This is Brunner's project: to take Christianity out of the sphere of history and reason and to personalize it, to make it focus on relationship instead of proofs. Even though he might go over-board sometimes in his existentialism, I think we can and should learn from some of his teachings.


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