Assertions aren’t arguments – a response to Reji at MissionKali.

Assertions aren’t arguments – a response to Reji at MissionKali.

Reji once again posted an article about Rudolf Bultmann, which can be read here. He hasn’t responded to my rebuttal, yet. He only managed to pick one statement from my rebuttal and ended up writing the whole article on it.

Reji thrives on misrepresentations

I have already pointed out in my previous article that most of the time Reji doesn’t understand what is being said. He thinks I disregarded his identification of this scholar as an “established theologian”. But in reality, this is what I wrote in the article:

Not only that, he goes on to call them established scholars in Christian theology! Neither David Hume nor Spinoza was a theologian. Bultmann was a liberal German theologian, but I’m not sure based on what Reji considers him an established theologian! Not even sure what he means by the word ‘established’. We will have to wait to hear Reji’s argument to support his claim.

So, technically speaking, I just questioned what he meant by the word ‘established’ and what was the criteria by which he considers him an ‘established theologian’. Questioning the usage of the terminology and asking for clarity isn’t the same thing as ‘disregarding’ it. That being said, I would agree with him to a certain extent that he indeed is a scholar in that field. His contributions to the field of Biblical studies have made sure that Christians were able to refine their own beliefs and rationally present a more robust case. I doubt anyone would disregard him as a scholar. One can respect him and yet disagree with him.

Reji believes that Bultmann is such a figure that no one has an answer to his challenges. This is a good indicator that Reji is still living in the past and has yet to catch up with the advancements in Christian academics.

Based on the definition of ‘established theologian’ that Reji provided, I can make a huge list of conservative/evangelical scholars, who would rightly fit that definition, but the space wouldn’t be enough to complete the task. So the readers of MissionKali shouldn’t get so excited that Rudolf Bultmann is some scholar who hasn’t been answered or challenged vigorously.

Reji doesn’t know how to read a book

I’m sorry I have to say this but Reji quotes from a book and doesn’t even know who said it in the book. Here’s what Reji wrote:

Two conservative evangelical Christian theologians call him “an encyclopedic scholar” in the fields of Judaism, old testament, biblical criticism, new testament studies, classical culture, historical theology, modern science, contemporary theology and world religion.  He was a man who devoted  his intellect and time for learning ,teaching and researching Christian  theology (Stanley N. Gundry and Alan F. Johnson, Tensions in Contemporary Theology, Revised, Chicago: Moody Press,1979)These evangelicals Christian writers admired the scholarship of Bultmann even while disagreeing with him. 

Reji doesn’t realize that the aforementioned book isn’t written by Stanley and Alan. They are the editors of this book which has multiple contributors. The ‘encyclopedic scholar’ reference comes from the 2nd chapter: Pacesetters for the radical theologians of the sixties and seventies written by Vernon C Grounds. So it’s Vernon who said those admirable things about Bultmann. This raises a question as to whether Reji has even read the book!!!

Here’s another example of such an irresponsible and horrendous reading:

I am sharing this fact to my Hindu readers is to give them an awareness that even  a Christian scholar promoting Christianity did not believe in biblical miracles.  Gundry and Johnson explain  why Bultmaan suggested demythologization. “Modern man thinks scientifically, in strictly casual categories. Spirits, demons, miracles, the devil,  a virgin birth …a supernatural being returning in the clouds of the sky as if the universe were a structure of three levels like flats in an apartment house- to demand that the modern man accept all this as anything but myth is to demand a sacrificium intellectus.”

Gundry and Johnson aren’t explaining why Bultmann suggested demythologization, instead, it is Vernon explaining Bultman’s reason for suggesting demythologization. This is a little bit concerning as Reji is misleading Hindus. He wants to start a university and educate Hindus but he is the one that needs to work on his reading skills. If he doesn’t improve, it would be like a blind leading the blind.

Appeal to authority fallacy

When Reji writes something, it goes without saying that he will be committing logical fallacies. His articles are incomplete without a logical fallacy. So what exactly is the appeal to authority fallacy? If someone insists that a claim is true simply because an expert in the field said it is true without providing any sufficient evidence then it is called an appeal to authority fallacy.

So, to argue against miracles, Reji quotes Rudolf:

Bultmaan believed that “Since God is spirit, he simply does not disclose himself miraculously in space-time.  History, like nature, is a closed continuum of  causes and effects, with even human motives susceptible to casual explanation. Bultmaan concludes that this closedness means that the continuum of historical happenings cannot be rent by the interference of supernatural, transcendent powers and that therefore there is no “miracle”in the sense of the word. In this sense, a reader of the biblical narratives of miracles can  only believe in them since history cannot prove it (Tensions in Contemporary Theology, Revised,p.48)  Bultmann says the old testament narration of miracles were only the beliefs of the writers.  Bultmann was not a Hindu, or atheist. But his knowledge shows us  the folly of calling the belief  a god sending a wind that divided the waters of the Red Sea as two walls but did not cause any trouble for two million people to travel through it as history!

This is a perfect example of an appeal to authority fallacy. Reji doesn’t provide any evidence in support of the claims made by Rudolf. “Since God is spirit, he simply does not disclose himself miraculously in space-time” This is a non-sequitur fallacy. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. It is an assertion and not an argument. Rest everything that he said relies on this basic assumption that God cannot reveal himself miraculously. That just begs the question. Reji needs to do a little more than quoting Rudolf.

Reji also fails to recognize that Bultmann’s perspective on the Bible was not necessarily a result of his Biblical scholarship but rather his philosophical epistemology as it was rightly pointed out by Cardinal Ratzinger. (1) Reji would have to show us that his beliefs were indeed a result of hermeneutics and not his epistemology. So far, Reji hasn’t made a case for that.

Reji doesn’t cite his sources properly

As I have already stated earlier, Stanley and Alan aren’t the authors but the editors of this book. Each chapter is written by a different author. So when Reji says, “His purpose was not to offend but to defend the Christian faith explains Gundry and Johnson” I highly doubt that Gundry and Johnson said this. From what I can see, it is Vernon presenting Rudolf’s perspective for his approach. I’ll wait for him to provide proper citations, which any responsible writer/author would know to do so without anyone reminding him.

What kind of Christianity is Rudolf promoting?

MissionKali wants his Hindu readers to know that Rudolf is a Christian scholar who promotes Christianity without believing in the miracles. I find this a little odd because Rudolf isn’t promoting the orthodox Christian belief – which rests on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a miraculous historical event. But instead, Rudolf is considered a liberal Christian that redefines the essentials of Christianity and presents a different version of it altogether. It feels like Reji is irked that Rudolf is called a liberal Christian, but that’s the truth he gotta live with. Liberal theology is a movement that interprets Christianity differently and if Reji insists that this is the truth then he needs to present evidence and arguments instead of relying on emotional rhetoric and assertions.

They have no answers to Bultmann?

Reji thinks that Bultmann’s challenge is so strong that no one has any answers to him. Here’s what he wrote:

Finally the authors of the book Gundry and Johnson lament that  there is no alternative except to believe in the “divine revelation” in the bible and escape. They have no answers to Bultmann.

Truth be told, at this point, I’m not sure whether Reji has some comprehension issues or he’s just outright lying to make his case. There’s nothing in the book where both the editors suggest that there’s no alternative but to believe in divine revelation. Nothing at all. In fact, when you read the chapter written by Vernon, you find that he writes about Rudolf being Critiqued:

Bultmann’s demythologized, Heideggerian version of Christianity, though it embraces insights which are of inestimable value, has been subjected to whithering criticism. And one criticism in particular cuts to the very heart of his reinterpretation of the kerygma. What compelling reasons convince a scholar of Bultmann’s stature that God, the inscrutable and unpredictable Source and Sustainer of reality, has acted redemptively in a Man whose historicity is very dubious and whose alleged significance comes to us through a mythological fog that only sophisticated scholarship can penetrate? Why accept this Man as the saving model of authenticity? Oden reminds us, consequently, that an unanswerable question arises from the head-on collision between philosophy and theology—or at least theology as Bultmann understands it.

Although the New Testament hardly provides us with an existential analysis of the nature of man, it does proclaim an event of redemption that addresses man in his ontic situation with a new and actual possibility of truly human existence. Since it understands that man’s new moral possibility is given in an event, the saving act of God, it also understands that without this event man’s situation is one of despair, an assertion that philosophy rejects. How can the New Testament maintain this, in contrast to the whole weight of the philosophical tradition?

Gundry and Johnson. Tensions in Contemporary Theology. 55

Rudolf has been questioned that how does he believe that God has acted redemptively in Jesus while denying that God doesn’t reveal himself.

It is in response to this that Rudolf talks about a fideistic approach that one should accept it by faith. Here’s what Rudolf said:

If we still ask these questions, we are obviously not yet rightly prepared. For they indicate that we still consider the Bible as an ordinary book which we may study like other books in order to profit by it. If we ask for plain convincing reasons why God speaks actually here, in the Bible, then we have not yet understood what God’s sovereignty means. For it is due to his sovereign will, that he has spoken and speaks here. The Bible does not approach us at all like other books, nor like other “religious voices of the nations,” as catering for our interest. It claims from the outset to be God’s word. We did not come across the Bible in the course of our cultural studies, as we came across, for example, Plato or the Bhagavad-Gita. We came to know it through the Christian church, which put it before us with its authoritative claim. The church’s preaching, founded on the Scriptures, passes on the word of the Scriptures. It says: God speaks to you here! In his majesty he has chosen this place! We cannot question whether this place is the right one; we must listen to the call that summons us.

Gundry and Johnson. Tensions in contemporary theology. 56

So, contrary to what Reji thinks, it is in fact Rudolf who responds to such inquiries with fideism and not the editors of this said volume.

Conclusion

As it was expected, Reji misunderstands most of the writings. He quotes from a book but doesn’t even know that it’s written by the contributor and not the editors. He appeals to authority but fails to back up the claims with any evidence. In short, he hasn’t made a successful case so far against miracles.

References

1. Jaki. Miracles and Physics. 13

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