Bultmann on Freedom

I have been doing a bit of reading for my thesis project next year and I came across this quote I would like to share from the New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann:

Genuine freedom is not subjective arbitrariness. It is freedom in obedience. The freedom of subjective arbitrariness is delusion, for it delivers man up to his drives, to do in any moment what lust and passion dictate. This hollow freedom is in reality dependence on the lust and passion of the moment. Genuine freedom is freedom from the motivation of the moment; it is freedom which withstands the clamor and pressure of momentary motivations. It is possible only when conduct is determined by a motive which transcends the present moment, that is, by law. Freedom is obedience to a law of which the validity is recognized and accepted, which man recognizes as the law of his own being. This can be only be a law which has its origin and reason in the beyond. We may call it the law of spirit or, in Christian language, the law of God.

- Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, (New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1958), 41.


Dr. V said...

Bultman also has famously written the following: "It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles." (Rudolph Bultmann, "New Testament and Mythology," in Kerygma and Myth, edited by H. W. Bartsch (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 5.)

Would Bultmann's "law of spirit" or "law of God" turn out to be merely a law of nature, i.e., a law of the physical universe? Would Bultmann's "genuine freedom" and "obedience" turn out to be a type of physical determinism?

I'm not a Bultmann scholar, but there seems to be something philosophically odd going on in Bultmann's thinking when he talks of a law of spirit/God but also dismisses spirit beings. Either there is an unnoticed logical inconsistency or a change of view.

Either way, if by "genuine freedom" Bultmann is referring to what philosophers call metaphysical libertarian freedom, then the conduct would be "determined" by -- i.e., the conduct would originate with, be up to -- the agent, not a law.

It's food for thought...