Rudolf Bultmann was a liberal theologian in the early 19th century who believed that the gospel is still important to preach even though he says the resurrection “simply cannot be a visible fact in the realm of human history”¹, and “a historical fact that involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable.”² Despite hes denial of the resurrection Bultmann still encourages the proclamation of the gospel and even the preaching of Jesus as a crucified, risen savior!
This is such a strange thing for me to understand. It is strange because the truthful reality that Jesus has been raised from the dead is central to the Christian hope. If the resurrection were not true, then why preach the gospel? There is no good news in a dead savior. Paul says “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ.” and “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Co 15:12-15, 32–33). The gospel makes no sense without the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of our resurrection is no way secure if Jesus is still in his tomb. Going further than this, Rudolph Bultmann’s assumption that Jesus was not raised from the dead is based on his denial of the supernatural based on naturalistic presuppositions that are not compatible with the Christian faith. Also, with this skepticism of the supernatural and the denial of Jesus’ resurrection, the Christian can have no hope in his regeneration because that in itself is a supernatural work of God that can be likened to a death and resurrection. If Christ is not raised from the dead, we are still in our sins.
Moreover, when you read through the book of Acts, you can see that whenever the gospel is proclaimed, the resurrection of Jesus and his present reign at the right hand of God is also emphasized. If Jesus is not the present King from David’s line that will sit on the throne forever, the Kingdom of God has no hope and the Church’s future is uncertain. On the contrary, because we know that Jesus is alive and ruling from Heaven, we can be sure of our salvation, our future resurrection, the future of His church, our freedom from sin, and the power to do his will.
¹Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Scribner, 1951), 1:3. Rudolf
²Bultmann, Jesus and the World (New York: Scribner, 1958), 8.