The Concept of the 'Moment' and Its Bearing upon the Existentialist Understanding of History

Richmond, James (1960) The Concept of the 'Moment' and Its Bearing upon the Existentialist Understanding of History. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The thesis takes as its starting-point the revolution of XXth. century theology against late XIXth. century liberalism as to the status and value of historical event. While XIXth. century liberalism regarded historical events as relatively unimportant channels for the delivery and illustration of timeless divine truths, recent and contemporary theology tends to regard historical events as all-important and crucial in and by themselves, and not merely because of the timeless truths abstracted from and mediated through them. Existentialist theology interprets this revived emphasis on historical event as implying the radical historicity and temporality of man, and expresses this interpretation by means of the concept, the 'moment', which designates a concrete, temporal-spacial, particular event within man's historical life, apart from which man does not become an authentic person and does not encounter truth. Further, existentialist theology stresses man, man himself, in his freedom and in his genuine becoming, as the only fruitful answer to the question, 'what is the meaning of history?', in contradistinction to answering it in terms of political, economic, sociological, and geographical laws, processes, and cycles. The thesis thereafter investigates the main works of three importsant existentialist theologians, Bultmann, Buber, and Kierkegaard, with a view to discovering those ways in which they interpret and employ this concept, the 'moment'. It discovers that in spite of divergences (which it analyses and evaluates), these three thinkers display a certain unity in their teaching on the 'moment' , a unity which can hardly be understood as fortuitous. An attempt is made to understand this unity as springing from common roots in all three, and an attempt is made to indicate what these roots are. It is argued that while the facile and 'popular' explanation of this unity would stress the philosophy of existence as the background and seed-plot of the notions of history of Bultmann, Buber, and Kierkegaard, this is neither the only possible nor the most plausible explanation. This explanation ignores the common biblical background of Buber (a Jew) and of Bultmann and Kierkegaard (Christians). The thesis argues therefore that Buber's notion of 'historicity' and his use of the concept, the 'moment', spring mainly from his Hasidic interpretation of Old Testament revelation with its firm emphasis on the 'everydayness' of God's historic self-disclosure. Similarly, it derives Bultmann's emphasis on historicity and temporality and his use of the concept, the 'moment', from his conviction that the events of Christ's career mean, the utter cruciality of particular, historical-temporal events and encounters within human existence. It derives Kierkegaard's postulation of the Moment from his conviction that the original Christ-Moment described in the New Testament implies a contemporary, identical Moment within human existsence. Thus it is argued that biblical revelation generally and the'eventful' ministry of Christ in particular necessarily imply the doctrine (and scandal) of particularity. Thus the conclusion is drawn that the Moment is a logically necessary and existentially most relevant category for theology. Behind the 'moment', it must be insisted, stands historic biblical revelation and the crucial events of Christ's life and death. Thus the 'moment' is not merely a category borrowed by theology from the system of concepts of the philosophy of existence, but a thoroughly biblical, Christian category without which biblical revelation and Christ's incarnation would lose their relevance for modern man. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Theology, Religious history, Philosophy of Religion
Date of Award: 1960
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1960-79369
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2020 10:34
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 10:34
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/79369

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