The Existential Interpretation of Doctrine Part II -- By: Bernard Ramm

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 112:447 (Jul 1955)
Article: The Existential Interpretation of Doctrine Part II
Author: Bernard Ramm


The Existential Interpretation of Doctrine
Part II

Bernard Ramm

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Ramm is Professor of Religion and Director of Graduate Studies in Religion at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, and the author of several volumes in the field of Christian apologetics and hermeneutics.]

Holmer’s Existential Interpretation of the Deity of Christ

Dr. Holmer would not wish to be classed per se with the existentialists, but as I analyze his interpretation of the deity of Christ it impresses me as an existential solution to the Christological problem. Holmer is a careful, analytic, and able writer, and has set forth his position in a very thoughtful manner.1

He commences his exposition by asking how Christ can be made contemporary for faith today.2 How can a historical person be a present religious reality? He examines and rejects three positions. First, he rejects Tolstoi’s idea that it is the teaching of Christ with which we are contemporary. With the rejection of Tolstoi there must follow for Holmer the rejection of the whole modernistic interpretation of the contemporaneity of Christ. Second he rejects the interpretation of the supernaturalists and with them, thirdly, those who make Christ contemporary through metaphysical interpretation, i.e., through setting Christ forth in terms of the Nicean or Chalcedonian creeds although Holmer does not so name them. The history of modern philosophy has demonstrated to Holmer’s satisfaction that the appeal to either the supernatural or the metaphysical is no longer defensible.

If these three approaches to the contemporaneity of Christ (and it is a weakness of the essay that Holmer does not adhere

closely to this theme) are to be rejected, we are not at a loss; for we may turn to the present analytic school in philosophy. Although Holmer is not too happy about this alternative, it appears to be to him the only possible point of departure in view of the collapse of traditional methodology in philosophy. The modern analytic school is the more general philosophical school growing out of the Vienna Circle and its allied schools of logical positivism, logical empiricism, and scientific empiricism. It seeks to do away with metaphysics (at least on paper) and to engage in the linguistic, logical, and empirical analyses of sentences.

Holmer maintains that the analysis-school does not attempt to describe actualities but possibilities. That is, it does not intend to be metaphysical (actuality), but descriptive (possibility). It does not affirm: “There is an atom.” Rather it takes this...

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