God’s being is in becoming. Two of the six motifs that George Hunsinger identifies as the shapers of Barth’s theology are helpful to review in light of the axiom I just noted about God’s being. Hunsinger writes:
“Actualism” is the motif which governs Barth’s complex conception of being and time. Being is always an event and often an act (always an act whenever an agent capable of decision is concerned). The relationship between divine being and human being is one of the most vexed topics in Barth interpretation, and one on which the essay at hand hopes to shed some light. For now let it simply be said, however cryptically, that the possibility for the human creature to act faithfully in relation to the divine creator is thought to rest entirely in the divine act, and therefore continually befalls the human creature as a miracle to be sought ever anew.
“Particularism” is a motif which designates both a noetic procedure and an ontic state of affairs. The noetic procedure is the rule that say, “Let every concept used in dogmatic theology be defined on the basis of a particular event called Jesus Christ.” No generalities derived from elsewhere are to applied without further ado to this particular. Instead one must so proceed from this particular event that all general conceptions are carefully and critically redefined on its basis before being used in theology. The reason for this procedure is found in the accompanying state of affairs. This particular event requires special conceptualization, precisely because it is regarded as unique in kind.
I wanted to share this, sort of as a ground clearing exercise prior to jumping into the rest of the post. Both actualism and particularism, as they are understood in Barth’s theology, will be important to bear in mind as we get further into this post. For the rest of the post we will be considering David Congdon’s treatment of Rudolf Bultmann’s understanding of mythology, and how he ‘demythologizes’ that through appropriating the sorts of motifs that shape Barth’s theology. He sees, according to Congdon, God’s revelation strictly as event that obtains in the concrete of historical actualization. This view undercuts the essentialist theological ontology that funds what we call classical theism or substance metaphysics; i.e. the traditional view that much of Western theology operates from. So, this places me in a place that is largely contra the classical theists of today; albeit, I think this approach helps explicate some iterations of the classical theism, or what some of the classical theistic theologians wanted to say but couldn’t because of the limitations of their own conditioned time and space (i.e. when it comes to the ideational material they had available to them at the time). With this said, let me share from Congdon’s analysis of Bultmann’s understanding of revelation as event as that is actualized in historical occurrence without remainder vis-à-vis God.
It is this insight above all to which Bultmann appeals in the conclusion to his programmatic essay on demythologizing. The problem with mythology in every age is that it dissolves the paradox and defuses the scandal by narrating the divine in a supernatural, rather than historical manner:
For the salvation-occurrence [Heilsgeschehen] about which we talk is not some miraculous, supernatural occurrence but rather a historical occurrence in space and time. And by presenting it as such, stripping away the mythological garments, we have intended to follow the intention of the New Testament itself and to do full justice to the paradox of its proclamation—the paradox, namely, that God’s eschatological emissary is a concrete historical person, that God’s eschatological act takes place in a human destiny, that it is an occurrence, therefore, that cannot be proved [ausweisen] to be eschatological in any worldly way. It is the paradox formulated in the words “he emptied himself” (Phil 2:7), or “he who was rich became poor” (2 Cor 8:9), or “God sent his son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3), or “he was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16), or, finally and classically, “the word became flesh” (John 1:14).
The paradox precludes proof, according to Bultmann. It is precisely the “nonprovability” (Nichtausweisharkeit) of the “eschatological phenomena” that “secures Christian proclamation against the charge that it is mythology,” for, unlike myth, “the transcendence [Jenseitigkeit] of God is not made immanent [Diesseits]” in the event of divine revelation. The ability to prove (ausweisen) the eschatological requires having direct access to it, which is what mythology seeks to provide. Mythology grounds revelation in the Revealer’s “essential nature [Wesensart],” that is to say, in “the permanent consubtantiality [Wesensgleichheit, lit. ‘identity of essence’] of the messenger with God.” It is this permanent metaphysical access that the Johannine witness denies in the way that it “historicizes” (vergeschichtlicht) God’s activity in the Revealer. Christian faith in the word-made-flesh is faith in an event that does not permit such access, its salvific significance requires, instead, a constant vigilance against the temptation to stabilize and secure the Christ-event in a readily accessible form. The Revealer therefore calls each person into question and places every theological statement in a position of crisis. The word of revelation coincides with the existential unsettling of the one who hears the word. The truth of God’s self-revelation is thus a truth that works upon the hearer: it demands, negatively, a posture of self-criticism regarding the temptation to speak theoretically about God, but this critique contains the positive and practical demand to live an obedient life of love—a point highlighted especially in the Johannine epistles (cf. 1 John 4:7-8). According to this account of revelation, the hermeneutical problem, which concerns the relation between the event of revelation and the hearer of revelation, is internally necessary to the becoming-flesh of the divine word.
The concern for some is that the ‘event’ itself is collapsed into the ‘hearer,’ thus giving the human agent the capacity to determine just who and what God actually is. But this, as I understand Bultmann, is precisely what he is countering. In other words, he retains the ‘orthodox’ Creator/creature distinction, but at the same time, and dialectically does not allow the ontological reality to be thought apart from the epistemological as those become a piece in the self-revelation of God given in the hypostatic union of Creator/creature in Jesus Christ.
What is attractive to me about all of this is the non-speculative emphasis present in Bultmann’s (and Barth’s) approach to theology proper. The speculative mind is put to death in the concrete heart of God as that is given flesh and blood in the humanity of Jesus Christ. I recognize the dangers some see in this, particularly as the focus becomes potentially overly existential. But for me, this danger is worth it. Speculative theology, as that is practiced in various forms of classical theism, is not commensurate with the narrative of Scripture itself; indeed, it is not commensurate with God’s self-revelation in Christ which is anything but speculative. And of issue, and this is what it right at the center of the impasse between something like Barth/Bultmann’s approach and classical theism’s, is what Congdon notes in regard to Bultmann’s theology: the hermeneutical question.
Given the state of humanity’s heart, what capacity does humanity have in itself to ever know God? And in what sense can even a redeemed humanity come to the conclusion that they have been placed into a stable situation that they can now manage between God and themselves? This is the mythology that Bultmann seeks to demythologize (even if he overdoes it in certain ways), and it is the essentialism that Barth’s actualism is intent on undercutting. If God’s self-revelation is an event, meaning a reality that keeps constantly giving Hisself over and over again, then in what sense can we, elect humanity in Christ, ever conclude that a stable bond of nature has now obtained such that we are in a position to speculate about the grandeur of the Holy God? This is what I constructively take from Bultmann’s programmatic move to destabilize what classical theism has asserted is the stable reality from their own powers of wit and speculation.
 George Hunsinger, How To Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 16-18.
 David W. Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), 488-90.