Abstracts for Akadeemia 10/2006

Rudolf Bultmann
Jesus Christ and mythology

Bultmann poses a burning question: what is the meaning of Jesus and the whole New Testament for present-day people? To give an answer, one should keep from simply reducing the function of God to supernatural powers or to a “social gospel” with the imperative to be good. Bultmann’s aim is not the elimination of mythological expressions but their explanation. Early Christianity also preserved and continued the eschatological message of Christ in its mythological form, although the rudiments of demythologization can be seen in the New Testament itself. Therefore, the task of demythologization is justified nowadays as well.

The reproach that demythologization would mean rationalization of the Christian message does not hold true. This results from the misunderstanding that demythologization dissolves the Christian message into a result of people’s rational thinking, and that God’s mystery will be destroyed by demythologization. On the contrary, only demythologization explains the real meaning of the mystery of God.

To find a hermeneutic principle by which to understand what has been said in the Bible, Bultmann turns to the philosophy of existence, although not in order to imitate it. Existence analysis reveals the realm that only faith as the domain of relationship between humans and God can explain.

Christian faith can only say that God is active here and there, but his functioning is hidden as it is not identical with visible events directly but paradoxically. The relations between the events of the world are not explained by mythology either, as mythology places supernatural events, through the destruction of connections, into the chain of natural events. Even if we admit that the language of faith is mythological, we should not understand such a language in symbols or pictures, but as an analogous manner of speaking. If we speak about the functioning of God in this way, we treat the functioning of God as an analogy to relations between people. Moreover, we imagine the communion between God and man as an analogy of relations between one person and another.

As a product of demythologization, we can say that faith is the new understanding of our personal existence. The confusion is caused by mixing up the understanding of one’s own existence with philosophical analysis of humans. Philosophical analysis shows what existence means abstractly. Even for the scientific, objective observer, the functioning of God is a mystery.

The eschatological existence of the believer is not a worldly phenomenon but is realized in new self-understanding that grows out of the Word of God. The functioning God now exists in the present as an eschatological event. This is eschatological “once and for ever”, as the Word becomes an event in the living word of the sermon here and now.

As could be seen, the task of demythologization has received its real impulse from the conflict between the Biblical mythological understanding of the world and the present-day understanding of the world, which is influenced by scientific thinking. Faith itself requires abandonment of all outlooks on the world that result from human thinking, whether they be mythological or scientific. To put it more exactly, demythologization is the radical application of the doctrine of acquittal to the realm of knowledge and thinking. Like the doctrine of acquittal, demythologization destroys the wish for any certainty. There is no difference between certainty based on good deeds and certainty based on objectifying knowledge. Those who want to believe in God must know that they themselves are, so to say, in a vacuum.

Friedrich Parrot
A trip to Kakhetia

A chapter from the book published in 1834, Reise zum Ararat, offers the present-day reader exciting information on production of the famous Kakhetian wine and drinking customs, and gives glimpses of everyday life between the mountains and rivers in that region of Georgia. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that Parrot, professor at the University of Tartu, with his unprecedented research trips to the mountains, laid the foundations for what is today called mountaineering. It should be added that he, together with Khachatur Abovyan (1809-disappeared in 1848), reached the highest peak of Ararat on 9 October 1829.

Ott Kurs
On the fate of the Germans in Crimea

In the early twentieth century. Germans occupied the fourth place among the ethnic groups of Crimea, making up 9.1 per cent of the population of the counties and 7.2 per cent of the whole Crimea. Their share was the largest in the steppe areas – in the counties of Perekop and Eupatoria, where they comprised respectively 25.3 per cent (11 692 people) and 16.3 per cent (7375 people) of the rural population. German settlers contributed greatly to the Europeanization of Crimean farming and culture. German farms were prosperous and served as a model for other immigrant groups, including Estonians. The German language was used in families and schools. By the mid-twentieth century, all this had perished. Today’s population differs considerably from that of the early twentieth century. After the Soviet repressions, particularly after the full-scale deportations in 1941 and 1944, Crimea was entirely Russified and Sovietized. Germans who had been deprived of their homes also began to Russify. Although in 1991 Germans were allowed to return to Crimea, their number there is no longer great (less than 2800) as most deportees and their descendants preferred to be repatriated to Germany. Thus, there are ten times less Germans in Crimea now than in the early twentieth century (almost 32 000) and almost twenty times less than before the deportations of 1941 (approx. 53 000), and they comprise only a negligible part of the population – 0.1 per cent. There are somewhat more Germans in the vicinity of their former hubs – approximately 0.2 per cent of the population in the Krasnogvardiyske and Saki districts. The Germans currently living in Crimea are mostly Russian-speaking. The language of their ancestors is used by approximately 11 per cent of rural and only by 9 per cent of urban Germans. The lack of compact German habitation hinders the revival of their mother tongue, although the will exists. An essential role in consolidation of Germans and revival of their ancestors’ language and culture belongs to cultural societies that are active in Kransnogvardiyske, Krasnopereskop, Armyansk, Simferopol, Yalta, Eupatoria, Sudak, and Sevastopol. Aid is received from Germany. The German embassy in Ukraine always supports various cultural events. Such events were particularly numerous in 2004, which marked the bicentenary of German colonization.

Jan Foitzik
Central eastern Europe from 1953-1956: Social background and political context of destalinization

The Hungarian uprising in 1956 was the symbolic peak of several regional and global development processes after World War II. However, open or hidden conflicts leading to cautious destalinization emerged in all eastern European countries as early as the beginning of the 1950s. Its first culmination was Khrushchev’s “secret speech” on Stalin’s crimes at the twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956.

From the comparative point of view, one can notice clear hints that the “new course” and destalinization policy had the character of a government-led instrumental campaign. Not for a moment did the Communist Party yield the monopoly of power over different subsystems of government. Therefore, the asymmetries between the destalinization policies of different countries are a direct result of Moscow’s interventionism related to the mobility and characteristic regulation mechanisms of its leadership.

Naturally, the course of the acute crisis was influenced by different economic, social, and political bases and traditions. Its central complex of causes could generally be defined as the antagonism between the rulers and society, which took the shape of the redistribution struggle between different segments of transitional society that were disintegrated and dynamized by Stalinist policy. The all-embracing management and efficiency crisis of the totalitarian system also involved the functionaries’ elite as it closely concerned their social situation, political status, and understanding of their role.

That this development involved all spheres of society and all tiers of political hierarchy resulted from the general crisis of the system. Only massive external intervention into the social and political processes by “old” methods of monist governing, directly or indirectly led from Moscow, finally stabilized these social and political conglomerations. Without external control and intervention – like in the GDR in June 1953, in Poland until October 1956, and in Hungary until November 1956 – the dynamism of social and political tensions would have destroyed the existing coercive system.

Destalinization did not provide any solution to the social and political causes of the crisis but accentuated them in their many national variations. In this respect, the policy of destalinization demonstrated its own limits and documented the political and social model’s incapacity for structural reforms. The objectively reactionary total influence of intrasystemic reforms that followed Stalin’s death was proved not only by the new “wave of Sovietization” that hit eastern Europe from 1957 but also by Khrushchev’s party programme of 1961 that was merely copied from Stalin’s old party programme.

Eric Hilgendorf
Biological criminal law – a new discipline?

Interpretation of ectogenesis by criminal law explains the necessity for a new subdiscipline of criminal law which might be called biological criminal law. This area of law is characterized by close links with philosophy of law and dogmatics of constitution. Like other areas of criminal law, biological criminal law, too, is subject to the general rules of German criminal law. Still it approaches problems from a specific angle and uses typical forms of argumentation which justify its existence as an independent area of law.

Biological criminal law deals with entirely new problems that embrace the beginning and end of protection of life by criminal law, possibility of graduated protection of life, prerequisites and limits of justifying content, and other problems of life protection. Besides classical questions like euthanasia and experiments on humans, biological criminal law also includes newer problems like legal solutions to in-vitro fertilization, cloning, preimplantation diagnostics, cell gene therapy, and ectogenesis. The problems of terminating the life of a newborn with a severe disability, which have become topical only recently, also belong to the same context. These questions were earlier treated under the heading of physician law. By today this term, which one-sidedly concentrated on the doctor and his/her obligations and rights, has mostly been replaced by the term medical law. If we consider the medically unjustified modifications of human cells and other living organisms, medical law could be broadened into biological law. Respectively, medical criminal law would turn into biological criminal law. Then the relation between medical law and biological law would be equal to the relation between medical ethics and bioethics, i.e. biological criminal law could be understood as one branch of biological law.

Vahur Laiapea
Medicine and self-reliance of the deaf

Estonian sign language first received attention and recognition as a language only at the end of the 1980s. First attempts were made to research the language; first deaf teachers started working at schools for the deaf; sign language began to be taught to the parents of deaf children and to hearing teachers. Now Estonian sign language is one of the 121 sign languages registered in Ethnologue – the database of languages of the world. Rapid development of medicine, however, makes the continuation of the sign language community in Estonia questionable. During the last few years, the Estonian government has financed more than 50 inner ear implant operations for deaf children. This means that most children who have been diagnosed with severe hearing impairment have received or will receive a hearing implant and will be deprived of the opportunity to acquire the sign language. The article looks at the question of implantation from different viewpoints. Who has the right to make the decision about installing an implant to a child? What are the possible future scenarios of socialization of those children; who will they identify with as grown-ups – with the hearers or the deaf? Is the community of hearers ready to accept these young people? What will happen to the young people whose attempts to start hearing and speaking remain fruitless? Should the door remain open for them into the sign language community? Will the sign language community survive in the long term? Perhaps we should give the implanted children a chance to develop links with the sign language community from an early age, let them grow up bilingual?

Published 6 October 2006
Original in English

Contributed by Akadeemia © Akadeemia Eurozine

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