From: Robert Schneider (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Dec 24 2002 - 16:53:51 EST
Some of you may be familiar with Dr. Eric L. Mascall's Gifford Lectures and
other serious writings on theology. This Anglican Thomist also from time to
time indulged in the writing of theological doggeral, composed, he
confessed, while in the bath ("let the Freudians do their worst with this
damaging admission"). One of the contemporary theologians (for him) he
enjoyed skewering was Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, as you probably know, a
towering figure in European liberal theology, argued that we need to extract
the proclamation of the gospel (the "kergyma") from the mythological
world-view it was clothed in, and speak it in the context of the modern
scientific outlook, with the aid of a Christian existentialist philosophy.
Following the publication of Bultmann's _Kergyma and Myth_, Mascall wrote a
duo of pieces called "Christmas with the Demythologizers." Here they are,
in part (dated in the late fifties):
Hark, the herald angels sing:
"Bultmann is the latest thing!"
(Or they would if he had not
Demythologized the lot.)
Joyfull, all ye nations, rise,
Glad to existentialize!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and Science reconciled.
Lo, the ancient myths disperse,
Hence, three-storied universe!
Let three-decker pulpits stay:
Bultmann has a lot to say,
Since Kerygma still survives
When the myths have lost their lives,
Hark, the herald angels sing:
"Bultmann shot us on the wing!"...
Let us with a gladsome mind
Leave the ancient world behind.
Modern man, rejoice with us!
We have read Copernicus.
While the herald angels sing:
"Bultman ist ein gutes Ding!"
We respond in simple trust:
"Demythologize or bust!"
(_Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate_. By Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst
Lohmeyer, Julius Schniewind, Friedrich Schumann and Helmut Thielicke, with
an appreciation by Austin Farrar. SPCK, 1953. See also Bultmann's _Jesus
Christ and Mythology_.)
(Air: 'Good King Wenceslas')
Dr. Bultmann ventured forth
Boldly from his study,
When the wind was in the north
And the roads were muddy.
All his thoughts were in a maze;
This was not surprising.
He had spent some weary days
"Hither, pupil, strain they sight
If thou canst, descrying
Yonder folk who shove and fight--
What can they be buying?"
"Sir, 'tis card with scraps of verse,
Pictured with a fable:
Shepherds and astrologers
Kneeling in a stable."
"Bring my writings, if you please,
In the last editions.
Du und ich we'll stifle these
Sage and pupil forth they go,
Braving every stigma,
Shedding myths like billy-o*,
Clinging to kerygma.
"Sir, my thoughts begin to stray
And my faith grows bleaker.
Since I threw my myths away
My kerygma's weaker."
"Think on Heidegger, my lad,
That pellucid Teuton;
Than you won't feel half so bad
When they talk of Newton."
Existentially he thought,
As his master hinted.
All the learned works he bought
Which the sage had printed.
Therefore, folk, when science sends
Doubts and fears depressing,
Demythologize your friends--
Then you'll win their blessing.
[*many ancient authorities read "flakes of snow"]
A joyous Christmas, complete with shepherds and astrologers, be with you
all. And God bless us, every one!
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