A Bit of Christmas Levity

From: Robert Schneider (rjschn39@bellsouth.net)
Date: Tue Dec 24 2002 - 16:53:51 EST

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    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
             Outworn superstitions."
         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!

    Bob Schneider

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