From Pio to Bultmann and back

C. Bernard Ruffin, in his book Padre Pio: The True Story, wrote:

Padre Pio was almost an exact contemporary of Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976)… Bultmann wrote in Kerygma and Myth:It is impossible to use electric light … and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.” Yet Padre Pio, Bultmann’s contemporary, convinced many a learned man that angels appeared to translate letters he received in foreign languages, that he cast out devils, and that he was, on many occasions, knocked bodily to the floor by irate demons.

It was reading that which sent me to Bultmann in the first place. The contrast between the despairing and barren Christianity of Bultmann, and the richness that was Pio’s Christian spiritual life and his gift in the lives of those who came in contact with him—that contrast could not be greater. One cannot subscribe to both views of Christianity. Continue reading “From Pio to Bultmann and back”

The Gestalt of Faith

I suppose there are those who come to the faith gradually; upon whom it steals up and like a rising tide claims more and more of the territory of the soul by imperceptible increments. Presumably, such people’s sensibility is attuned to Christianity, but its tines have not been struck just so. It’s not surprising that there would be many such. We live in the decline of Christian societies, and move among the neglected monuments of Christian culture, morality, law, philosophy, theology and the science that studied the rational and good works of God, rational and good. Theirs is not the situation I wish to discuss. Continue reading “The Gestalt of Faith”

Bultmann: The Problem 2. Obsolete Mythology

This is a follow-on from my previous post. It looks at the subsection that follows from the summary view of the NT as mythology. I urge you to read this subsection in its entirety in Kerygma and Myth. I will summarise it here, but it is such an unreasonable and unreasoning series of assertions that you may want to verify that this is, indeed, what Bultmann wrote. Continue reading “Bultmann: The Problem 2. Obsolete Mythology”

Bultmann: The Problem 1. The Myths

As mentioned in a previous post, Kerygma and Myth contains the text of Bultmann’s New Testament and Myth in the first two parts authored by Bultmann. I will look at the first of those, The Mythological Element in the Message of the NewTestament and the Problem of its Re-interpretation Part I. That document is further subdivided by Bultmann into

Part I: The Task of Demythologizing the New Testament Proclamation
A. The Problem

Continue reading “Bultmann: The Problem 1. The Myths”

Candy Glass

I watched the last twenty minutes or so of the movie Ratatouille with a four year old boy the other night, doing my shift while his parents were having dinner with us. The animation was very good, and the visual syntax was varied, dramatic and assured. They sure know how to make animated movies nowadays.

One scene that struck me was when the girl, having walked out of the restaurant with all but one of the staff, for reasons I could not fathom due to ongoing discussions with the four year old, is stopped in traffic on her motorbike, and looks to the side at something which invokes remorse at her leaving. The lanes of traffic on either side of her drive off, with her sitting on the bike, and the traffic held up behind her. (It loses in translation.) Another is the previous scene when the staff walk out of the kitchen, and we have a rat’s eye view of the feet and legs in regulation black and white checks as they tramp out. Continue reading “Candy Glass”

Bultmann, Kerygma and Myth

This is a handshake introduction to an extremely influential work: Kerygma and Myth by Rudolf Bultmann and Five Critics. The work was originally published in Germany in 1948; the original English translation appeared in 1953.

The first two parts of the piece reproduce Bultmann’s 1941 paper, translated as New Testament and Mythology. The paper is most easily accessible in the Kerygma and Myth collection, and it is accompanied by some useful commentary. Continue reading “Bultmann, Kerygma and Myth”

Memo: The Faith of Scientists

I have just read this in Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (towards the end of  XII. The Resolution of Revolutions):

The man who embraces a new paradigm at an early stage must often do so in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving. He must, that is, have faith that the new paradigm will succeed with the many large problems that confront it, knowing only that the older paradigm has failed with a few. A decision of that kind can only be made on faith.

 More later.

Belief, Knowledge, Faith

Not long after 9/11, I was talking to an elderly Dominican priest. I was startled to discover that he thought the felling of the towers was an inside job by the CIA, of some such US authority.  The evidence for this was all over the web. Adherents to this particular theory are known as truthers, as in “the truth about 9/11,” much as believers in the theory that Barak Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya, are called birthers.  Each of these theories is supported by a slew of websites and internet forums constantly presenting and re-presenting the evidence for their contention, although truthers have the more vigorous and voluminous support. In fact, 9/11 conspiracies have the largest following since the various theories about the assassination of JFK seized the public imagination, and the term “grassy knoll” came to have a specific meaning in the vernacular of the US. There’s never been any shortage of theories on a bewildering range of topics, from the trivial to the socially disruptive.  With minimal effort, I can find a mass of evidence that Neil Armstrong did not land on the moon, but was in a TV studio in Houston, or that the Shoah was invented after the war. Continue reading “Belief, Knowledge, Faith”

Close Encounters


Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in 1977, and was a blockbuster success for Steven Spielberg. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the plot.
A team of investigators find, intact in the Gobi Desert, a flight of Navy planes which disappeared in the 1940’s, and interview a witness to the re-appearance of the planes. This team will re-surface throughout the film, making similar startling discoveries, and conducting similar interviews. They provide an underpinning of respectable reality for the events we are about to witness.

Continue reading “Close Encounters”