Demythologization

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Not to return to the old … can be the task of our time, but to clothe the spirit of Christianity, its religious-ethical principle, which lay as a compelling force at the basis of all preceding developments, in the fitting and intelligible form for our age. ~ Otto Pfleiderer
Can the Christian proclamation today expect men and women to acknowledge the mythical world picture as true? To do so would be both pointless and impossible. It would be pointless because there is nothing specifically Christian about the mythical world picture, which is simply the world picture of a time now past which was not yet formed by scientific thinking. It would be impossible because no one can appropriate a world picture by sheer resolve, since it is already given with one’s historical situation. ~ Rudolf Bultmann
Myths and endless genealogies ... promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. ~ Paul of Tarsus

Demythologization is a hermeneutic approach to religious texts that seeks to separate cosmological and historic claims from philosophical, ethical and theological teachings. The term demythologization (in German, Entmythologisierung) was introduced by Rudolf Bultmann.

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links

Quotes[edit]

Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F[edit]

  • Contemporary Christian proclamation is faced with the question whether, when it demands faith from men and women, it expects them to acknowledge this mythical world picture from the past. If this is impossible, it has to face the question whether the New Testament proclamation has a truth that is independent of the mythical world picture, in which case it would be the task of theology to demythologize the Christian proclamation.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 3
  • Can the Christian proclamation today expect men and women to acknowledge the mythical world picture as true? To do so would be both pointless and impossible. It would be pointless because there is nothing specifically Christian about the mythical world picture, which is simply the world picture of a time now past which was not yet formed by scientific thinking. It would be impossible because no one can appropriate a world picture by sheer resolve, since it is already given with one’s historical situation.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 3
  • It is impossible to repristinate a past world picture by sheer resolve, especially a mythical world picture, now that all of our thinking is irrevocably formed by science. A blind acceptance of New Testament mythology would be simply arbitrariness; to make such acceptance a demand of faith would be to reduce faith to a work.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 3
  • We cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the event of illness, avail ourselves of modern medical and clinical means and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the New Testament.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 4
  • Myth does not want to be interpreted in cosmological terms but in anthropological terms—or, better, in existentialist terms.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 9
  • The motive for criticizing myth, that is, its objectifying representations, is present in myth itself, insofar as its real intention to talk about a transcendent power to which both we and the world are subject is hampered and obscured by the objectifying character of its assertions.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 10
  • To de-mythologize is to deny that the message of Scripture and of the Church is bound to an ancient worldview which is obsolete.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, “Jesus Christ and Mythology,” Interpreting Faith for the Modern Era, p. 300
  • Christian preaching … does not offer a doctrine which can be accepted either by reason or by a sacrificium intellectus. Christian preaching is kerygma, that is, a proclamation addressed not to the theoretical reason, but to the hearer as a self.
    • Rudolf Bultmann, “Jesus Christ and Mythology,” Interpreting Faith for the Modern Era, p. 300
  • Demythologizing is thus a hermeneutic that seeks to liberate God-talk from constantinianism.
    • David Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing (2015), p. 567
  • The move towards "demythologization," for example, is largely motivated by the wish to avoid any clash between Christianity and scientific ideas. If such a clash occurs, then science is certainly right and Christianity wrong. Pursue this investigation further and you will see that science has now become as oppressive as the ideologies it had once to fight.

G - L[edit]

  • Jesus … claims that not the observance of outer civil or statutory churchly duties but the pure moral disposition of the heart alone can make man well-pleasing to God (Matthew V, 20-48); … that injury done one’s neighbor can be repaired only through satisfaction rendered to the neighbor himself, not through acts of divine worship (V, 24). Thus, he says, does he intend to do full justice to the Jewish law (V, 17); whence it is obvious that not scriptural scholarship but the pure religion of reason must be the law’s interpreter, for taken according to the letter, it allowed the very opposite of all this. Furthermore, he does not leave unnoticed, in his designations of the strait gate and the narrow way, the misconstruction of the law which men allow themselves in order to evade their true moral duty, holding themselves immune through having fulfilled their churchly duty (VII, 13). He further requires of these pure dispositions that they manifest themselves also in works (VII, 16) and, on the other hand, denies the insidious hope of those who imagine that, through invocation and praise of the Supreme Lawgiver in the person of His envoy, they will make up for their lack of good works and ingratiate themselves into favor (VII, 21). Regarding these works he declares that they ought to be performed publicly, as an example for imitation (V, 16), and in a cheerful mood, not as actions extorted from slaves (VI, 16); and that thus, from a small beginning in the sharing and spreading of such dispositions, religion, like a grain of seed in good soil, or a ferment of goodness, would gradually, through its inner power, grow into a kingdom of God (XIII, 31-33).
    • Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Book IV, Part 1, Section 1, “The Christian religion as a natural religion,” as translated by Theodore M. Greene
  • Jesus … combines all duties (1) in one universal rule (which includes within itself both the inner and the outer moral relations of men), namely: Perform your duty for no motive other than unconditioned esteem for duty itself, i.e., love God (the Legislator of all duties) above all else; and (2) in a particular rule, that, namely, which concerns man’s external relation to other men as universal duty: Love every one as yourself, i.e., further his welfare from good-will that is immediate and not derived from motives of self-advantage. These commands are not mere laws of virtue but precepts of holiness which we ought to pursue, and the very pursuit of them is called virtue. Accordingly he destroys the hope of all who intend to wait upon this moral goodness quite passively, with their hands in their laps, as though it were a heavenly gift which descends from on high. He who leaves unused the natural predisposition to goodness which lies in human nature (like a talent entrusted to him) in lazy confidence that a higher moral influence will no doubt supply the moral character and completeness which he lacks, is confronted with the threat that even the good which, by virtue of his natural predisposition, he may have done, will not be allowed to stand him in stead because of this neglect (XXV, 29).
    • Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Book IV, Part 1, Section 1, “The Christian religion as a natural religion”
  • Kierkegaard said that the only way we can be released from the enchantment, the siren song of the myths, is to play the music through backwards. To break the spell of the ego I must recover my personal and political history, I must demythologize the private, family, and public myths that have informed me.
    • Sam Keen, The Passionate Life (1983), p. 140

M - R[edit]

  • Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.
  • Paul abstracted this universal principle from the concrete phenomenon in the man Jesus, in whom it was interlaced with Jewish presuppositions and strivings, which as such would have been a hindrance to the universal and abiding effectiveness of that principle. ... The religious principle of Jesus was thus certainly freed by Paul from its original Jewish and national husk, but only to be immediately clothed again in a new supernaturalistic envelope, the origin of which likewise lay in the historically given ideas of Hellenism and Pharisaism. Therefore the Pauline Christ can just as little be for us a binding object of faith as the Jesus of history.
    • Otto Pfleiderer, “Evolution and Theology,” Evolution and Theology and Other Essays (1900), pp. 22-23
  • Not to return to the old … can be the task of our time, but to clothe the spirit of Christianity, its religious-ethical principle, which lay as a compelling force at the basis of all preceding developments, in the fitting and intelligible form for our age.
    • Otto Pfleiderer, “Evolution and Theology,” Evolution and Theology and Other Essays (1900), p. 24

S - Z[edit]

  • A miracle, whether in contravention to, or beyond, nature, is a mere absurdity; and, therefore, … what is meant in Scripture by a miracle can only be a work of nature, which surpasses, or is believed to surpass, human comprehension.
    • Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, p. 87, as cited in B. Wiker, Moral Darwinism, p. 195
  • We may, then, be absolutely certain that every event which it truly described in Scripture necessarily happened, like everything else, according to natural laws; and if anything is there set down which can be proved in set terms to contravene the order of nature, or not to be deducible therefrom, we must believe it to have been foisted into the sacred writings by irreligious hands; for whatsoever is contrary to nature is contrary to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd, and, ipso facto, to be rejected.
    • Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, p. 92
  • Put bluntly, there is an archaic God, a magic God, a mythic God, a mental God, and an integral God. Which God do you believe in?
    An archaic God sees divinity in any strong instinctual force. A magic God locates divine power in the human ego and its magical capacity to change the animistic world with rituals and spells. A mythic God is located not on this earth but in a heavenly paradise not of this world, entrance to which is gained by living according to the covenants and rules given by this God to his peoples. A mental God is a rational God, a demythologized Ground of Being that underlies all forms of existence. And an integral God is one that embraces all of the above.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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