Rudolf Bultmann is well known for his concepts of demythologizing, especially with regards to the New Testament. He appears to hold the view that the New Testament is based on myth, though he is keen to differentiate this myth with the common myths such as those found in the history of the Greeks and the Romans. This distinction is important because when one rubbishes the stories in the bible, then it amounts to questioning the very basis of the Christian foundation. Therefore, according to him, the bible should not be compared to some fairy tales whose sole aim is to entertain the readers. Rather, it should be understood as a collection of reports about events in which supernatural powers were at work.
Bultmann (1962) goes ahead to give insights of how the bible should be interpreted if indeed events of the bible are supernatural. There are basically two ways in which one can look at the bible stories. Due to supernatural nature of the stories in the bible, it is difficult to understand and make connections with our own lives. The ideal position will be to let our lives unfold, then at the end of it all, look back and then join the dots. The problem with this approach as he rightly points out, is that we shall not be in a position to make those connections. Secondly, man can also extricate himself from his environment, and gain a higher wisdom to be able to make the connections as they occur. This second approach is the best and requires faith and grace so that we are able to truly live in the present and truly experience God in our lives. In this regard, Bultmann makes a lot of sense to the believer.
A problem with the thinking of Bultmann is that he appears to be taking a position of discrediting the miracles and bible story. He appears to place a premium to science, noting that man has always applied science in his life. Therefore, for everything that happens in life, there has to be a cause and effect relationship. This obsession with cause and effect relationship leaves no room for a belief in the miracles. Miracles have no scientific explanation, and to that extent, applying scientific thought is out of the question. If that is the case, then the bible and stories therein are reduced to fairy tales. The problem is that the life of the believer is anchored on the faith and miracles. It is through the miracles that Christians appreciate the fullness of God's power and glory.
Bultmann (1962) essentially wants Christians to take a different view of the bible stories. He takes the position that the stories and miracles have a hidden meaning. He uses the word 'paradox' to mean that such biblical occurrence is beyond man's normal understanding and without grace from God we may never get the 'hidden meaning.' In this regard, it appears that people must have higher level of faith, almost supernatural level, so as to understand the deeper meaning contained in the biblical stories. This essentially challenges the very foundation of Christianity built over the years. In my view, if one challenges miracles such as the virgin birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, then the very essence of Christianity is called into serious question. It leaves believers confused and with heavy questions about their beliefs. This is not to say that Bultmann ideas are not valid. However, the ideas should be looked at as an invitation for serious thought that should broaden our understanding about God and the Christian belief in Him.
Bultmann, Rudolf. "On the problem of demythologizing." The Journal of Religion 42, no. 2 (1962): 96-102.
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