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”

How long is Lent?

How long is Lent? It’s something that has puzzled me, because the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday, inclusive, is six weeks and four days; 46 days. Lent, though, is supposed to be a forty day fast, is it not?

On Ash Wednesday, I heard that the period covered forty fast days and six Sundays, which made sense. The Catholic Encyclopaedia online, in its article on Lent, notes that at the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) Lent consisted of six weeks of six fast days, and only later was this period extended to Ash Wednesday to bring the number of fast days to forty. In earlier times, in Jerusalem, both Saturday and Sunday were exempt from fasting, and Lent was observed over eight weeks.

The same article, in discussing the nature of the fast, gives an insight into two Easter customs: Easter eggs and the pancakes of Shrove, or Pancake, Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. What food is, or was, prohibited in Lent? In particular, were lacticinia, essentially dairy foods and eggs, allowed? As the practices of Lent developed, lacticinia came to be prohibited. However, exceptions could be made when associated with charitable works. Such dispensations were known in Germany as Butterbriefe, and one of the spires of Rouen cathedral was once called the Butter Tower. Hence also, the feast of butter and eggs on Pancake Tuesday, and the celebratory gifts of eggs at the breaking of the fast.

Mary McKillop and Kath

Not having a TV spares me many horrors, and gives me more time to waste in other ways: and it means that occasional small gems pass by me unseen. Not too long ago, television was the most ephemeral of media, with programs broadcast once and relegated to a spool of tape in an internal archive, eventually to be erased, destroyed or discarded. The internet and massive digital storage systems have changed all that.

On Shrove Tuesday, Andrew Bolt mentioned, in amongst all of the Labor Party leadership frenzy, the Australian Story broadcast on the ABC the previous night. Called “Mary and Me,” it is the story of Kath Evans, whose recovery from advanced and metastasised lung cancer was the second miracle required by the Catholic Church for the canonisation of the then Blessed Mary McKillop. Continue reading “Mary McKillop and Kath”

Ash Wednesday

It’s 10:22pm on Ash Wednesday, and Lent hasn’t got off to a flying start. Shrove Tuesday was a black day indeed. Jen was very distressed—the cause is immaterial—and instead of giving the sympathy and support she might expect, I opened the cranky valve and vented, loudly and at length.

One nurses a grievance so that it can grow big and strong, and one day strike out on its own in the wide world. On that day one experiences a momentary surge of delight; the righteous release of pent-up bile in a welter of abandonment. Then the sanity comes flooding back in. Does this sound familiar? Continue reading “Ash Wednesday”

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”

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.

God’s Metaphors

The Shroud of Turin is an object subject to a great deal of devotion and a great deal of controversy. Many believe it to be the shroud in which Jesus was buried. While it’s provenance is not known before 1349, it is a relic that will not go away. For every study that definitively determines it is of European medieval origin, another is published to establish that it is not.

My purpose is not to discuss the likelihood that the shroud is or is not genuine.  Let us assume for the moment that it is an accurate picture of the kind of crucifixion that Jesus suffered.  My interest is in the position of the wounds on the back of the hands of the the figure; more precisely, in the position of the wounds on the back of the wrists of the figure. Continue reading “God’s Metaphors”