Christmas with the Demythologizers

From E.L. Mascall, Pi in the High (New York: Morehouse-Gorham, 1959), pp. 49-51.


Hark, the herald angels sing:
“Bultmann is the latest thing!”
(Or they would if he had not
Demythologized the lot.)
Joyful, 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!”

Dr. Farrer we detect
Somewhat lacking in respect,
Launching, with his puckish arts,
Tiny well-directed darts;
While Herr Luther’s lumpish sons
Overload their massive guns,
Blowing, when the barrel splits,
Bultmann—and themselves—to bits.

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:
“Bultmann ist ein gutes Ding!”
We respond in simple trust:
“Demythologize or bust!”


(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 thy sight
If thou canst, descrying
Yonder folk who shove and fight—
What can they be buying?”
“Sir, ’tis cards 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;
Then 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.

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