In his “New Testament and Mythology”, Bultmann claims that “modern man is convinced that the mythical view of the world is obsolete”, that “all our thinking today is shaped for good and ill by modern science”, “the miracles of the new testament have ceased to be miraculous”, and—astonishingly—that “the mythical view of the world must be accepted or rejected in its entirety”.
I have to differ!
As I do my Christmas shopping and decorate my tree with a plastic angel and fake snow, I know that Santa Claus and his elves are busy working away in the North Pole: I may not believe it rationally, but it has become so much part of my cultural story that demythologizing it would destroy the magical experience which, each year, I choose to enter.
One January, after a festive break reading trashy novels, I struggled through readings for a university Religious Studies paper. While reading Bultmann’s essay on demythologizing scripture, I listened to Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor. Rationally, literally, I do not believe in an external transcendent God. Yet when Herbert von Karajan conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in the adagio “Jesu Christe” or “Cum Sancto Spirito”, how could I respond—how can any of us respond—except to join in: “Amen, Amen”?