Saying “Goodbye!” to the Jesus you once knew

"Bultmann Prays" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Bultmann Prays” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

[Like this cartoon? Or know a theologian or student of theology who would? Buy a print!]

The conversation’s increasing around the idea that the whole Christian narrative and the stories of Jesus is completely mythological. There’s interest and dismay about it as if it’s a new and exciting discovery.

It’s not.

Bultmann is probably the biblical scholar and theologian most remembered for his project, the demythologization of Jesus. Bultmann claimed it was no longer plausible for Christians to believe the mythological worldview of the New Testament.

Albert Schweitzer was another one passionate about the historical Jesus. He concluded in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus:

“The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth and died to give his work its final consecration never existed. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in a historical garb.”

So it’s not a new thing, and the more research and speculations that occur will only raise more suggestions that the image of Jesus we have in our head and the presence of Jesus we have in our hearts is a construct.

Personally, I think this is a good thing. It is good to question and challenge our most basic and primal instincts, fears, and defenses.

I wrote recently that belief is the drug and faith is the high. That is, we believe in something because it makes us feel good. That’s why it’s so difficult to give up a belief because it means giving up the feelings it arouses. In this cartoon, Bultmann is saying goodbye, necessarily, to the Jesus he once knew because of the rigor of his intellect.

This is one of the most frightfully challenging stages to go through. I know! Read yesterday’s post to understand more where I’m coming from.

Are you experiencing this? Come join us at The Lasting Supper and let’s talk about it!


5 Replies to “Saying “Goodbye!” to the Jesus you once knew”

  1. Thank you for going after this topic David. This is essentially the crux of my problems with the Church/Christianity – that all of the followers seem to live in a world where Bultmann and Schweitzer (and Strauss, and even Wellhausen if you want to get all Old-Testament about it) never existed. You can’t have read that material and still think that a literal/historical view of Jesus is reasonable. Unfortunately, the people who make up the fellowships are often not receptive to the suggestion that they should go read a book (one that is not the Bible). I like to think that your cartoons can reach that audience, so keep up the good work!

  2. I’m finding in my own life that Devine is “becoming” more like Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels everyday. My belief has changed about who and what Devine is has changed greatly, but instead of diminishing my belief continues to grow. My beliefs have changed most in regards to the bible as I used to believe in inerrancy and now I believe that large portions of the Jewish Bible and the “New Testament” are not even divinely inspired scripture.

    I do agree that it is good to study opposing views with an open mind. Had I not done so my beliefs would not have changed as much as the have so far.

  3. I cannot stand with a “progressive” Christian movement that considers Jesus Christ a myth. I want nothing more to do with you.

  4. As I see it:
    There’s evidence that a rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef did teach in the Holy Land two thousand years ago, but the stories about him are ninety percent myth (give or take ten percent).
    The presence of Jesus in our hearts is a construct, in the sense that the presence is not Jesus (Yeshua) the man, but the same presence which Yeshua (Jesus) had in his heart, which is the “Spirit of God,” which Paul later realized to be in his own heart as well. That didn’t make Paul any more (or any less) God than Jesus was, or than you and I are.
    Unfortunately Paul (and/or his followers) succumbed to the temptation to try teaching his highly personal experience as a religion to masses of people who weren’t spiritually ready for that realization, instead of helping those who were ready to attain the same experience. That resulted in confusion, mass misunderstanding, mythologization, institutionalization, ritualization, and the theological contortions which have formed Christianity.

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