The Snob’s Dogma by David Mills

The Snob’s Dogma

David Mills on Modernizing the Gospels

In the 1930s, the New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann declared that people who use electric lights cannot believe in the supernatural world described in the Bible. He meant that modern man cannot believe in the biblical miracle stories, including the story of the Incarnation. This assertion he did not, as far as I know, ever defend, yet it justified his attempt to “de-mythologize” the Bible.

It certainly seems a dubious idea, aside from the plain fact that all sorts of learned men and women flip light switches and believe in God at the very same time. Even if one asserts, as I think Bultmann would have done, that these people have somehow kept a premodern mind while living in the modern world, the idea that greater knowledge of the world around us must change our knowledge of the other world does not make sense. That we can in nature discover and use forces like electricity does not mean that we have made up the story of a supernature that has revealed itself to us. If anything, it suggests the opposite, for a design of such complexity implies the existence of a Designer.

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David Mills has been editor of Touchstone and executive editor of First Things.

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