Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fern Seeds and Elephants

In yesterday's post, I offered a link to Dr. Jim West's blog and my brief debate there with Jim over seven Virginia churches breaking away from the US Episcopal Church.

In the course of that brief debate, Jim reiterated his well-known affinity for the sadly wrongheaded approach of NT scholar, Dr. R. Bultmann. Why, I do not know, but the Spirit has sent me back to C. S. Lewis' quips about Bultmann in his little essay, "Fern Seed and Elephants." Here are a few excerpts of what Lewis writes:

"Observe in what unassimilated fashion the prediction of the parousia (Mark 8:38) follows upon the prediction of the passion (8:31)" [-- R. Bultmann]. What can [Bultmann] mean? Unassimilated?!? ... You must stand to your tackling. If you disown Christ here and now, he will disown you later. Logically, emotionally, imaginatively, the sequence is perfect. Only a Bultmann could think otherwise.

...These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can't see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.

...We, being [human], know what we think: and we find the doctrines of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Second Coming inadequate to our thoughts. But supposing these things were the expressions of God's thoughts?

...Suppose a dog were trying to form a conception of human life... If the dog visualized our scientific researches in terms of ratting, this would be analogical; but if it thought that eating could be predicated of humans only in an analogical sense, the dog would be wrong. In fact, if a dog could, per impossibile, be plunged for a day into human life, it would be hardly more surprised by hitherto unimagined differences than by hitherto unsuspected similarities.

..."We know not -- oh we know not." But then we must take our ignorance seriously.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes but Lewis was no New Testament scholr- he was an apologist. Naturally, then, it should surprise no one that he would come to Bultmann with both distrust and maybe even disdain.

Tue Dec 19, 10:15:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Jim, That was a quick response indeed! You know that I posted these quotes just to provoke you! :-) And, quite right, Lewis was no biblical scholar. However, he did consider that an advantage to the extent that it allowed him to appreciate the "lines themselves" of the Scriptures (the elephant) in a way that Bultmann just did not seem able, or willing, to do... --Steve

Tue Dec 19, 10:26:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


Well done indeed! Quite to the point much like a rapier.

You made my day.

Tue Dec 19, 10:45:00 AM GMT-5  

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