Friday, September 21, 2018

Who the hell needs Hell?

"Rudolf, Rudolf
You have shown us
Heaven here on Earth must dwell
Purgatory's gone to Limbo
Rudolf where the hell is Hell?"
(Sung to the tune of Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus)

We used to sing that (and more choruses, too!) back in Seminary. An ode to Rudolf Bultmann, the grandpappy of demythologizing the New Testament.  He wasn't the first to ditch the supernatural part of the Christian Faith, but he was one of the most influential in the 20th century.

His view was simple.  We live in the age of science and technology, and there is no place left for silly fairy tales and nursery rhymes about miracles and demons and angels and heaven and hell and all that rubbish.  Well maybe not heaven.  But the rest could, and should, go.

I thought of that as I read this piece in The Wall Street Journal.  Should Hell be thrown out the window? No, not now, according to Scott Bruce, professor of history at Fordham University.  Humanity's not ready.  As a doctrine, will it go the way of the dodo someday?  Yeah, why not.  By that word doctrine, BTW, apparently we mean a completely fabricated nursery rhyme that's good for keeping people in line for the time being.

Perhaps that isn't his point.  It seemed it on a first reading the piece.  Nonetheless, to me, the shocking part is that he apparently sees the abolishing of Hell as nothing other than the logical progression of modern Catholic theological evolution.  If Pope Francis did do away with the fire and brimstone, it's just the latest in a logical progression of where the Church has been going for some time.

Think on that appraisal of things for a minute.  Someone has looked at where the Catholic Church has been going in recent years, and concluded that ditching hell would merely be the obvious step in a long march toward its inevitable conclusion.  Might that say something about the Church's troubles?  It makes you wonder.  Don't think I don't.

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