If the myths resonate, the worldview is likely true

January 20, 2007 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

The other day, I spontaneously wound up with two hours and nothing to do, so I went to Barnes and Noble and read the first half of Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis.

Bell is not someone I’d recommend without qualification, given that he is very postmodern in both style and content. It would be easy to go totally wrong with him at the helm.

Nevertheless, he makes some wonderfully cogent points. Consider this gem, from p. 58:

Is the greatest truth about Adam and Eve and the fruit that it happened, or that it happens? This story, one of the first in the Bible, is true for us because it is our story. We have all taken the fruit. We have all crossed boundaries.

In other words, we have all experienced the fall. And therefore,

Their story is our story. We see ourselves in them. The story is true for us because it happened and because it happens. It is an accurate description of how life is. (p. 59)

Totally true.

Ironically, many people use this same argument to undermine historical Christianity. The point, say the critics, is that the Bible is full of good moral stories. The point was never that they be taken as true in some ultimate sense.

Hence, many secular thinkers would place the Bible’s stories in the category of myths, which the fourth century Greek writer Sallustius defined as those stories that never happened yet are happening all the time.

In other words, people imagine that we can embrace the psychological power and the moral profundity of the Bible’s myths without embracing the Christian worldview as a whole.

Personally, I find this notion somewhat odd, for this reason:

If the myth is “true,” the worldview is probably also true

After all, myths operate in the service of a worldview. If the myths accurately reflect “how life is,” as Bell put it, this points to the fact that the worldview they serve is factually true. Were the worldview not true, the myths shouldn’t resonate.

Therefore, if we identify with a mythical story about sin, a fall, and redemption, it is most likely because sin is (somehow, some way) a real thing—not just a myth. If sin were not something very real, it is unlikely we would identify with a myth about it.

So I agree with Bell: the greatest truth about Adam and Eve is not that it happened, but that it happens. But if it happens, this is good indication that it also happened in an ultimate sense–and that the myths point to the underlying truth of the worldview they serve.

(edited 1/28/07)


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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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