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Myth and Rationality, Part 2

Rolland Hein wrote: Myths are, first of all, stories: stories which confront us with something transcendent and eternal (Christian Mythmakers, p. 3).

The fundamental assumption of the fairy tale philosopher is that there is more to this world than what the five physical senses can perceive.  Ask us for scientific evidence of this, and we can’t and won’t provide it.  We’ll only tell you that we reject the assumption that the scientific method can accomplish the task of knowing all things.

Many Christian apologists point to the many things science can’t explain – including the origin of anything to begin with – to point to the need for an “unmoved mover,” or a “first cause.”

The scientific fatalist rejects this “god of the gaps” method of explaining the unknown mysteries of the world. They claim that all religion does is to fill in the stuff science hasn’t figured out – but will! – with “God.” When science figures it out, we’ll be able to remove “god” from that realm, too.

The fairy tale philosopher embraces neither, believing that in all things (not just in the gaps) there is mystery and wonder – that even the stuff the scientists have figured out and described with a scientific law of some kind has a greater meaning and existence than the law describes. We do not reject science; we reject science-alone. We are not anti-science, we are more-than-science.

That is why the story is necessary – imaginative stories, like myth, and our own stories of when we knew heaven and earth were close, and we were lucky enough to be nearby when it happened.

This is why the faith needs to be explained and defended as much in terms of mythic thinking as evidential defense. I remember sitting with a young Muslim college student; I was speaking at an InterVarsity retreat weekend. After some conversation, the young man, who was under great threat from family members never to convert from Islam to Christ, told me that he just needed some proof, some evidence.

I launched into a defense of the historical reliability of the biblical text. His eyes glazed over. He told me that was not the kind of evidence he was looking for. I had no idea what to do in response. I prayed, of course.

The next day, as everyone was piling into vans and getting ready for the drive home, I approached him one more time, this time equipped not with rationalistic evidence, but a story of mythic proportions:

I know that what you’re going through is tough, and you’ve said that you’re looking for God, and just need to be sure that the Christian God is really God. I want to tell you something my dad said at his baptism. He said, “I spent years and years looking for God.” [He had. He had read the texts of many different religions.] “But when it came right down to it, God found me.”

That’s a mythic story. No scientific evidence or rationalistic argument. Just a God who actively searches. The young man said, “Thank you. Thank you so much for telling me that. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

He needed a mythic story of a God who would come and find him. We all need mythic stories, because we are more than what our five physical senses can perceive.


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