Sunday, December 13, 2009

the move to make truth into myth

I count Chesterton as one of my teachers, though he died long before I was born, and I have doubts about Catholicism as he had about Protestantism. Plus, I'm not as negative about capitalism as he was. Still, in reading him, I'm struck very often with how he wrote about things that we seem to be dealing with now. The forms may be a bit different, and certainly they call themselves by different names now as then, but there does seem to be some very strong similarities.

Among emergents, and more so among progressives, there is the idea of viewing parts, often huge portions, of the Bible as myth. The Creation account in Genesis is a favorite, as they have sold their minds to the fiction that their uncle was a monkey. Progressives have pretty much sold into a brand of materialism that makes all the miracles in the Bible mythic, and even say that the real historic Jesus is almost completely different than anything in the Bible, though their proofs for that idea seem almost nonexistent, more speculation than real.

I have seen them write such ideas as that the reality of whether Jesus walked on water or His resurrection is not as important as whatever lessons may be learned from the story. Let me give this from Chesterton to show why I think this is wrong.

Paganism lived upon poetry; that poetry already considered under the name of mythology. But everywhere, and especially in Italy, it had been a mythology and poetry rooted in the countryside; and that rustic religion had been largely responsibile for the rustic happiness. Only as the whole society grew in age and experience, there began to appear the weakness in all mythology already noted in the chapter under that name. This religion was not quite a religion. In other words, this religion was not quite a reality.
The Everlasting Man, p. 158

This is one of the dangers of this attempt to turn truth in myth--the truth becomes less real. It becomes easier to pick-and-choose what one wants to believe, and doesn't want to believe. So, when the Gospels become mere myths made up by the early church, it becomes easy for people like the Jesus Seminar to say that the Gospels contain only a very few things that Jesus really said.

But it is more than that. Again, from Chesterton.

I do not believe the mythology must begin with eroticism. But I do believe that mythology must end in it. I am quite certain the mythology did end in it. Moreover, not only did the poetry grow more immoral, but the immorality grew more indefensible. Greek vices, oriental vices, hints of the old horrors of the Semitic demons, began to fill the fancies of decaying Rome, swarming like flies on a dungheap...There comes a time in the routine of an ordered civilization when man is tired of playing at mythology and pretending that a tree is a maiden or that the moon made love to a man. The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug-taking and dram-drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense. They seek after mad oriental religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the prients of Baal. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.
p. 159

In this day when things seem to be completed almost before they are started, we may well say that this process is already well into its happening almost before people have seen it coming. Rather, perhaps it could be asked of today which came first, the love of eroticism or the need to mythologize. At any rate, the view of Bible as myth, of the so-called and unproven historical Jesus, is enlisted by the ranks of those who are obsessed with eroticism, among other vices.

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