Sunday, June 4, 2017

Myth in Christian Understanding

I saw the movie, Wonder Woman (2017), today with my family and thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend this movie. It is set in a mythical background that enters into human history. This is not a Christian movie, of course, nor a Christian themed movie. However, I appreciate the mythical aspect of the movie, along with some of the meanings conveyed therein.
Why, as a Christian, can I appreciate myth? Did not the Apostle Paul write, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths..."? (I Timothy 4:7). Yes, and should anyone see Wonder Woman and adopt it as their religion, they would be irreverent and silly. No, I do not mean "myth" as the Apostle Paul wisely warned us to avoid. Rather, I mean myth as explained by C. S. Lewis:
"This involves the belief that Myth in general is not merely misunderstood history (as Euhemerus thought) nor diabolical illusion (as some of the Fathers thought) nor priestly lying (as the philosophers of the Enlightenment thought) but, at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination." 
- C S Lewis, Miracles: How God Intervenes in Nature and Human Affairs, New York: Collier Books (1960), p. 134 fn.
One of my favorite books by Lewis is Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, which has a strong woman as the main character (she is not Wonder Woman, but does fight a battle as Queen of her country). Anyone reading and understanding this story cannot miss its Christian theme. However, anyone believing myth can only be "misunderstood history," "diabolical illusion," or "priestly lying" will miss the Christian message in this book. Likewise, they will likely miss the "unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination" in modern fiction, as well.
To believe myths as if they were nonfiction is, indeed, irreverent and silly, as the Apostle Paul instructed. To find God's truth outside of the Bible in works of fiction, though unfocused and only as a glimmer of the true light found only in the Bible, takes understanding and discernment. I hope more Christians train themselves in God's Word to be able to understand and discern God's truth wherever it is found. It is the Bible where we find ultimate truth by which we can understand and discern values found in other works.

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