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The Power of Myth

According to, a myth is “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.

Ancient myths endure and contemporary ones spring up because they are stories that reveal something about us and or resonate with our experience, usually lifting us to a higher level of awareness of what we can be, urging us on to higher, nobler things. That is why Christ taught in parables, because the medium of a story engages both the head and the heart.

A challenge exists that all such accounts with the appearance of myth must therefore be categorized as such with the inherent assumption that it is merely a story with little if any historical veracity, though culturally and morally valuable. Joseph Campbell is one of the most well-known advocates of this idea. He maintained that the similarities among the various mythologies spanning the many cultures of the world, both in form and substance, were indicative of a common human condition that inspired similar narratives.

C.S. Lewis, in his discussions with Tolkien came to a very different conclusion. He would agree that the commonality of the world’s mythologies was not coincidental. Nor would he likely disagree with the thought they had a common source. However, unlike Campbell, Lewis would argue that this commonality was no mere allegory to define humanity’s search for meaning or place in the cosmos, but the idea that the Story, the monomyth (to use Campbell’s terms) was in fact True, and the various myths were reflections of the True story, that found in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

Indeed, there are at least a couple of options that can be inferred. With anthropology and genetics both supporting a relatively small point source for human origins in time and space (the idea that humanity started with a very small group of individuals in a specific geographic area), the idea that stories of our origins would have striking similarities across the globe only makes sense. Thus, the diversity in the stories could illustrate a corruption of the original story, such that the original story may or may not survive more or less intact today, but its skeleton can be inferred from the surviving common threads among the many. Or, another possibility is that someone was active in preserving key aspects of the Story as a unifying guide back to the original.

So, the key options are that the original story was corrupted over time, space and culture, and some parts happen to have survived, or that certain parts were preserved across time, space and culture because the message was too important to be lost, or both corruption and preservation were actively at work against each other all along.

So the questions that remain are:
1)      Was there once a single Story?
2)      If so, was it True in some sort of absolute sense?
3)      If so, did it survive intact?
4)      If so, which of the many stories out there is it?
5)      How do we tell the answer to any of these?
6)      What importance do these answers really have in our individual lives or the world at large?

I personally believe there is much rooted in real history that the Bible has correctly taught that we only in the last 100 years have independently corroborated. The same is true on some scientific discoveries. So if it is accurate on these, it seems reasonable to consider its supernatural claims to hold veracity, and therefore the Bible is a good candidate for being the accurate transmission of the True Story.

If God is real, then preserving the True Story throughout time should be expected, and the primary discussion should be centered on which story is the True one that He/She/It has preserved. If God is not, then it is a remarkable accident that the earliest stories and musings of our earliest ancestors around the campfire should have been so impactful that they survived as intact as they have across such vastly different cultures and geographies over the epochs.

To me, the choice is fairly simple as to which is the most likely philosophically, and which story is most likely the True one comes through the manifold evidentiary material one can find on any of many apologetic sources for Christianity.


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