(My[th)eology]

Okay, back to lining out what I believe:

The word "myth" usually describes popular ideas that aren't true (i.e. "Mythbusters") so maybe it's a confusing term to use here, but what the hey? I think that my theology can best be described these days as a mytheology. (Clever term, eh? I thought I coined it, but upon a Google search, I of course discovered that lots of (other) online religious wackos have already been using it. Nothing new under the sun, don't let yourself get too big for your britches, and all that.)

I've been talking about reality and knowledge in big philosophical terms and ruminating on the nature of divine mystery and so forth, but that's honestly not my style (at least today). I prefer to be straightforward and answer the questions clearly. So, to be blunt, I don't think that almost any of the most important Biblical stories are historically reliable. There are historical roots in most of the traditions, I expect, but I'm also convinced that a whole bunch of the things that the Bible said happened actually didn't - Old Testament and New. Coming to that conclusion was a painful experience, but I've been there since college and I don't really have strong emotions around that statement any more - beyond the sadness and apprehension that comes with knowing that it will be a shocking and offensive suggestion for people I care about, and a suggestion that will make some lose their trust and faith in me (though not in God, I hope).

What is a relatively recent shift is my rediscovery of a solid confidence in the value of Scripture, despite the fact that it isn't what I thought it was. Myths, I say, aren't best described as popular stories that aren't true. They're best described as popular stories that didn't really happen, but which are true. Being a Christian, I think, requires an affirmation that the Christian myths found in the Bible are true. But I do believe that it is very important to be clear about what I mean when I say that so as not to mislead. The BCP terminology is pretty good here, I think, as it suggests that the Bible "Contains all things necessary for salvation". For me, that isn't to say that it gives us the tools to get to heaven when we die - I'll let God sort that out, if such a place as heaven exists. Rather, I think that the Bible is the Christian set of ancestor stories; myths that tell us about where we came from and who we are, help us to live in this f-ed up world, and lead us further into the mystery of existence that we call God. The Christian stories do this uniquely, although not exlusively (or even necessarily supremely), among world religions and a-religions. They represent one of the greatest pedagogical traditions in history, providing resources for truth, life, love, peace, beauty and survival. They aren't "true" because they really happened. They're "true" because they suggest essential observations about God and human existence. (They're also, I should say, quite flexible. Contrary to fundamentalist assertion, in the 66 books you can find just about any idea about God that you want. It's okay, I think, to pick and choose what resonates as important, and to play down what isn't - although don't forget to read it again because you might find that it becomes relevant again later.)

This isn't a new observation - Some people were using Hebrew Scriptures in this way even prior to Christ, and there have always been strains of Christianity that have interpreted at least some parts of Scripture in this sort of way. It's standard 19th and 20th century liberal fare (it's true - I've become a damned liberal). I'm no revolutionary, just part of a community, but I do think that it's a community that is on to something important and true.

In line with this, I think 'truth' - propositional truth, even - is important in church. Not because I think of church as a place where it is proper to 'teach people who God is'. That's crazy, because church people don't know any more about God than the rest of the world - God is a mystery on the best days, and non-existant on the worst. But churches should be places that teach spiritual and religious truths - historic, scientific, practical, traditional and sociological - because truth, alongside ritual, experience and community, is essential in the quest for God. Not that we'll ever grasp it, but that's no reason to give up.

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