Happy Easter!! Yesterday we celebrated our Lord’s Resurrection with an Easter Breakfast Feast. It was a wonderful time to gather together as the church of Jesus and share a meal in celebration of the life he has given each and every one of us. In recent years, when I think of the resurrection, I am drawn to an old Appalachian gospel song “Ain’t No Grave.” Recently, this old song has been updated by Molly Skaggs, who has added some great new verses to it. You can watch her performance with Bethel Music here. I love the chant at the end, “If you walked out of the grave I’m walkin’ too.” It gets me every time.
On this wonderful Monday after Easter, I’d like to reflect on a concept I first encountered by C.S. Lewis in an article titled “Myth Became Fact,” here is an audio excerpt. Why reflect on this? Because in the light of our current culture, Christianity is under vigorous attack by secularists, atheists, and amoralists.
As much as I like the work of Jordan B. Peterson as he stands up against the fallacy of identity politics, at the end of the day, he is not a brother in the faith. Yet people are captivated by him. Why? As he explains it, it is because he tells “Archetypal Stories.” He brings out the meaning of life found in the myths of ancient societies. His work as a psychologist, a professor, and an author have had a profound impact on our culture. Yet in his debate with atheist scientist Sam Harris, he clarified his position as “Living life as if God exists,” which he noted was different than formally believing God existed.
For someone like Peterson, following the archetypal structure of ancient mythologies (he’d include Christianity in that list), we can develop meaning for our lives by taking responsibility for our lives. That much is true. And he has received numerous reports of lives changed and relationships healed as a result. As much good as his work is accomplishing (which I laud with great enthusiasm), it is not the Gospel.
Peterson does great with helping people define meaning in life. On an individual and sociological level, it does work and anyone can do it. Where it fails is the scope of eternity. For Peterson, Christianity is as foundational a cornerstone to Western Civilization as any ancient myth could be…but it’s still a myth. That is where I differ. This is where Peterson’s ideas and mine part ways. In the end, for all that a agree with in Peterson’s work, I still side with Lewis’ concept of “Myth Becoming Fact.”
C.S. Lewis was a master of Western Literature. He knew mythology inside and out. Which left him in the minority in the English institutes of higher education. He was able to look at all the myths known to early 20th century Englishmen. He knew their ins and outs. And for a long time, he viewed Christianity the same way. Until Tolkien challenged his view. After that, the wheels inside Lewis’ mind began to churn, leading him to irreversible conclusions.
Lewis never denied that Christianity was a myth. What he denied was that the term “myth” equated “fantasy” or “fable.” Myth simply meant that the components of the narrative have deep personal and universal meanings, bigger than the components themselves.
Saying Christianity “Is a myth” is an easy way for opponents to dismiss its validity only because they are attributing a faulty definition to the term “myth.” Yes Christianity is a myth. No it is not a fable or a fantasy. It is a myth because the components in the narrative have deeper personal and universal meanings in it that relate to the human experience (like all other myths). The difference with Christianity is that it is Real. Lewis said the other myths happened “long ago in history, no one knows when. But Christianity happens in particular times and places that can be corresponded to through historical documents and archeological findings. Christianity actually happened. The only way someone can come to a conclusion that it isn’t real is to find a way to either discard the primary sources (which are eye-witness accounts), or to assert the whole thing was posthumously created (which is anachronistic to the evidence).
What does this tell us about Christianity? It tells us that Jesus did live and die in the 1st century. His tomb was found empty after his death. 500+ people saw him after his resurrection…most of whom were available for interviewing during Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians some 20 years later.
With Peterson’s work, people get a chance to reinvent their lives (become a new person in life), which may have positive social and political effects. However, it still ends at the grave. With Christianity, you get the deep personal and universal meanings of Christianity and eternal life to boot. Peterson’s route leads to a positive transformed life, but in the end, it is a Christ-less Gospel. In Christianity, the ultimate goal is not to be a better person, but a living person. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good or lazy people diligent. Jesus came to make dead people alive. The aim of the Christian is heaven, not earth. That is where Peterson’s message falls short.
What Peterson offers can be immensely profitable, even for Christians, because it contains many of the core elements of responsibly living a life of faith. But we cannot afford to stop there, because eternity is at stake, and that is our higher goal. Something that cannot be reached by mere human will.
I hope you were encouraged by this week’s Pastor Blog. This Easter season, I pray the Lord’s helps you better encounter his