My buddy-blogger Darrell first scored Amillenial on the Eschatology quiz and then took dispensationalism to town citing some problems inherent in the system and some really bad press due to overzealous Left Behind Series theologians. Darrell rightly points out that taken to its extremes dispensationalism can become a sort of mythology which allows non-Christians to dismiss Christianity as a Sci-Fi Cult…a point which gave me pause.
Nah, I’m not going to bother defending dispensationalism or tearing down amillenialism: I’m enough of a heretic to admit that I don’t rely on my eschatology to save me. I am altogether relying on Christ; let God figure out how the future pans out.
What started my mental gears spinning was the idea of the external view of the Christian Faith being something very Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
Let me restate it this way: An ancient God decides to Incarnate Himself, walk among people and perform Magic (like removing disease or turning water to wine or magically reproducing fish and bread or walking on water), allows Himself to be killed and then shrugs off Death’s Shroud and is seen walking among people again, before going back to His Ancient Abode. Then, the ones who Trust this Ancient God now have the Power to get more people to join this God’s Army but they don’t do it by fighting or by money: but by speaking.
My point is that no matter what, Christianity already has a highly fictional component that allows those outside of Christianity cast it into whatever light they wish. It doesn’t take much to take Christianity and see tons of fantastic (used in the classic sense) mythical elements (found in countless religions) that Christians have the audacity to claim as true.
But that just establishes a fact that might be necessary for Christianity’s claim of Truth: that it must contain these seemingly mythical elements.
Imagine first century Rome, so steeped in religions that whenever the empire conquered an area they’d trade some of the conquered gods with the Greco-Roman Pantheon. Yet here’s Christianity that looks at those religions, acknowledges what’s true in them then proceeds to show how more fully the truth actually is.
One other belief might say: There is a Higher Law; Christianity agrees and points to a Law-Giver. A myth may recall a God among Men; Christianity agrees but then says that Man was fully man, fully God and we killed him but He currently reigns. There would be a myth of the Dying King and Christianity would show Him dying on a cross of His own volition. Another ancient myth may show that all came from nothing, from chaos from which Christianity would say “Yes, there was chaos in the beginning but hovering over that Chaos was the Living God and then He acted.”
C.S. Lewis in an essay “Myth Became Fact” (From God in the Dock) says it way better:
The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens?at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. ? God is more than god, not less: Christ is more than Balder, not less.
It’s no wonder then that Paul would say that the message which we Christians preach is on all external accounts pretty stupid looking: The Promised King of the Jews, the Living God and Savior of the World was executed via capital punishment but of His own volition because God planned it that way.