In the much disputed creation – evolution debate the word myth is usually attributed to the Genesis account of creation by one particular side. In using the words myth or mythological, for the creation narrative naturally communicates that it belongs in the realm of misconception, fairy tale and fantasy.  This understanding of myth has been perpetuated due to the fact that most great stories about gods or creation are in the guise of great epic stories based in an unscientific and non-rational age.  On account of this perception (especially in the Western world) it has enabled them to then become massive cinematographic blockbusters, such as Thor, Clash of the Titans and Evan Almighty to name but a few, providing viewing pleasure of millions of people. But what is mythology? John Walton in The Lost World of Genesis One writes,

Mythology by its nature seeks to explain how the world works and how it came to work that way, and therefore includes a culture’s “theory of origins”.  We sometimes label certain literature as “myth” because we do not believe that we the world works that way.  The label is a way of holding it at arm’s length so as to clarify that we do not share that belief – particularly as it refers to involvement and activities of the god’s…. Their “mythology” expressed their beliefs concerning what made the world what it was; it expressed their theories of origins and how their world worked.

By definition, our modern mythology is represented by science – our own theories of origins and operations. Science provides what is generally viewed as the consensus concerning what the world is, how it works and how it came to be.  Today, science makes no room for deity (though neither does it disprove deity), in contrast to the ancient explanations, which are filled with deity.

So how is this relevant missionally? What do we do with these two great mythologies?  Firstly, we must recognise that each culture and people group has their own interpretation of the origins of the cosmos, whether this is in the local pub, university or the other side of the world. Secondly, we should endeavour to find affirmations, similarities and critiques, between world views with the aim of finding a model that enables authentically contextualised missional engagement.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Myth

  1. This is a good question, which requires an philosophy of science and an understanding of what Genesis is claiming. Finding people who have thought through both aspects is pretty rare.

  2. Recognising that we all have a mythology is particularly helpful – and scientism as mythology of a particular stripe. I love Tolkien’s defence of myth to a young C S Lewis, who, newly converted, was inclined to dismiss the myths he had seen as glorious before he saw Christ as the supreme glory. Mythopoeia (though with a few typos).

  3. The Genesis account becomes more true when we embrace it not as scientific fact, but as giving meaning to our origins. It conveyed meaning as myth allows it to be missional. It gives meaning to the question science can never at a deep and meaningful level answer: why… why is their origin and why do I matter. Genesis becomes a beautiful expose that says life does matter. It also is “true” enough to portray the brokenness of our world. I think there is great resonance with this account in our day.

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