One point of criticism that speaks loudly, but really misguided, is the claim that Christian faith is built upon mythological figures. Used in common language it implies that it is built upon the figment of people’s imagination. Technically it displays an ignorance of the way myth fits into the overall sources of human knowledge.
Some historical facts are undisputed:
- The Jewish nation has existed for at least four millennia.
- It has an accumulated record of its history.
- We call it the Old Testament.
The best linguists, archaeologists, historians etc, have devoted well over a century to examining these documents more so than any other realm of our planet.
The pursuit has been the search for truth. Although there are some who do, that search is not to simply justify its authenticity but to understand the way it was compiled, the relationship of the documents to the actual life of the people and how we should understand what they believed and what relevance it has to us today.
Due to this broad and concerted examination, our understanding of our faith is far more informed than it has ever been.
Mythology & the Human Mind
So the raw data upon which we build our faith is fact, not fiction. To claim otherwise is to display ones ignorance because in trying to discredit religious history is to discredit all history. Those same processes and skills that examine all history have been employed to examine religious history.
What then becomes the question is, how we understand the way that data is collated and the truths it perceives as accurate and valuable. To answer this we take the more recent learnings of the human mind. We live in a world that for several centuries has treasured its rational and logical mind. We have analysed everything ad infinitum. This includes the way the mind has evolved.
We now understand that the mind did not always have exactly the same capacity to function as we do. Whereas, we analyse to understand truth, once upon a time people created pictures to pass on knowledge and capture truth as they understood it.
This method is described as the mythological functioning of the mind. Its capacity employs intuition and imagination more than we do today. It captures a clearer picture of depth truth than our present day reason. Today we specialize in understanding surface knowledge, and we are certainly good at it.
What we do well to remember is that even the best minds of today don’t dismiss past knowledge. Contemporary Philosophers don’t disregard or disrespect Socrates and Plato even though philosophy has developed far further afield. Contemporary Mathematicians, physicists don’t disregard the earliest mathematicians, such as Euclid even though the new math’s and science has significantly superseded the earliest knowledge.
To solely apply the same contemporary reason and logic to a reading of the most ancient scriptural passages as we might today is sheer ignorance. To read Old Testament or even much New Testament writings with simply our approach today will miss the power of its truth. To cast aspersions upon the way people behaved or interpreted life at that time is arrogant and misguided.
Critics often rebuke religion for the bible has many accounts of war, but how can one forget that history is a continuous account of war. Western Society justifies it as the ancient Jews did. But that doesn’t discount the fact that people did not have a genuine faith relationship with what they called God, Yahweh, Elohim, Adonia, depending on how far back you want to go.
The faith journey is a respectful humble one as one tries to find meaning in life. The large core of followers are genuine seekers of truth. The genuineness of the journey is not lessened by the way we record our experience, whether it be mythical or rational. They are merely windows of the mind seeking to grasp a picture that is far greater than any one person can fully comprehend.
Christianity is not based upon non-existent mythological figures. It is based upon a genuine history of a people. The particular verifiable person is the one of Jesus. The way the faith community interprets that story is a different issue. But it could be argued that the variety of interpretations and explanations testifies to its strength. Its story is sustained by the experience of millions of people who have testified down through history to its relevance to their life.