The word myth often conjures up the idea of epic fantasy tales or of commonly held beliefs that need debunking. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary defines myth as both “a fictitious or imaginary person or thing” and “a widely held but false belief or idea.”
The dictionary also defines myth as “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” The word derives from the Greek mythos which simply means “story.”
And that is what I think of when I think of myth: I think of story. I think of narrative. So when I use the word myth to describe the Bible, I’m not saying it’s not true – because I most certainly believe it is true. Rather, when I say the Bible is myth, I’m saying that it’s full of stories that infuse meaning into our lives and that it is, in actuality, one overarching Story.
The God of the Bible audaciously makes a world, joyfully populates it with creatures, and then willingly redeems those creatures from sin and death. This story is unlike any story humans have ever told. Indeed, the Bible’s uniqueness among world myths is one reason I believe it, love it, and base my life on it.
In the tug-of-war that is faith and doubt, we could look at the scientific evidence for a creator. We could examine the historical evidence for Jesus walking the planet. We could scrutinize the evidence for his Messiahship in the form of fulfilled prophecies. All those things are necessary and beneficial. But sometimes when doubt and despair creep in, we need something else too: we need the medicine of myth. We need the salve of story.
Story is certainly what keeps me coming back to the Bible. I exult in its creation story: the God who made the cosmos not out of violence as the ancient Greek and Mesopotamian cultures believed, but out of nothing. I cherish the God who brings order to chaos instead of inciting that chaos himself. I delight in the God who created man not for servitude but for relationship.
Even more than its creation story, however, what keeps me coming back to the Bible is its salvation story. Over and over I return to a God who rescues His people Himself. Who doesn’t ask them to do it on their own but who enters their world and does it for them. Other belief systems depend on people to earn salvation through sufficient sacrifice or flawless adherence to rules, but this Deity is different.
The fact that the creation story and salvation story, in particular, differ so widely from other religious traditions testifies to me that they were not formed by human hands. They originated from another Author altogether. But while the creation and salvation stories stand as cornerstones of my faith, they are not the only Biblical stories that speak to my core longings.
There is Eden, and there is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. There is the call of Abraham out of paganism and the promise to bless all of humanity through him. There is God caring for Hagar in the desert, asking where she came from and where she was going. There is God freeing His people from Egypt in the story of the Exodus – the central story of the Old Testament.
There is Ruth and there is Rahab: women and outsiders being invited into the family of God. There are the pagan Magi being invited into the Incarnation story. There is Jesus healing the man born blind and Jesus healing the paralyzed man. There is Jesus healing the woman with the bleeding disorder and Jesus raising the little girl from the dead.
There is Jesus being gloriously transfigured on a mountainside and Jesus calming a sea-storm. There is Jesus speaking to the rich, overly confident young man, and there is Paul speaking to the pagans on Mars Hill, inviting everyone to worship this heretofore unknown God. There is Jesus eating breakfast by the sea with His disciples, yes even the one who denied Him, and there is Mary Magdalene – a woman — first at the Resurrection.
These, and other stories, capture my heart and stir my soul. They are powerful stories that speak to human desire, and they differ vastly from the stories of other religions. When I feel far from God, it’s generally not the intellectual evidence, solid though it may be, that drives me back to God.
Rather, it is the story evidence that brings me back. It is the unique nature of the stories of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the unique love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost that keep me coming back for more.
What Biblical stories keep drawing you back? Which core longings do those stories speak to? What other ways do you counter your doubt?