This is part IV in a series on apologetics. If you want to read the other articles click on the following links:
Part I What is Apologetics?
Part II People and Apologetics
Part III Christianity and the Questions of Right and Wrong
“The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat, otherwise dull to him, by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savory for having been dipped in a story…by putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it.”
― C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
Life is full of myth, lore, and drama that ensnares the imagination and catches us up within the rich tapestry that makes up our human story – that makes sense of our existence. Every one of us has this deep sense of our life, meaning more than it does, from the Sun rising in the East to the birds singing in the early morning. From the kettle boiling, our stomachs rumbling, the caress of a brisk winter wind, or the smell of saltwater in the Summer. The high pitched cry of a newborn baby and the roof of your mouth burning after taking a bite from a slice of hot pepperoni pizza. The gutted feeling you get over betrayal or the stress of paying your bills on time. The weariness one feels after a long day at work or looking after the family. For some, depression, for others, worse. Finally, the contentment (or excitement) of being in the arms of a lover – these are all paragraphs in the chapters to the book that makes up our existence.
The greatest stories ever written are told so that humanity can make sense of themselves. So that we can all slowly stitch together those chaotic, beautiful and terrifying chapters that we’ve all starred in. The world’s oldest stories, from the Enuma Elis (The Epic of Gilgamesh), The Hermopolis Egyptian creation myth, and The Eridu Genesis, to the Aboriginal dream-time stories and the Native American Creation myths, every culture and civilization has within their memory a story that defines who they are and why they’re here. For the modern West, we look to science and western philosophy to make sense of our humanity. According to evolutionary biologists, humanity (Homo sapiens) evolved from Homo heidelbergensis somewhere around 100 000 years ago. All life (a biologist might argue) evolved from the big bang event approximately 13.7 million years ago, and humanity is the latest in the evolutionary chain (that we know of). In light of this, philosophers like Fredrick Nietzsche and scientists in the neo atheist movement such as Richard Dawkins, and socio-political critics such a Christopher Hitchens might argue that life has no intrinsic meaning or value (this is called existential Nihilism). As Dawkins famously said, “the universe we observe is precisely what we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” However, for most of us, this bleak commentary on the nature of existence remains unsatisfactory. Most of us, perhaps even Dawkins himself (though he might never admit it), have a deep-seated sense of “something more.” One cannot look at oneself in the mirror of the cosmos and not have their heart leap as it longingly grasps for something greater than themselves. We want to be known, we want to be loved, but we must first know ourselves and our place.
Herein lies the power of the biblical story (i.e. the Gospel – the Good News). The unfolding drama of the biblical story compellingly peels back the lays of the human existence and uniquely relates them to God, to one another, and the world in a way no other story does. Why is this story significant? Because of the way we live, relate to one another, and the world around us, the way we relate to God profoundly depends on how we comprehend, perceive and understand all of these things; otherwise, Nihilism may be true. Let us then explore this narrative so that we may judge for ourselves how this story makes sense of our existence.
- God gives meaning and purpose to all that exists and orders it out of a chaotic state (Genesis 1:1-25)
- Humanity is endowed with God’s image (Genesis 1:26), and they’re tasked to multiply and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:27-28)
- This image that God gives humanity is two things. It is 1. an ontological reality (a part of their nature) in which every human somehow shares in, participates, and retains something of God (separate but related to His likeness). 2. It is a task or vocation that God bestows upon humanity to live out this ontological reality. That task is to multiply, subdue the earth, and guard and keep the Garden (Genesis 2:15), the dwelling place of God.
- Humanity fails at walking in God’s image. Instead of guarding the Garden, Adam and Eve allowed the serpent to enter God’s dwelling place and corrupt it. Adam and Eve, therefore, chose for themselves wisdom apart from God and decided to rule themselves apart from God’s love and wisdom (Genesis 3).
- God takes Adam and Eve and removes them from His dwelling place, stopping them from eating from the Tree of Life. Humanity has now chosen spiritual death and disunity with God, and as a result, they are disconnected from one another and the creation around them.
- However, God doesn’t let the world fall into chaos. He promises that through the line of Eve, humanity will be saved by crushing the serpents head even at the risk of the seed’s own life (Genesis 3:15).
In just the first three chapters of the Bible, we have a densely rich narrative that paints humanities reality. We were created and chosen by God for good things. For unity, for love, peace and joy. Yet we went our own way. From Genesis 3:15 onwards, the entire Bible is story after story of God rescuing the world through chosen individuals and people groups, eventually culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). In the final pages of the Bible, the Apostle John tells of a world where through Jesus the Messiah, there will be no sickness or death. There will be no separation from God, life, each other, and the world around us (Revelation 24).
At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to decide which stories they want to believe in, and which they don’t. The Bible is a big book, and it isn’t something that’s supposed to be read and understood in a day, week, or even a year. It’s complex, gritty, raw, alien, but all too familiar at the same time. I believe, if we wrestle with every page and let the Scriptures speak for themselves, this metanarrative we call the Bible makes the most sense of who we are (image bearers made to be in relationship with God, one another, and the created world), where we are (in an unjust fallen world that we all contribute to), and where we’re going (new creation free from the tyranny of sin and death). My invitation to you is to consider its message carefully, reflect, and ask yourself this critical question “does this make sense of our story?” Whether you realise it or not, you’re a character in its unfolding drama.
How will your chapter end?