I recently started reading the book The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong. I haven’t yet gotten very far in it, but I am struck by ideas she presents just in the introduction.
“To ask whether the Exodus from
Mythos or myth is about true meaning found in stories – particularly religious stories – and is not concerned with practical, rational, scientific facts. Logos, then, is concerned with all that is practical, rational, and scientific. Karen talks about how before the Modern Age, people did not mix these up, that to even ask whether a story (reserved to the realm of mythos) actually happened was to try to apply scientific thought (logos) to that which was beyond science, to that which has meaning regardless of science.
“By the eighteenth century, however, the people of Europe and America had achieved such astonishing success in science and technology that they began to think that logos was the only means to truth and began to discount mythos as false and superstitious. … Our religious experience in the modern world has changed, and because an increasing number of people regard scientific rationalism alone as true, they have often tried to turn the mythos of their faith into logos.” (p. xvii and xviii)
This sounds all too familiar to me. In fact, this is almost exactly what I have been struggling with, especially as a scientist. Take, for example, my struggle with the story of Jesus and the idea of Christ. I have gotten lost in literal interpretations that contradict (or potentially contradict) my experience of science. The scientist in me vehemently rejects such contradictions and I have found myself searching for analogical meaning, trying to translate the literal interpretations into something that has meaning for me. Instead of getting lost in literal interpretations, I need to go back to the original story of the life and teachings of Jesus, and find the meaning there – and I do indeed find great meaning there. I need not worry about whether it actually happened.
This idea is not new to me, but to find it so well articulated and to find the beginning of a historical explanation for how we got here today to this almost overly rational and scientific way of approaching the world has brought new clarity for me. I am feeling released from my need to rationalize these stories. I feel like I can read and learn from the Bible, I can begin to speak of Christ, and I can understand better the idea of Jesus working in people’s lives (even in my own life!) without the scientist in me raising alarm and challenging me to examine my integrity. It is neither in line with nor contradictory to science, because it is beyond science.
Much love to all,