The Benefit of the Doubt

A blog about Dialogue, Doubts, and Christian Faith ~Travis Dickinson~

The Gospel is the Biggest Idea I Know: True Myth


Many unbelievers have claimed that the gospel, as an idea, is ridiculous. And I kind of agree.

It’s a REALLY big idea. In fact, it’s the biggest idea I know.

The Christian version of mere theism alone is a big idea. The idea is there is a transcendent God who is the greatest conceivable being who has all perfections. This God stands outside of the universe, having created the universe, but also literally holds all contingent reality into being at all moments of their existence.

That’s a big idea! We all have to stare at that for a little as it’s both a mouthful and it is at the edge of what we can comprehend. And we don’t really comprehend it, at least not in any full way. We can sort of kind of get our minds around grasping the words, but we don’t fully know what they mean in a worked out doctrine.

This is the only notion of God in which I’m interested. I’m not interested in a notion of God that is not consonant with the greatest conceivable being. If there is a god or gods who suffers any imperfection, then I’m not interested. It is only the greatest conceivable being who is worthy of worship and devotion.

This is a God to be feared with a biblical notion of fear. This is a God who is holy and just and can be justified in commanding death, or even causing death in a worldwide flood.  In fact, he has the right to take my life. I realize how incredibly controversial all that is, but this is, on my view, the Christian God. This is part of the bigness and I accept the full package.

This is also a God who is personal. This is a God of love, faithfulness and steadfastness.

A True Myth

This is big, but the idea of the gospel is more outlandish than all that. This God who is the greatest conceivable being was born in a manger. This God, who stands outside of the universe and is the creator and sustainer of all, experienced hunger and thirst and acne (I’m guessing) and excitement and disappointment (he wept, after all). He lived a perfect life filled with love for others, but was never soft on sin.

This God held into being the very cross upon which he was crucified, the very humans who would do him harm, to die for those sins and every sin.

It’s ridiculous. It’s preposterous. As a professor of philosophy, I have familiarity with the great ideas in human history. I know of no bigger idea than this.

But I also happen to think it is true.

It’s what C.S. Lewis would call a true myth. By “myth”, Lewis did not mean it was fictional. Rather he saw the bigness of the gospel claims and the cosmic meaning and purpose the gospel provides.  But it is not a pure or typical myth, for Lewis, since the Gospels involve historical claims of real people at real times. Pure myth is simply not the genre of the Gospels. He says:

I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion — those narrow, unattractive Jews, too blind to the mystical wealth of the Pagan world around them — was precisely the matter of great myths. If ever a myth had become a fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another, but nothing was simply alike. And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognizable, through all that depth of time… yet also so luminous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god — we are no longer polytheists — then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not “a religion,” nor “a philosophy.” It is the summing up and actuality of them all (Surprised by Joy).

It’s history and we thereby have evidence for these crazy claims. I find the evidence compelling, but I’ll be the first to say that it isn’t coercive. The evidence can be and is rejected.

However, there is a way in which the evidence coupled with the bigness and the beauty of the offer of the gospel becomes so very attractive, I’ve given my life to its truth.

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