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Christ - Myth, Metaphor or Metaphysic

The Christian story—that found in the bible—is neither a myth nor a metaphor, but a reality.

Myths are narratives which cultures adopt in order to make sense of the world. They are not judged by their truth or reliability, but by their impact upon the cultures in which they dwell. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently described the Christian story as a myth. Commenting on Philip Pullman, the atheist who wrote the “Dark Materials” trilogy, the Archbishop said, “He takes the Christian myth, or a version of it, seriously enough to want to disagree passionately with it...It's not just dull or remote, it's dangerous. You've got to tussle with it. It's still alive.” Alive it may be, but not merely because a culture lives it. It is alive because God is real and the coming of Christ really happened.
Whereas a myth does not necessarily have to be true, the Christian belief is dependent on the events described in the bible—especially in the gospels—being a reality. Whereas myth describes a story which a culture adopts and uses to define its actions, the Christian life is one that is adopted into the story of God. C.S Lewis, a maker of many myths, declared of the Christ event, “Here and here only in all time the myth must become fact” (qtd. in Montgomery 30).

It is also not sufficient to refer to the good news about Jesus Christ as a metaphor which describes God. Christ does not merely declare what God is like, he shows who God is. Jesus does not claim to be simply like God, but to be God himself. Consequently, access to the Father is restricted to those who come to Christ because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one triune God.

We also need to know what the actions of God in Christ do as well as what they show us. This requires more than metaphor, it requires an explanation. For this the Christian looks to the apostles who unpack the workings of the cross and its place in the larger narrative of scripture. According to the writers of the New Testament, the events recorded in the gospels have a real effect on the reality of the reader—even we who read them a couple of thousand years later. By faith in Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf, we are changed not merely in our adherence to a set of beliefs or a myth, but in our standing before God. Our reality is transformed by the events of the coming of Christ, his crucifixion and his resurrection. As Paul tells the church in Ephesus,

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”
(Ephesians 2:11-22).

No myth or metaphor can accomplish such a change in our nature. We require a real event which has a corresponding real effect in us. Myths supply stories by which we guide ourselves, the gospel, on the other hand, promises to change our very condition from dead to alive.