View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

How a Theologian Interprets Myth

When it comes to theological discernment, one must first ask the question: does myth count in theology? No. Most theologians are willing to interpret myths, but certainly not willing to believe them in their literal form.Rudolph Bultmann gave us the term de-mythologizing. "Its aim is not to eliminate the mythological statements but to interpret them" (Bultmann, 1958, p. 18). This New Testament scholar had in... Myths tell us about human anxieties and propensities, to be sure; but they do not tell us about the reality of God. It is the task of the theologian to say: don’t believe this myth. Or, at least avoid believing it with a high degree of confidence. Science has not demonstrated that it can save us from self-destruction, whether it be terrestrial or extraterrestrial science.

Science, just like all other human enterprises, is fallen. Despite the marvels of the new knowledge gained and new technology produced, science has become subject to the funding of jingoists and the ambitions of militarists. Advances in scientific knowledge lead frequently to equal advances in the breadth and efficiency of murder, mayhem, and mass destruction. Each decade marks a new level of global terror due to advances in nuclear and biochemical weaponry. This spiral is beyond political control, religious control, moral control, and beyond self-control. If the ETI myth suggests that augmenting terrestrial science with extraterrestrial science will provide this control, the theologian must simply shrug and say: where is the evidence for such a belief?

The blind alley into which the myth leads us I call the eschatological problem (Peters, 1977). The myth proposes that if we in our generation simply make the right choice that, with the advance of science, we in the human race can advance from warring destruction to a state of world peace. Yet, the theologian should ask: how do we get from here to there? Can a leopard change its spots so easily? If science got us into the present mess, how can we expect science to liberate us from this mess? If we have evolved to this point, why should we think that more evolving will save us?

Salvific healing, according to the Christian theologian, comes from divine grace granted us within the setting of our fallen life on earth. The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ symbolize the presence of this saving grace. In the cross we see God’s identification with the victims of human injustice or violence. In the resurrection we see God’s promise that we will not forever be locked into a cycle of poverty or spiral of violence. Unambiguous healing - even world peace - will come to us only as an eschatological transformation, as an act of God. More science will not save us. It is a delusion to think that it will. The theologian, like the rest of us, should welcome and even celebrate the triumphs of science; but these triumphs should not delude us into thinking that science will save us from our human propensity for social injustice or even environmental degradation.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Ted Peters

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.