Imagine a Red, Horny, Hoof-footed Menace- Why Christian Mythology is So Dangerous

March 28, 2009

In my last post I discussed the recent Nightline Face Off between Team Driscoll and Team Deepak over the question “Does Satan Exist?”  It was a very illuminating debate and was of particular interest to me to see the ways in which Deepak Chopra attempted to use his New Age metaphysical approach to explain evil. However, as I watched it there was one thing that stuck out most to me, though I shouldn’t have been surprised by it, that being the amount of Christian mythology being brought to the table in dealing with this question.

Christian mythology is something that all of us are familiar with.  It is the overlaying of centuries of tradition and perversion of biblical teachings that result in apocryphal/extra-biblical ideas explaining and describing various facets of Christian experience.  We all participate in it, if only as a hearer, and yet very rarely do we call attention to it.  

A prime example of this is angelology, where people have taken the relatively small amount of information concerning angels in the Bible and expounded it into a whole subject with numerous charaters and stories (myths).   Did you know that the Bible never mentions any angel bearing the name Raphael?  Or that a cherub is not a cute baby angel in a diaper but is described in Ezekiel as being a creature with four faces and four wings, among other odd characteristics?  (I bet your grandma doesn’t have a statue of that on her mantle!)  So clearly, there is a lot of mythology that has come to be peppered into our understanding of biblical teachings.

Christian mythology is also very much at work within the narrative of Satan, where we have created a whole realm of understanding about who he is, where he came from, what he looks like, &tc., that is far and beyond what can be gleaned from Scripture.  We say that Satan is red, hooved, with horns and a pitchfork; that he was God’s worship leader before trying to be God, at which point he was cast down to earth.  Many believe that he is omnipresent just like God, that he is God’s equal and his necessary counterpart.  Unfortunately, pretty much all I just said is bogus, and yet somehow managed to be spoken as truth (or at least as biblical teaching) at the Face Off event.  That’s a problem.

I say this is a problem, not just because it is a misrepresentation of God’s revealed word, but because it truly is dangerous to Christianity, as was displayed by Deepak Chopra’s teammate, “Bishop” Carlton Pearson.  You see, when we allow Christian mythology to become confused with Christian truth, we are allowing what is real and attested and defensible to be replaced by what is false, fantastical, and full of more holes than swiss cheese.  At one point we created a big scary red beast to provoke an adequate fear of the devil, but now that same image of a pitchfork carrying, goatee wearing sadist give an opening for skeptics to ridicule our beliefs.  At one point we weren’t satisfied with resting on what the Bible taught and setting our hearts on holding to that truth, so now we have all but disqualified ourselves from legitimate conversation because our beliefs are so comical and rested upon human tradition, not the infallible Word of God.

Actually, the place where this bothers me most is in our mythical understanding of heaven.  While growing up I remember being sold on the image of a place where I could climb trees everyday, and if I fell out of one I would not get hurt.  Today, I look around the church and see many adults whose conception of it is not much different, waxing poetic about the crowns and jewels and thrones that they will have, the open land and beautiful fishing locales.  Yet, besides going much further than anything the Bible ever portrays, this type of thinking on heaven just seems to completely miss the point.  For one thing, if you read 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corninthians 15,  or Revelation 21, you will see that the place we are resting forever is not on a cloud in a disembodied spirit, but instead on the earth (a new earth) in resurrected, glorified bodies.  Plus, check out Revelation 21.3:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

If anything is the point, that’s it.  Not that we can have our wildest dreams and run around all day in the most beautiful places imaginable, but that finally the presence of God can dwell with us again in the way he had intended from the very beginning.  Maybe that’s not enough for you, as I imagine is why the whole self-centered vision of heaven came about in the first place, but it is what’s taught in the Scriptures, and honestly, I can’t imagine anything better, even if heaven had me owning seats behind homeplate at Fenway Park.

If we are going to see Christianity being taken seriously by the world again, we must quit this crap.  It is bad enough that we have entire denominations devoted to maligning God’s Word with interpretations that allow gay bishops and multiple ways to salvation, but let’s not compound it by surrounding otherwise good theology with all these flea market ideations that make the whole package just look tacky and unappealing.  There is nothing more desirable than the truth of what God has shown us, let’s stop dressing it up with our own myths so that its natural glory can shine through.