Re: Apologetics, Genesis, and C.S. Lewis

George Murphy (
Mon, 23 Nov 1998 10:54:01 -0500 wrote:

> In what is perhaps the least cited of all C.S. Lewis's popular books,
> Reflections on the Psalms, he has a wonderfully insightful chapter on the
> development of Scripture in general. He distances himself from those who
> insist on historical and scientific factuality by using an analogy with the
> part of the Quicunque Vult (Athanasian Creed) which affirms the Incarnation:
> "I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars
> who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier
> Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical [p.110]...For we are taught that
> the Incarnation itself proceeded "not by the conversion of the godhead into
> flesh, but by taking of (the) manhood into God"; in it human life becomes the
> vehicle of Divine life. If the Scriptures proceed not by conversion of God's
> word into a literature but by taking up of a literature to be the vehicle of
> God's word, this is not anomalous [p.116]"

One reason some Christians have trouble with such ideas is a belief that
"inspiration" is possible only if the work of the Spirit is _unmediated_. But that is
not, in fact, the way the Spirit generally works. Instead of zapping people directly
from heaven, the Spirit normally works through Word and sacraments. (Note "normally":
of course the Spirit is free.) If the Holy Spirit can use mundane physical elements &
less than perfect preachers, it shouldn't be too surprising if pagan myths &c were
utilized in salvation history. If, e.g., ideas about resurrection or angels come into
latter stages of the Old Testament via Persian influence, that doesn't mean they aren't
At the same time, it should be noted that the biblical writers don't simply
swallow pagan myths whole. They alter them as they need to in order to fit them to
speaking about the God of Israel. Thus Scripture has what Brevard Childs calls "broken
myths" like Isaiah 14:12-14. In the biblical context this is no longer a Canaanite myth
of an assault on the abode of the gods part of a taunt song against Babylon. The common
Christian interpretation of it as referring to the fall of Satan is actually a
_re_mythologizing of the text.

George L. Murphy