The Common Good
May-June 2002

What's a Myth

by Gary Downing | May-June 2002


SAY IT AIN'T SO! Tell me you didn't quote "Christianity's Gift" by Walter Wink (March-April 2002) because it represents where Sojourners is going theologically. Wink says that Jesus is a myth. Is Jesus merely a nice idea ranking up there with the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Easter bunny, or good karma? Following that logic can I believe that the "Powers" of which Wink has so eloquently written previously are also nothing more than a myth—an embodiment in our minds or a personification of evil?

If all Christianity has to offer is a myth of imagined good and incarnate evil what real difference does it make? Myths may inspire but they cannot redeem. I believe Jesus is far more than a "revealer and catalyst of our true humanity." He is the most complete revelation and "enfleshing" of the One, True God and the primary means by which we can re-establish a loving relationship with God and overcome real evil, personal and cosmic.

Gary Downing
Rochester, Minnesota

Walter Wink responds:

The quotation that appeared in Sojourners was the last paragraph of the book. I have tried in the body of the book to explain how seriously I take myth and imagination. In theological circles generally, myth represents the most fundamental truths of a group, a society, or a species. Far from the way you take it, myth is truth. I am trying to move away from the myth that God sent Christ from heaven down to earth to reveal the path of salvation. In that way of looking at it, the humanity of Jesus has almost always been smothered by his divinity. I am trying to develop an alternative way of looking at Jesus, as a completely human being who, just as you say, "enfleshed God." But it makes more sense to me to speak of Jesus as one who incarnated God. I would hope you will read the entire book (The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of Man, Fortress Press) and not judge it by a single (terrific little) paragraph.

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