Modern Myths: Stories from the Bible by Michael Breen, published 2018.
“All mythological elements in the Bible, the doctrine and liturgy, should be recognized as mythological, but they should be maintained in their symbolic form and not be replaced by scientific substitutes. For there is no substitute for the use of symbols and myths: they are the language of faith.” – Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith.
Only twice in the last 30 years have I been contacted by a childhood friend. The most recent occurred in May of this year when the author of this book sent me a text. Mike and I were beneficiaries of the Jefferson County Public Schools ‘Advanced Program’ in the 1970s and as such were classmates for five years from 7th to 11th grade (at which time I graduated). I cannot express how significant this educational experience was for me nor the importance of the relationships I had with my mostly constant classmates in that formative period of life. In any case, Mike contacted me through one of his relatives who was my patient, and we quickly were reacquainted in a one-hour call. Much to my surprise, Mike too had been studying philosophy and theology for many years and even completed a masters in academic theology (as opposed to a divinity track). He has self-published this book and another called Bad Faith in Kentucky. Now retired, he made a four-hour round trip drive to share dinner and some fascinating discussions with me one week later at which time he presented me with this book.
Mike is a theist and religious, but not a churchgoer, nor particularly attached to a denomination. In addition to philosophy and theology he has an interest in mythology and psychology. He has been working on what he calls ‘counter-intuitive theology’ wherein the world is viewed as dominated by opposites (e.g. good and evil) and pervaded by a ‘paradoxical’ God who may not be aware of his omniscience and who is not fixed or static, but in the process of ‘becoming.’ God in his model is an invisible being manifested in time and space, and amoral, even reckless, perhaps without being conscious of this.
A few other comments may enhance our understanding of the text. Mike is dubious of absolutes in religion, philosophy, and even science. As a result he tends to a more ecumenical approach to theology. He is fascinated by the logos of the Greeks, and has studied extensively Eastern philosophies, particularly Hinduism and Zen Buddhism. He has also immersed himself in the psychology and philosophy of Carl Jung. We should not be surprised should some of these interests show up in our reading.
Modern Myths: Stories from the Bible consists of 8 short stories ranging from 8 to 38 pages comprising a total of 195 pages. The stories are mostly written in the third person and are predominately conversational. The intriguing titles range from The Full Immersion Baptist Church to An Evening at the Club and CERN. Only one, The Mark of Cain, uses a Biblical allusion in the title. I will present them briefly in the next two posts, followed by a critique in a final post.
(continued next post)