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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jesus & Mythology

This past year I had the opportunity to homeschool a wonderful, spunky, & sweet first grader. It was a huge highlight in my week! One of the hands down best parts of the experience was watching her grow throughout the year. Within a few months of starting, I watched her reading become smooth and expressive and her math skills become fluid and quick!

We did a range of activities, went through multiple textbooks, and read a variety of books. Addy's hands down favorite part of our time together was the last half hour or so when we would read out of her Greek Mythology book. This book was old school - in fact it was hard to keep all the pages together and in order because it was so worn!

To be honest, at first I was really surprised her mom, a wonderful woman who has encouraged me greatly in my faith and is so knowledgeable, not only let her read the book but wanted me to spend time each day reading it to this young, impressionable first grader. I mean, wasn't Greek mythology going to muddy the waters for distinguishing between gods and God? Could a first grader really differentiate between how Zeus created the world and how the Creator of the universe said "Let there be light"?

My views very quickly changed. Story after story related back to either a story in the Old Testament, the Gospel, or Biblical principles. The stories provided ample opportunity to ask Addy reading comprehension questions within the context of the Gospel, OT stories, etc. She was (much to my surprise) able to easily distinguish between "lower-case" gods and the God. There were even a few glorious moments while reading where she would say something like "Hey! This story is like [OT story]!"

In Greek mythology, mankind has a "falling out" with Zeus which is very similar to the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Greek mythology talks about a great flood, similar to the Genesis flood. War is a common theme in both Greek myths and the Bible.

Aside from similar stories, more connections can be made. For instance, many of the Greek gods were extremely jealous. In the Bible, God is described as jealous. While the same adjective is used, these two jealousies are extremely different. Greek gods were jealous and vindictive and volatile; God on the other hand is jealous in a loving manner - He's jealous because he deserves our affections as our creator and heavenly father. Many of the mythical story lines (as with much literature) fall short. The characters, while they may have a few admirable qualities, always have an Achilles' heel (punny!). They fall short in some way. Ultimately, they show how unworthy they are of human affections. Who would want to worship and follow a god that, though strong, tries to kill his own children, has affairs, and is neurotic?

Flawed, measly Greek gods point to Jesus as the ultimate champion and king, and to God as the greatest, most loving, tender father. Inevitably, kids will come in contact with faith opposition at some point. Rather than trashing Greek mythology, let's redeem it. Greek mythology not only points to the Gospel, it can even strengthen faith in God.

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