A couple of years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is essentially a formula that stories with classic protagonists and plots which involve good overcoming evil are built upon. Think Batman and Robin Hood. Characters are born, leave home, while away they gain experiences but ultimately they return home and get to work. To be clear, despite the many steps in the Hero’s Journey, it is a three-part saga. Begin at home, leave home, return home.
Obviously, I am in school right now being indoctrinated into the cult known as Christianity. Yes, it is a life-encompassing worldview. One of its most adored parables is the story of the prodigal son. Do you know it? Sure you do. The rich dad has a son who asks to get his inheritance early. The dad acquiesces and the son leaves home with his fortune only to squander it. The now impoverished son remembers his father. He resolves to return home even if only to live as a servant. The way Jesus tells the story, the father, instead of being mad, is joyful upon his son’s return.
My question for you is, “What do you believe the bible is?” You see, if you believe the bible contains new information, or put another way, if you believe that Jesus must be the original author of his parables for Christianity to be sound, then I think we’re at odds. Because I believe the bible is God’s self-revelation to his creation. That means that the bible doesn’t have to contain original concepts, or put another way, if the historical record shows that Jesus didn’t come up with the golden rule (he didn’t), that doesn’t not detract from the bible’s value. The bible is valuable because it is God’s self-revelation. In theology we would call it one of a few methods of God’s particular revelation.
Christians believe God has revealed himself to his creation generally and particularly. General revelation (or universal revelation) includes things like my McDonald’s argument, the digestible version of which goes something like: How many churches, synagogues, mosques, temples etc. are there? And you’re going to tell me there’s no God? Okay. Well, you also have to deny McDonald’s exists.
But general revelation isn’t enough for salvation. So God chose to reveal himself particularly as well. The bible is one of his methods. This means that it doesn’t matter if the parables in the bible are original, what matters is what they teach us about God’s nature. The parable of the prodigal son reveals that God will welcome us poor sinners back into his loving embrace if we just come home. The fact that the story of the prodigal son involves the home-leave-return formula that storytellers use to make their fortunes only adds it to the man-made category of general revelation. It’s as if God is using every method of persuasion available to him to convince us to see the truth of our condition.
I like that God would be relentless.