Saturday, August 30, 2014

What Would Happen If An Orthodox Christian, A Taoist, And An Ancient Pagan Walked Into A Bar

I teach a short unit on Dante in my world lit class, so I have been following big boy blogger Rod Dreher's American Conservative posts about Dante with interest. (He has far too many to link to) Because I also teach a unit on Taoism, his most recent post provoked some musings that I still haven't sorted through completely. This paragraph, which explained the events that prompted the post struck me as rather interesting:
This week, I stumbled across a book that gave me real insight into this problem. As you know, we moved to a new house recently. The moving process unearthed, so to speak, books of mine that have been out of sight and out of mind for a while. One of them is a book I bought five years ago, when I was reading about Taoism and its parallels to Orthodox Christianity. The contemporary Orthodox priest-monk Damascene wrote a book called Christ The Eternal Tao, in which he interprets the basic Taoist message in Christian terms. The basic idea is that outside of the Hebrew tradition, Taoism is the most complete understanding of what Christianity teaches, and, rightly understood, prepares one to accept the truth of the Gospel. The book by no means teaches syncretism, but rather identifies aspects of Taoist thought that correspond to the way Orthodox Christianity understands the spiritual path. Tao simply means “the Way”; in Chinese bibles, Jesus’s words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” come out as, “I am the Tao, the Truth, and the Life.” For Taoists, yielding to the tao is the path to restoring harmony between body, soul, and the cosmological order, which isn’t necessarily deistic.
Something about that paragraph and the tone of Dreher's post reminded me of these passages from C.S. Lewis's "Myth Became Fact" which I have in an old paperback version of The Grand Miracle.
Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens--at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass form a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other…We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. ....
...Those who do not know that this great myth became Fact when the Virgin conceived are, indeed, to be pitied. But Christians also need to be reminded - we may thank Corineus for reminding us - that what became Fact was a Myth, that it carries with it into the world of Fact all the properties of a myth. God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about 'parallels' and 'Pagan Christs': they ought to be there - it would be a stumbling block if they weren't. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic - and is not the sky itself a myth - shall we refuse to be mythopathic? For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.
To answer the question posed by this post's title, I think they'd all have a beer and some good conversation. I'll leave it to others to prove Lewis and  Damascene wrong. I still have much musing to do.

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