On a recent episode of The Cale Clarke Show Cale took a look at fairy tales and fiction and wondered why so many of them bear the same hallmarks. He talked about Jesus Christ’s role as a hero in human history and why we see similarities between myths and the true story of God Incarnate.
We’ve seen this plot structure many times: There’s a powerful monster or creature wreaking havoc on the local townspeople and their homes. It’s knocking over houses and setting the land on fire. It kidnaps the princess or a local damsel and brings her back to its lair. Now, it’s up to a monster-slaying hero, a Prince Charming of some sort, to venture into the dragon lair, slay the beast, and rescue the princess. And they all live happily ever after.
We even see this type of storyline from many different cultures and nations. It’s not just an Anglo-American take on mythical stories. There is a common focal point between these stories that leads back to some common truth, a turning point in history.
As the theologian, Doug Wilson said, “You can sum up the story of Jesus in six words: Kill the dragon, get the girl.” That is why Jesus became man, and that is why He is the hero of not just any story, but our story; the story of mankind, its redemption, and its salvation. Jesus came down to earth, died for our sins, conquered death, and rescued “the damsel”, the bride of Christ, our Church.
“The story of Jesus is a true story, not another dragon slayer myth,” said Cale. “In fact, every dragon slayer myth is kind of another Jesus story. It’s a stumbling attempt to get at the truth of what Jesus has actually done for us.”
In literature and pop culture, we see it all the time: an attempt to allegorize the redemption story of Jesus. We saw it in Beowulf, C.S. Lewis did it with his Narnia series, J.R.R. Tolkien did it with the Lord of the Rings series, and most superhero stories like Superman and Spider-Man focus on a Christ-like figure defeating a great evil and falling in love.
Lewis said this of the relation between Jesus and the classic hero’s tale:
“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.” (Myth Became Fact, God in the Dock)
We have no need to fear these metaphorical adaptations of Christ’s life. These myths are resting on Christian history, not the other way around. And if these allegorical tools are what God will use to draw pagans to Him, then so be it.
It is so fitting that we, God’s creatures, would be drawn toward imitating Him. We experience the same phenomenon in all other aspects of our lives. The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. A baby is the product of the love between a mother and father. In art, architecture, and the pursuance of beauty, we are naturally drawn toward the imitation of God’s creation, nature. Beauty and balance, in everything from literature to architecture, are derived from God’s creation.
With that in mind, let us be seekers of the light, seekers of beauty, imitators of Christ in all things. When Christ conquered evil, He wasn’t giving us the easy way out. He was giving us an example to follow. The path is dangerous and full of treachery, but with His guidance, we too can be the dragon slayers. Armed with virtue and prayer, we can conquer our own beasts.
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