Does the Beauty of the Gospel Story Attest to Its Truth?

The original blog includes this quote from Alistair McGrath’s biography of C.S. Lewis which summarizes correspondence between C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien:

Tolkien argued that Lewis ought to approach the New Testament with the same sense of imaginative openness and expectation that he brought to the reading of pagan myths in his professional studies. But, as Tolkien emphasized, there was a decisive difference. As Lewis expressed in his second letter to Greeves, ‘The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

The reader must appreciate that the word myth is not being used here in the loose sense of a ‘fairy tale’ or the pejorative sense of a ‘deliberate lie told in order to deceive.’… For Tolkien, a myth is a story that conveys ‘fundamental things’—in other words, that tries to tell us about the deeper structure of things. The best myths, he argues, are not deliberately constructed falsehoods, but are rather tales woven by people to capture the echoes of deeper truths. They are like splintered fragments of the true light…

The Bully Pulpit

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

Does the aesthetic splendor of the four Gospels, when considered like works of literature, emit the ineffable whiff of something genuine? Is there a patina of truth — truth endorsed by beauty — coating the Biblical account of the Nazarene? Cahill explained the concept; Einstein flirted with the idea; C.S. Lewis, through his buddy Tolkien, was converted by it; and Julian Barnes paid it some provocative thoughts. You can decide for yourself.

From the pen of Thomas Cahill, writing in his even-handed historical survey The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus:

What especially makes the gospels — from a literary point of view — works like no others is that they are about a good human being. As every writer knows, such a creature is all but impossible to capture on the page, and there are exceedingly few figures in all literature who are both good and memorable…

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About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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