September 26, 2007

What Really Happened

My son Ethan likes to categorize things. When we watch a movie or read a book, he wants to know if it's fiction, non-fiction, or "historical fiction," a category he just learned about and is still trying to figure out. He asked me yesterday if the Disney movie Dinosaurs was historical fiction, since dinosaurs really did exist. I said no, citing as my reasons that a) the dinosaurs in the movie talk, b) the events are all made-up, and c) real dinosaurs aren't historical, they're pre-historical.

For other movies, it's not as clear. I conceded that Disney's Pocahontas was historical fiction, though there's probably more fiction in it than history. Still, he wants to know which events "really happened," and which were made-up for the movie.

Once or twice, we've had these conversations about stories in the Bible; the creation story, for example. I tell him that many of the Bible stories are like the parables Jesus told: there's deep truth in them, but that doesn't mean that all the details "really happened." Sometimes he will ask which of the details "really happened," but sometimes, all I can answer is, "I don't know."

The truth is, I'm not always sure where the parables begin and end. The Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah & the Flood, the "Patriarchs," Jonah, Ezekiel...

Some see this as a deficiency on my part, that I don't always know how to categorize these stories. Some see it as a lack of faith, an unwillingness to believe. And yet, these stories are, to me, so much more meaningful than any factual account of "what really happened" could ever be.

That's not to say that I don't believe that any of it "really happened." For example, the more I ponder it, the more I really do believe that Jesus walked on water, even though that's one of the more extraordinary events described in scripture.

I guess I just haven't figured it all out yet. I'm learning to live with and even appreciate the questions that come from not knowing all there is to know. Maybe one day, Ethan will, too.

That's a real burro.

Note: this isn't really the church where I preach,
just a symbolic/metaphorical representation.

1 comment:

Brian said...

I with you on this. My understanding of the Bible continues to grow and change the older I get. I'm at the point in my studies where I'm not much concerned with whether the stories really happened or not. I'm more interested in what they have to say about life and faith.