This is part 4 of this series, click here for part 1.
Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state … Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion. – J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”
In Big Church, the enchanting fairy-stories of my youth were replaced by bowdlerized versions that could be pasted into PowerPoint.
Then, men (because it’s always men isn’t it?) with advanced degrees told me that not only was doctrine the whole point of those stories, but the world which had once enchanted me—had magically drawn me in—was this world: if I wanted to be loved by the God of those tales, I must believe in their exactness.
The world really was created in six literal days.
The sun really did stand still for Joshua.
Fire from heaven really did consume Elijah’s sacrifice.
Jonah really was swallowed by a great fish.
. . . Mary really was a virgin at her son’s birth.
. . . Jesus literally rose from the grave.
Maybe you scoffed at some of those … maybe my inclusion of some gave you pause. Either way, when my childlike belief—which was a beautiful, blurred mixture of humble acceptance, enchantment, and the desire to simply “do and be good”—was co-opted by required, “rational” belief, I was suddenly unable to willingly suspend my disbelief.
The enchanted “Faërian Drama” had been replaced by a cold textbook; the Secondary World created by these stories which had for so long enraptured me—a world bursting with magic and mystery and life—was replaced by this world of science and logic, only a specialized version that harmonized the world we can record and the magic.
The Great Magician had let us behind the curtain and revealed the logic of his mysterious secrets. If we were rebellious and still chose not to believe, we would burn. This Morbid Delusion brooked no doubt: if we couldn’t be enchanted by this new version of the stories, we must suspend disbelief.
Only now that I found my immortal soul rested upon it, Primary Belief had eluded me.
And as I rounded into my 30s, I found myself bereft of both Fantasy and Faith. So what was I to do with these stories that can no longer enchant and never “rationally” convinced? How was I supposed to continue in the path of a faith that no longer held my heart or head?