True Myth: C. S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell on the Veracity of Christianity

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

True Myth: C. S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell on the Veracity of Christianity

Author:

James W. Menzies

Publisher:

Pickwick Publications (an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers)

Publication Date:

September 30, 2014

Format:

Paperback

Length:

270 pages

OVERVIEW

While many 20th-century writers analyzed mythology and its contemporary importance, two of the most important ones were C.S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell. Lewis discussed mythology in various essays, particularly his idea that Christianity has all the compelling elements of a great myth only it actually happened. Joseph Campbell analyzed mythology in many books, including The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which considered how different world mythologies have the same pattern. Both scholars saw myth as relevant today and considered how mythology related to Christianity.

Today, many people have carried both Campbell and Lewis’ ideas forward. Numerous Lewis scholars have analyzed his view of the Gospel story as “the myth that became fact.” Filmmakers like George Lucas have been influenced by Campbell, and Christopher Vogler applied Campbell’s ideas to new areas in his book The Writers’ Journey. However, not much has been written about what Campbell and Lewis commonly believed about myth and where they differed. James Menzie compares and contrast their works, showing how Campbell and Lewis defined myth, their thoughts about its value and how their thoughts on myth intersected with their views on Christianity. Menzie ends his exploration by considering how Lewis and Campbell’s views matter in an increasingly technologized world.

Menzie states in his introduction that this book began as a PhD thesis which was later accepted for publication. The book’s origin is a bit obvious at times, with Menzie using phrases in a repetitive way or making the same point with almost the same words in each chapter. This redundant style is helpful in academic papers, with their long blocks of text. Repetitive phrasing helps academic readers keep track across the essay and show the writer is consistently describing ideas the same way. In a published book format, chapter titles, subheadings and smaller page sizes mean this technique isn’t necessary. So, even though Menzie’s ideas are great, the book is unnecessarily dense at times.

Editing choices aside, Menzie does a great job exploring his thesis. He carefully summarizes Campbell and Lewis’ views on mythology and why they believed myth was an important subject. His explanations of how they each viewed Christianity in the context of myth are especially good, pointing out moments where their religious journeys ran parallel and where they diverged. The last chapter on why mythology matters today is a bit short, with Menzie mainly talking about mythological names in advertising (Nike, Ajax) and mythological characters appearing in movies like Thor. This is a rather topical way to make the point, but it’s sufficient and shows why Lewis and Campbell are still important today.

An eye-opening look at how two seminal thinkers viewed mythology and religion.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4 stars

Suggested Audience

Scholars interested in comparing and contrasting C.S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell’s views about mythology and religion, particularly in a Judeo-Christian context.

Christian Impact

Menzie considers the dividing line between mythology and religion, and how Lewis’ ideas about mythology influenced his view of the Gospels (“the myth that became fact”). He also shows how Campbell’s struggle to reconcile his love of mythology with his Roman Catholic upbringing, which led him to downplay Christianity as something to be taken literally. As Menzie contrasts Lewis’ and Campbell’s views, he shows why it’s important to understand whether Christianity makes historic claims and what those claims are.

True Myth: C.S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell on the Veracity of Christianity


One Response to “True Myth: C. S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell on the Veracity of Christianity”

  1. Hi Glarien. Appreciate the review. I agree. It is no doubt “unnecessarily dense at times.” Hopefully readers will enjoy the other times. :o)

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