I am Bradley Erickson

Term Project


“I cannot breed them. So help me, I have tried. We need more Replicants than can ever be assembled. Millions, so we can be trillions more. We could storm Eden and retake her.” – Niander Wallace, Blade Runner 2049

November 9th 2021 Johnathan Pageau posted an interview on his Youtube channel. Pageau is an Orthodox icon carver who specializes in symbology. At this point in the cultural meaning crisis Pageau had risen up the ranks of leaders in the West that were trying to show people how to recover something that our culture has lost. He found himself in what became known as the Four Horsemen of Meaning; A play on the new atheist’s four horsemen: Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. 

Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Pageau, Bishop Barron and John Vervaeke are giants in the world of meaning making. In their own way they are undoing the damage to our culture that modernity has unleashed. This gave Pageau an incredible reach and the ability to talk with all sorts of people that would have otherwise ignored him or not even known him. In the November interview Pageau meets with Ben Hatke, He is a cartoonist and illustrator and they discuss things like storytelling and comics in our culture. 

Well into the conversation they begin talking about myth and how the ancients treated and understood the Gods. Pageau is trying to lay out how we participate in stories and rituals, and how we Live out this pattern in different ways today. This moment comes up that reveals underlying issues with our culture today. 

“ Are you asking me if I think the gods exist? Yes, I think the gods exist.” -Johnathan Pageau

Hatke discovers that Pageau believes the ancients and moderns are in participation with the gods. He believes the gods exist. That the principalities we participate with in our stories and rituals have real power in the world. 

Hatke doesn’t know what to think.He has no category for a world where spiritual powers are not bound by the material frame. What afflicts Hatke and our culture is what Charles Taylor calls the immanent frame. This frame has built a wall around us, limiting our understanding and experience with the supernatural. This has defined how we interpret scripture, live as the church and refine our theology. In the west the church has been driven by greco roman culture, enlightenment thinking, rationalism, darwinism and many other developments. Western christianity has impacted the world in incredible ways but along the way we’ve lost something important.     

This loss can be felt reverberating throughout  our culture. In the church we see great declines and people deconstructing their faith because the church can no longer speak life into the modern self.  “Self-creation is a routine part of our modern social imaginary.” (Page 42) rise and triumph of the modern self.

The Church has capitulated to the framing of this secular age world and compete on its terms. Fighting a battle of relevance and resources that we were never meant to engage in. while our culture tries to take Eden for herself with our own ingenuity and skill. Hatke who tells good stories cannot see the deep truths hidden within them that point to the transcendent.

( Good Stories? Working title)

“My heart breaks for all those who have walked into a church in search of Jesus only to find that he was politely escorted out years ago.” – Rhett McLaughlin

We should be asking if the framework we’ve inherited in the west is capable of telling the stories we should be? James Bryan Smith argues in his book The Magnificent story that we have been in the business of selling false stories for far too long. He wants to reframe our stories we tell centered around the transcendentals: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. 

We can see the importance of this when He critiques two of the biggest false stories we tend to hear in our church cultures. The social/Works Gospel centers around the persons ability to progress into a morally upright person and to fix the world around us to conform with our sense of justice and truth. In this view God is all but absent; a distant impersonal deity. Sin is a social dynamic that is relative and changes as the culture progresses. Atonement is offsetting moral evils with moral goods so that your balance is net positive and in some situations can never be attained. There is no redemption or healing.

The other Major framework is what He calls the shaming Gospel. God created us sinful and broken then damned us to hell for it. Jesus died because of your wickedness and God punished Him instead of you. In this view God is only present to damn you, the human is hopelessly wicked and deserves punishment. Atonement is Christ dying because your sin needed accounting for and God had to punish someone. Salvation becomes primarily about the future and heaven. 

Some will find these summaries unfair and simplistic, fair enough. There is truth and falsehoods in both ways of thinking. But on the whole framing the christian life in either story is problematic. While I agree with much of what Smith has to say about how the three transcendentals can function to tell better stories It seems that there is another aspect of how we can overcome this problem. We are all, like Hatke, stuck in the immanent frame and it drives our stories to be flat and false. 

Many in our culture feel the flatness of these stories. In our contemporary world where all stories compete for relevance and resources the church simply cannot exist on these stories. Christians have been exiting the church and many famous christian leaders such as Rhett and Link, Joshua Harris and John Steinguard have not found these stories valuable anymore. 

Insert Rhett and link clip about not believing the story

Desire for Transcendence 

“Dreams are messages from the deep”- Dune 2022

Dune Official Trailer

The sun is setting on the modern and postmodern era. Our culture is rejecting nihilism and the immanent frame. For a movie like Dune 2022 to be one of the biggest movies of the year is showing how desperate our culture is for transcendence. We can see in the movie a reflection of the struggle that our culture is having with religion and transcendence and stories.

Paul Anleitner Points to some of these connections in his 2021 video essay. He sees this movie as a story about the pivotal moment in our cultural story. He points to three major themes that reflect this search for a new guiding story. We get to see these moments through the eyes of Paul Atreides, the main character.

Religion in Dune is escaping the hold of the immanent frame. In real time we feel the sense of seeing religion as outdated and corrupted power structures, Postmodern critique, to religion being a necessary and inevitable reality. The Bene Gesserit are looked at as superstitious by Paul Atreides and power hungry, which they for sure are. Yet as the story progresses however Paul gets exposed to the transcendent through his dreams of the future and possible outcomes to the myths and legends of the Fremen. He begins to experience his Bene Gesserit training as well as his experience as a bridge to the transcendent realm. This shift is captured and felt viscerally in this scene. Where hes discovering the impact of openness to the transcendent. 

Dune 2021 | Paul’s Dream (1080p HD)

 “He who controls the spice controls the universe.”  Spice is a psychedelic among other properties. It is incredibly valuable in the Dune universe. In the beginning Paul views spice as a commodity. As the story unfolds and Paul experiences spice as a door to open transcendent experiences. Our culture is desperate for the experiences of the transcendent. Though psychedelics are dangerous and unpredictable moments of transcendence, our seeking after them is a testament to our haunting inside the immanent frame. 

The most powerful aspect of Dune 2022 is its beauty. Especially in our secular age where beauty is commodified and only seen by what we can get out of it. Our culture no longer seeks beauty for its own sake. This has left us empty and longing. As Lewis said “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” This movie lives in that space. Every moment could be a gorgeous screensaver. But its not just looks. The acting, music, sounds and visuals all bring you into something akin to bathing in beauty.

From the smallest moment to the most epic battle scenes this movie brings you into the weight of beauty. Enveloping you with a sense of longing for more as you experience the transcendent. 

This way of doing art is sorely lacking in christian culture in america. We are so concerned about truth that we forget goodness and beauty must participate. We so desperately need beautiful art. 

“So perhaps the old trinity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty is not simply the decorous and antiquated formula it seemed to us at the time of our self confident materialistic youth. If the tops of these three trees do converge, as thinkers used to claim, and if the all too obvious and the overly straight sprouts of Truth and Goodness have been crushed, cut down, or not permitted to grow, then perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, and ever surprising shoots of Beauty will force their way through and soar up to that very spot, thereby fulfilling the task of all three.”

Mythos and the Rewilding of Christianity

Myth is the place where poetry and music are yet to diverge” – Robert bringhurst

We, the Church, need to tell stories better. Martin Shaw is a modern day bard who travels and explores stories with people in the wild. Many of the stories he tells are myths and Faërie stories. Most people in our culture view these stories as quaint or superstitious, something the modern man has grown out of, like a child to its stuffy. The truth is these stories, especially the really old and true ones, hold for us ways of living inside truth that we have forgotten. 

This particular story challenges us to find that which we have lost. It will not be easy and it sometimes seems to obfuscate doctrine and theology. Christ himself used stories to challenge those who have ears to hear. Many in the church have forgotten how to hear the old stories and we have for sure forgotten how to tell the true ones.

The Lindworm with Martin Shaw

Talk about the story and rewilding christianity’s wild twin. Lazy and safe allegory (tolkien hate allegory) wont do. It has no teeth. Court the wild twin and bring him back fangs and scales and all.

Too many christians today are afraid of myth. We have inherited the idea that we have outgrown myth and fairy stories. We think people from the past were superstitious and we have enlightened past belief in such things. In fact the word myth has become synonymous with not true. This view has calloused our sensitivity to the great stories of the past and what they have to offer us. 

Some of our greatest thinkers today are combating this idea. John Vervaeke talks about myths in his Awakening from the Meaning Crisis series of lectures. “Myths are not false stories about the ancient past. They are symbolic stories about perennial patterns that are always with us.” Others, like Bret Weinstein, still see old ways as outdated technology. He sees religion as useful but old tech. We’re in need of “new wisdom” for our day.

Tolkien of course has much to say on myth and its value. His beliefs about the importance of myth to a culture spurned him to write his famous books. He believed it was our very nature to be sub-creators that tell stories to reflect God and his creation, to be his Imagers.

We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the

myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a

splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with

God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’

and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that

he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they

steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic

‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the

power of evil.

When we read good Myths and stories it connects us to the past and reveals truths about God, ourselves and creation that we would not access through the immanent framed world.

The One True Myth

“Myth when it is functioning efficiently is not really to do with a long time ago.” Martin Shaw

We Are in the Golden Age of Myth Right Now

How we understand and tell stories matters. Martin Shaw professes that God was using the stories and myths from all around the world to prepare him for the one true story that all good, true and beautiful stories are shadows of. Can anyone say it better than Lewis?

“Now 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: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’. Therefore it is true, not in the sense of being a ‘description’ of God (that no finite mind could take in) but in the sense of being the way in which God chooses to (or can) appear to our faculties. The ‘doctrines’ we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are the translations into our concepts and ideas of that which God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Does this amount to a belief in Christianity? At any rate I am now certain (a) That this Christian story is to be approached, in a sense, as I approach other myths. (b) That it is the most important and full of meaning. I am also nearly certain that it really happened…”

What Lewis is saying here is wild and uncomfortable. It resonates with Martin Shaw’s experience that God is working through stories through time and space, In all cultures He is calling people to Himself through story. We benefit from approaching scripture as we would mythic story. To live inside its beauty and to let the story work over us. The only difference is that God has revealed to us in his story the greatest and most true story that could ever be told. as lewis said “it really happened”. 

This is something that I think Bible scholars are knocking on the door of. John Walton, Michael Heiser, and Tim Mackie are huge proponents of reading scripture in its own context. Walton in his Lost World series is trying to help us understand how the ancients spoke, wrote and understood these stories. Tim Mackie at the Bible Project makes amazing video essays exploring the stories of scripture. Michael Heiser helps us open our immanent frame. A great deal of the struggle is to bridge the gap between the way they lived in stories and how the modern christian reads scripture. 

Lewis saw doctrine as a degradation of the truth that by necessity you remove some truth from the story as you define the doctrine in it. This is not all bad. We need doctrine and we need to distill stories sometimes but we must not lose the power of the true myth to live in us. The story of Christ is not merely something that happened way back when to give us some benefit in the future someday. The story of Christ is a reality we enter into that lives and breathes through His people. It is our origin story and our future but importantly it is for today as well. When these stories inhabit us we eat from the tree of Life again.

“Blessed is the one who has found wisdom

and the one who obtains understanding.

 For her benefit is more profitable than silver,

and her gain is better than gold.

 She is more precious than rubies,

and none of the things you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand;

in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are very pleasant,

and all her paths are peaceful.

She is like a tree of life to those who grasp onto her,

and everyone who takes hold of her will be blessed.

By wisdom the Lord laid the foundation of the earth;

He established the heavens by understanding.

By his knowledge the primordial sea was broken open,

so that the clouds drip down dew.

My child, do not let them escape from your sight;

safeguard sound wisdom and discretion.

So they will become life for your soul

and grace around your neck.

Then you will walk on your way with security,

and you will not stumble.

When you lie down you will not be filled with fear;

when you lie down your sleep will be pleasant.

Do not be afraid of sudden disaster

or when destruction overtakes the wicked;

for the Lord will be the source of your confidence,

and he will guard your foot from being caught in a trap.”

This framework no longer presents God in any one way. Instead He inhabits the whole of all that is True and Good and Beautiful. He is no longer a distant deity but a personal God who is creator and redeemer; ruler of the arenic as well as living among us in the agentic. In the Gen 3 narrative we are seen as something beautiful that God is redeeming. Our  salvation and sanctification are about eating from the tree of Life now and forever as we live in the Way of the Kingdom.

We don’t need to degrade the story to tame God. We need to live in them and let them colonize us. We need to tell good stories that help people encounter Christ. God often meets man on the mountains and in the wild places. Christ himself went into the wilderness to be tested. Jesus’s parables often shook the foundations of Babylon. We must be willing to take people into the wild places to encounter the living God.

Is He Safe?

“Is — is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslanis a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees

knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

-The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

Many in the west greatly fear this wild aspect of Christ, but we are not alone. Christ came in the flesh to his people and they so feared the wildness of His stories and the disruption to their rule and power and comfort that they plotted and killed Him for it. It is our constant desire to construct a Messiah to fit our needs. To tame Christ so we can use Him as we will.

 Something the west has forgotten is the danger of Christ. As Mr. Beaver tells us He is not safe. He will ruin your life. He will destroy your pride and self reliance. He conquers as he goes, casting down the gods of this world.

Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Then I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice to all the birds flying high in the sky:

“Come, gather around for the great banquet of God,

to eat your fill of the flesh of kings,

the flesh of generals,

the flesh of powerful people,

the flesh of horses and those who ride them,

and the flesh of all people, both free and slave,

and small and great!”

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army. Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf—signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh. – Revelation 19:11-21 NET

 He is not safe. It is difficult to understand these stories in the contemporary world. The church has lost its ability to effectively tell God’s story. Our pulpits and classrooms are filled with doctrine and lack life and breath and the wild. The story of Christ is meant to affront this comfort. When is the last time we read the sermon on the mount or the parable of the samaritan. These stories are not comforting. They should be jarring! Who could live up to the kingdom’s standards? Who is not justified in hating their enemies? 

The story of Christ strips us of all comfort and rewilds our imagination to the way of the Kingdom.  These stories inhabit our being and colonize our person to conformity with the Way. His living sacrifice becomes ours and not only destroys us but brings us into a new way of life. His living tree. No, He is not safe but as Mr. Beaver so aptly noted “He is good, He’s the King I tell you.”

This rewilding of our faith is jarring and frightening. It can also go off of the rails with mysticism and new age spirituality. We must Hold to the faith passed down to us. Anchor ourselves in the scripture as understood through tradition, reason and faith. We need to take back good story telling. Bring back the myths and stories of old that help us see God’s hand in the world. We desperately need to learn how to read and approach scripture on its own terms again. 


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