The True Myth and Challenge of Belief

871832The Christian faith has a lot in common with other religions.  We find story after story of dying and rising gods in ancient literature.  Isn’t the story of Jesus just another mythical story?

Well, yes.  And no.

CS Lewis writes in his essay “Myth Became Fact” (found in the book God in the Dock):

Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth.  The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.  The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate.  I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from religion they professed.  To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary then the other (God in the Dock, 58-59).

Of course Christian faith has much in common with other faiths, myths and stories.  Truth, wherever it is found, whether in religion or philosophy or a good novel, points to the ultimate truth.  The difference, Lewis argues, is that in the story of Jesus Christ the shadowy unhistorical myths become real and true history.  Jesus’ resurrection took place in a real time and place.

Believing that such a thing really happened is not easy.  It is difficult to believe in fantastic things, as I wrote about recently.  Yet “belief” itself needs some sort of definition.  For some Christians, including me at various points in my life, belief merely meant assent.  To believe then was to assent to a series of statements.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?  

Yes, I consider that to have happened.

Did Caesar cross the Rubicon?

Yes, I consider that to have happened.

The problem here is that merely assenting to things does not affect your life much.  I fear that often what goes by the name “Christian apologetics” has its goal to convince people to assent to the truth of Christian faith.  So we defend our view and offer arguments targeted at the rational mind.  Can we get them to flip their vote from “no, of course Jesus did not rise” to “yes, it makes sense to say he did”?

Lewis goes on to write, “A man who disbelieved the Christian story as fact but continually fed on it as myth would, perhaps, be more spiritually alive than one who assented and did not think much about it.”

Yes!  It is not that Lewis thinks believing it to be fact is unimportant (read the first quote up above again).  But he recognizes that simply believing does not count for much.  How does it change your life?  If Jesus is risen then everything is different.

Life has the last word, not death.

Hope has the last word, not despair.

Love has the last word, not hate.

 

Stephen King, CS Lewis and Believing Fantastic Things

51s5tovoubl-_sx302_bo1204203200_Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot is the story of how vampires destroy a small town.  In the midst of this, some characters figure out what is going on and try to rouse the town to fight back.  They run into many obstacles, such as skepticism.  At one point a priest, Father Callahan, is trying to convince a family their son is targeted by the vampires:

“Let’s talk a little more first. I’m sure your witnesses are reliable, as I’ve indicated. Dr. Cody is our family physician, and we all like him very much.  I’ve also been given to understand that Matthew Burke is above reproach…as a teacher at least.”

“But in spite of that?” Callahan asked.

“Father Callahan let me put it to you. If a dozen reliable witnesses told you that a giant ladybug had lumbered through the town park at high noon singing ‘Sweet Adeline’ and waving a Confederate flag, would you believe it?”

“If I was sure the witnesses were reliable, and if I was sure they weren’t joking, I would be far down the road to belief, yes.

Still with a faint smile, Petrie said, ‘That is where we differ.”

“Your mind is closed,” Callahan said.

“No – simply made up.”

When I read this I could not help but think of CS Lewis’ children’s story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  In this story a young girl named Lucy discovers a secret door into the land of Narnia.  Her brothers and sister do not believe her.  Then one of her brothers, Edmund, goes through the door too.  Lucy is ecstatic.  Finally her story will be believed!  Yet Edmund, in a moment of sheer meanness, says he saw nothing and that he and Lucy were just pretending.  She’s just a dumb kid, after all.

The older siblings go to a wise old Professor.

“How do you know?” he asked, “that your sister’s story is not true?”

“Oh, but – ” began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man’s face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, “But Edmund said they had only been pretending.

“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance – if you will excuse me for asking the question – does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful

“That’s just the funny thing about  it, Sir,” said Peter. “Up until now, I’d have said Lucy every time.

The Professor encourages them, in light of her past trustworthiness, to trust Lucy now.

The idea is the same as that in Salem’s Lot: it is possible to believe impossible things if trustworthy people share them.  If we do not rule out certain possibilities at the outset we may come to see that fantastic  things could be true.

Lewis would draw a real world conclusion from this.  Certainly humans do not usually rise from the dead, everyone knows that.  But if people we can trust report to us that once someone did rise from the dead and if we can think of no ulterior motives or other possibilities for what happened, then it makes sense to believe them. This is what happened with Jesus.

Do you buy it?   

I do.  Of course, I can see how others wouldn’t.  Its fantastic.  Heck, believing in vampires and magical worlds through doors may make more sense.  But what if the reports that have been passed down through the ages are true?

It changes everything!  It changes how we look at the world.

Is the world hopeless or hopeful?  Well, what if the story of the world is not one that ends in death but one that ends in the hope of new life?  What if, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, the arc of the universe truly is curved towards justice?  Not because humans are so great and can work really hard and build something (I think history shows us that’s too optimistic) but because there is a Being we call God working behind the scenes to ensure that in the midst of all the hopelessness and death, there is hope and life.

I’ll take the fantastic and hopeful explanation.  Its all that can get me out of bed in the morning.

 

Devotional Recommendations?

Students and friends often ask me what books I would recommend for devotional reading.  I admit I am not entirely sure what sort of book they are looking for.  If by devotional they mean a book they can read a few pages each morning that will provide spiritual reflection throughout the day, then nearly anything can be a devotional!

One thing I have found helpful for devotional reading is Prayer Books, such as the classic Book of Common Prayer.  Such books provide prayers to read each morning, noon and night as well as scripture.  Or you can just use the prayers and then read whatever scripture you like.  Recently I’ve been using Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Rather than reading the suggested scriptures, I’m reading my own bible passages of choice (two chapters of Exodus and one of the Gospels right now, if you’re curious.  Another prayer book I’ve appreciated is Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours.

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If you want to go a different direction, in the last year or so I discovered a whole series of devotional books that come from the work of some of the best spiritual writers throughout the history of the church.  All the books in the series are “Praying With…” someone and I’ve prayed with the likes of Julian of Norwich, Thomas Aquinas, Benedict, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi.  I’ve long liked reading history and these sorts of works.  These books are nice because they give good background on each author as well as commentary on their work.  Each day includes scriptures, prayers and questions you can journal about or think on during the day.  Plus, you can get them used quite cheap!

Ultimately, this series points me to the best of what “devotional” literature can be.  It does not replace reading scripture; engaging with scripture should always be a part of our spiritual practice. Yet we recognize that we are influenced by our own culture and experience, so we look to spiritual guides from past places and times in whom the Spirit has worked.  Sitting at their feet, reading their words, helps us to grow.

Finally, if you aren’t sold on that series, I can think of lots of books that have been helpful to read a page or two a day.  Basically, a list of some of my favorite books!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Cost of Discipleship

Philip Yancey – What’s So Amazing About Grace

Richard Rohr – The Naked Now

Barbara Brown Taylor – An Altar in the World

Thomas a Kempis – Imitation of Christ

CS Lewis – Mere Christianity

 

 

Problem of Evil and Suffering, Sandor Clegane Style

Why does God allow good people to suffer?

Why is God silent in the face of suffering?

Why does God not step in and stop evil?

Why do the wicked survive and the good perish?

These are as questions as old as time (see the book of Job and Psalms).  The first episode of season seven of Game of Thrones tackled them too.  Sandor Clegane, “the Hound”, has been around since the beginning of the show.  First he is bodyguard to the king, then he is a wandering fighter.  Filled with anger and contempt, Clegane is not afraid to tell it like he sees it.  Recently though his character-arc has started to turn towards redemption and he has fallen in with a group who worship the one true God (Sidenote: the world of Game of Thrones is filled with different religions but the specifics need not concern us here).

In the season premier Sandor is talking with Beric.  Beric has been killed in battle numerous times, but the Lord of Light keeps giving him his life back.

SANDOR: So why does the Lord of Light keep bringing you back? I’ve met better men than you, and they’ve been hanged from crossbeams, or beheaded, or just s*** themselves to death in a field somewhere. None of them came back. So, why you?

BERIC: You think I don’t ask myself that? Every hour of every day? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? What does the Lord see in me?

SANDOR: And?

BERIC: I don’t know. I don’t understand our Lord.

SANDOR: Your Lord.

BERIC: I don’t know what He wants from me. I only know that He wants me alive.

SANDOR: If he’s so all-powerful, why doesn’t he just tell you what the f*** he wants?

The question is simple: if Beric’s God is so powerful, why doesn’t he just make himself known and be a bit more explicit in what he wants?

This conversation is happening in a farmhouse.  The previous residents of the house, a father and his daughter, are dead.  A few seasons ago Sandor had visited the same farmhouse and robbed them.  Though he did not kill them with his sword, his actions certainly put them on the fast track to death.  Witnessing their decaying bodies, he seems remorseful, in his own hardened way.  The remorse is more profound as he knows they were better people then he, that he should be dead, as should other killers, and the family should be alive.

SANDOR: There’s no divine justice, you dumb ****. If there was, you’d be dead…and that girl would be alive.

Why do innocent children die and murderous warriors survive

Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? – Psalm 10:1

I’m not interested in discussing answers to this question right now, as pointing out how great it is to see the question raised in such a popular television show.

Not only is Game of Thrones master storytelling, but it brings up these sorts of ethical questions (for some it is whether to watch the whos in the first place!).  That is one of the reasons I taught a workshop at the Student Conference on Game of Thrones and Tolkien, comparing the hopeless world of Thrones where evil seems to triumph with the hopeful world of Tolkien where powerful forces bend the arc of the story towards justice and goodness.  Along with that, I encouraged them to keep their minds and hearts turned on when they watch television and movies so that they can engage with their peers around the questions, messages and worldviews found and expressed within those stories.

In other words, how do we answer Sandor Clegane’s question in the real world?

Journeying to the Dark Tower (Reflections on Stephen King’s magnum opus)

Last year I read The Gunslinger by Stephen King.  Published way back in the 70s, this book tells the story of the last Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, pursuing the demonic man in black across the desert.  Roland’s goal is to find the mythical Dark Tower, the center of all existence.

I love fantasy stories so I was hooked.  Over the next nine months or so, I read the remainder of the series as well as some of King’s other books and short stories that tie in.  I won’t bother summarizing them here; if you want to read that sort of thing you can find such summaries all over the place.

Throughout the series, like in any good series, the world of the story expands.  New characters are introduced, new environments are experienced and the story becomes richer.  King resists introducing too many new characters though and succeeds in keeping the focus on Roland and his companions (his ka-tet).  There’s not really a final grand battle such as you see in many fantasy stories, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter.  Such final battles are fine, but I appreciate how King went a different route.

Without giving too much away, what strikes me most as I reflect on the series is how it is much more about the journey then the destination.  The ending is even kind of disappointing.  In a post script, King admits the difficulty with ending such a series.  Nearly any ending, with all the build up of Roland reaching the Dark Tower, would fall short of people’s expectations.

Of course, this is how real life is.

You look forward for months to a new movie and it does not live up to the hype.

You work hard to graduate college in hopes of landing your dream job and struggle to find work.

My daughter has been begging all summer to go to Chuck-E-Cheese and when we finally took her she was ready to go home after about twenty minutes.

Maybe the value in life really is the journey more than the destination.  That sounds clichéd.  Yet if we who call ourselves Christians scoff at this idea, perhaps we should pause.  This idea is not new.  Look at John Bunyan’s classic work, Pilgrim’s Progress.  The entire story is about the pilgrim’s journey through the world.  It is the journey that draws us in.  Sometimes the ending is satisfying (such as Lord of the Rings) and sometimes it might not be.  But the story, the journey, is what compels us.

It is in the journey that we are shaped.

It is in the journey where we are faced with choices that will define us.

It is in the journey where we meet companions who will help us.

Life after death is a great mystery.  Christians and other religious people can say some things about what this life will be like, though no one really knows for sure beyond a few vague generalities.  But as we look towards that future goal,

as Roland did towards the Dark Tower

as Frodo did towards Mt. Doom

As Christian did towards Heaven

as Jesus did when he set his face towards Jerusalem

We can find strength to journey on in daily life.

All that to say, if you want to read a great story, check out the Dark Tower series…

 

 

Trading Anger for Sympathy

A couple weeks ago my family and I went camping and left our dog with my sister and her husband.  When we returned home we stopped to pick up our dog.  We opened the door and our dog unceremoniously ran right past us and up the street!

While my wife ran after him, yelling his name, I went in the house to grab his leash and a few treats in the hopes of luring him back.  By the time I caught up to my wife, Skippy had stopped running.  He peed on a bush and ran back to us.  We were about three blocks up the street from my sister’s house.

Then I heard a voice.

“What’s your address?”

I turned around and there was a man sitting in his truck.  My initial thought was that he was lost and thought he’d ask for directions.  I told him we weren’t from this town.

“I was just wanting to know so I could bring my dog to go to the bathroom in your yard!”

Oh, now I get it.  We were standing in this guy’s yard!  He magically got home at the exact moment we caught our dog.  I immediately sought to clear up this misunderstanding.  I told him that our dog had run away and we had just caught him.  Further, my wife had checked and he had not pooped in the yard.  But the man was not deterred.  More gruff words followed.

Again I tried to explain how our dog ran away.  He didn’t want to hear it.  With a bit of fear of the stranger creeping in, we walked away.

I was struck with anger.  WHAT A JERK!

But soon my anger turned to something else: questioning.  What had happened in this man’s day, or life, to cause him to see two parents and two little kids with their dog and automatically assume the worst?  He didn’t see us and ask if we needed help.  He didn’t take time to question what we were doing.  He jumped directly to the worst case scenario: that we had taken our kids out to show them how to teach a dog how to deface property.

Maybe if I was a teenager, alone or with a buddy, then I’d expect someone to assume the worst.  And my own white privilege has certainly trained me to expect to get the benefit of the doubt.  But I am haunted by this question:

What happens to a person to make them assume the worst motives in others?

Honestly, it made me sad.  It made me sympathize with whatever forces brought this man there.  It made me desire to assume the best towards others for my own life.

How do our assumptions and biases shape our understanding of reality?

 

 

My Ten Favorite Books in 2015

Here are my favorite reads from 2015 – not books released in 2015 but favorites among ones I read:

  1. David Bentley Hart – The Experience of god: Being, Consciousness, Bliss – Hart is one of my favorite authors and I think this is his best book and probably makes it into my top ten books of all time.  It is not as difficult as some of his previous works but it will still stretch you.  This book changed how I think and talk about God.  I think every Christian pastor, or anyone interested in theology, ought to read this.
  2. Napolean: A Life by Andrew Roberts – This is a fantastic, gripping bio of one of the great men who ever lived.  As I read I was visibly angry when Napolean invaded Russia, knowing how it would end up.  I recall stalking around the house, asking how he could make such a mistake!  If you like bios, read this one.
  3. On Social Justice by Basil the Great – This book, along with John Chrysostom’s On Wealth and Poverty both challenged and disturbed me.  There is value in these books that are centuries old, value that goes far above what is marketed as Christian literature today.  Both of these books will make you think about money and how to serve Jesus in the world today.
  4. The Cappadocian Fathers – Speaking of reading old books, I thoroughly enjoyed reading works on the Trinity from the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil the Great (On the Holy Spirit), Gregory Nazianzus (Five Theological Orations) and Gregory of Nyssa (The Great Catechism).  Classic works of Christian thinking on the Christian Trinitarian understanding of God.
  5. Johnny Cash: A Life by Robert Hilburn – Everything I used to know about Cash came from the movie Walk the Line.  This book greatly expanded my understanding, and admiration, for Cash.  That admiration is not naive, the man had all sorts of issues throughout his life.  If you like Johnny Cash or bios, check this one out.
  6. Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis – Pope Francis took the world by storm and, apart from all the hype, his first book (encyclical) is fantastic.  Along with this, I also appreciated his second book On Care for Our Common Home as well as Pope Benedict’s God is Love.
  7. Who’ Afraid of Relativism by James KA Smith – Smith is also one of my favorite authors and I think this book, like many of his others, is a must-read.
  8. Empire of Liberty by Gordon Wood – Wood tells the story of America from 1789 through 1815.  I found myself admiring Hamilton and learning a lot here.
  9. God Behaving Badly by David Lamb – Lamb is an Old Testament scholar whose first book seeks to help Christians understand how the God portrayed in the Old Testament, who comes across so mean, is the real and true God Christians worship.
  10. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans – Evans is a wonderful writer and her memoir on walking away from, and then returning to church is a great read.

Thoughts on Pope Francis’ Book on the Environment

The Pope Francis hype from a few weeks ago has died down.  Around the time he was visiting my radio channel surfing one day landed me on Rush.  I listened for a few minutes as Rush tried to figure out whether Francis was a Marxist or not.  It was amazing to see that Rush could not figure Francis out.

The reason people like Rush have trouble with the Pope is that they see everything through a Liberal-Conservative, Democrat-Republican lens.  It seems the rhetoric goes that one side is pretty much all right while the other side is all wrong.

I am convinced the reason many of us like the Pope is that he resists this simplistic dichotomy.  Maybe “resists” is the wrong word since, coming from a different culture, he was not raised with it like we in the USA have been.

Of course, the Christian faith does not fit into such a divide either.  As much as we think it does just shows how we have allowed American political discourse to hijack our theology and ethics.

I recently finished Francis’ second encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home.  The Pope spends a lot of time in this book talking about what is wrong with our environment and then goes on to build a strong case for why care of God’s creation should be a central concern for all Christians.  While the environment is the focus of the book, the Pope ties it into other issues such as poverty and life.

Yes, “and life.”  This Pope, like previous popes, is pro-life and pro-traditional family.  I am surprised for the media love affair with this Pope, though part of it is surely that they either ignore or do not notice that he lines up with the tradition of the Church on these issues.  His words on environment and his criticism of capitalism may get applause from one side and anger from the other, but his words on life and family ought to flip the sides applauding and jeering.

Now, I am not a Roman Catholic.  But I have found much to like in the work not just of this Pope, but in the previous two.  Beyond that, there is a depth of spiritual knowledge to be found in the medieval mystics that is beneficial to any Christian.  Whether reading a contemporary Pope or Theresa of Avila or John of the Cross, I find a feast compared to the fast-food produced by much of what qualifies as “Christian living” nowadays.

Further, I am challenged by the Pope and these other writers.  Living in American culture, I feel myself pulled to one side or the other.  I acknowledge the temptation to fall in line, to be a good “liberal” or a good “conservative.”  My honest hope and prayer would be to allow my theology and ethics to be shaped by Jesus, primarily, and by the universal Christian tradition second.  On a day to day basis I may fail, and with another election season ramping up I am praying I fail less.

One practice I will continue, which I hope will keep my soul sane, is to continue to read the classics of Christians long dead.  Right now I am working on the Life of St. Martin of Tours, a man who left the Roman military to become a monk.  I am also reading George MacDonald, a 19th century Scottish preacher who influenced Lewis.  Basically, any Christian work that is not a product of our culture wars is where I find sustenance.

If you want to start this same journey, I can do no better than suggest Pope Francis’ two books: On the Care for Our Common Home and the Joy of the Gospel.

Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson – Dueling Theologians

On Sunday night after leading his Green Bay Packers to victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Aaron Rodgers gave credit to God.  Rodgers said to reporters afterwards: “I think God was a Packers fan tonight, so he was taking care of us.”

There is background here that makes this much more amusing.  Last year the two teams played, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks won despite a dismal performance from their quarterback Russell Wilson.  Wilson gave credit to God, saying, “”That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special.”

Rodgers responded to Wilson’s words then by saying that while God cares for the people involved, God is not invested in who wins the games.  Clearly though, Rodgers words this past week were a poke in the ribs towards Wilson.

Both Rodgers and Wilson are Christians, and their differing views here point to different ways Christians may deal with suffering.  They are skirting the edges of the debate about freedom vs. determinism.  Some, like Wilson, see God as pulling all the strings.  So for Wilson God not only is praised for strength in order to succeed but God goes further and directly causes the evil and suffering in the world.  Wilson throws four interceptions and loses?  God caused it.  Wilson comes through in the end for the win? God did it?

You have to assume then that this sort of God also directly causes genocides and wars, rapes and murders.  But it is all for the greater good.  As some Christians say, “God has a plan.”  No matter what evil or suffering you encounter, rest assured that it is all part of God’s plan.

Rodgers, on the other hand, recognizes that God does care about everything.  But this care does not go down to micromanaging football games, or directly causing suffering and evil.  God cares about people but how this care works out, the level of freedom God gives, is somewhat a mystery.

Interesting how this theological debate about who God is and how God interacts with the world ends up on a football field.

I for one think Rodgers’ theology is better, more satisfying.  I also respect a good ribbing.

Traveling into Faerie and the Lessons Learned

When I first picked up a copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid, I was mesmerized.  It was in a church library and I found it much more fascinating that the sermon, so I sat and read it during the church service.

Then came the rest of the Narnia series.  After that was Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Since then I’ve read some other fantasy literature, some quite good, but nothing that capture my imagination like these stories.

Lewis was greatly influenced by George MacDonald, a pastor and author who lived from 1824-1905.  I recently bought the complete works of MacDonald for the kindle, looking forward to not just diving into his fiction but also into his non-fiction.  Friends of mine who do not read fiction have raved about MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons and other works of theology.

First, I read the work that Lewis cited as baptizing his imagination, Phantastes.  It is the story of a man named Anodos who is taken to the land of Faerie and has many adventures there.  Faerie is the name of the mystical land inhabited by, well, fairies.  But we ought not think of fairies as just the Tinker Bell variety, instead think of Tolkien’s majestic Elves.  Faerie is a world of magic and danger, of giants and goblins and spirits.

It is easy to see the influence Phantastes had on Lewis’ writing.  At the same time, Phantastes is a tougher read then the Narnia books.  I found it kind of weird at times, sort of meandering.  It is the sort of story that a second reading would shed greater light on, for the threads that hold the story together are not clear throughout.  In other words, the story makes you think.  There are many metaphors and imagery that demand further reflection.  And, again unlike Narnia, there is no simple allegory where MacDonald’s Christian faith is obvious.

At the end of the story Anodos returns to his world and is challenged to live with the lessons he learned on his journey through Faerie.  That may be the lesson for the reader.

When we come to these stories, from MacDonald to Lewis and Tolkien and even into more contemporary fantasy, we find ourselves changed.  Not all fantasy does that of course, some of it ends up just being an hour or two of escapism.  But the best fantasy stories lead us into another world, revealing things about our world and ourselves that, when we put the book down, move us.  We do not leave unchanged.

I grew up in the church my whole life.  I knew the stories of Jesus.  But honestly, it was reading the sacrifice of Aslan in Lewis’ work that really, in my childhood mind, helped me grasp what the sacrifice of Jesus truly meant.

As MacDonald has Anados say at the end of the story:

My mind soon grew calm; and I began the duties of my new position, somewhat instructed, I hoped, by the adventures that had befallen me in Fairy Land. Could I translate the experience of my travels there, into common life? This was the question. Or must I live it all over again, and learn it all over again, in the other forms that belong to the world of men, whose experience yet runs parallel to that of Fairy Land? These questions I cannot answer yet. But I fear.

That last phrase strikes me.  What does he fear?  That he will forget the lessons he learned and have to relearn them all?

When we read these stories, and ultimately the story of scripture, may we not come away unchanged. My hope would be that such experiences, such journeys into the written word, would shape us into whole people.