The Mythos of Neutrality

greek myth
Detail from Cover of Greek Mythology by Martin R. Phillips

The myth of neutrality isn’t just a not-true-idea kind of myth. It’s also a powerful-organizing-story kind of myth. The myth of neutrality is a myth in both dictionary senses:

1 A widely held but false belief or idea: he wants to dispel the myth that sea kayaking is too risky or too strenuous | there is a popular myth that corporations are big people with lots of money.

2 A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events: the heroes of Greek myth.*

We’re not neutral when it comes to ultimate questions. No one is, because everybody either loves God out of a New Covenant heart or still needs the Spirit to give Him that heart through repentance and faith in Christ.

The myth of neutrality isn’t attractive merely because it’s false; it’s attractive because it tells a compelling story about the world—one in which man is the measure of all things. This myth, as commonly believed (at least with respect to science), even offers us a supernatural event: the Big Bang. I’m reminded of one of my very favorite quotes, reportedly from Terence McKenna (a bit of an odd source):

Give us one free miracle and we’ll explain the rest.

I tried to find the talk where he delivered that line, and I think I did. Though he didn’t use the word “miracle,” that was definitely the idea. (The word miracle was apparently introduced into the quote by a friend of McKenna’s in an interview.)

McKenna followed up his incisive take-down of the Big Bang:

If you can believe that, hell, you can believe anything…. What that’s called is a singularity, and many theories require a singularity. That means in order to kickstart the intellectual engine, you have to go outside the system…. Give me the first 10-12 nanoseconds, and if I can do smoke and mirrors in that, then the rest will proceed quite in an orderly fashion. Now that’s orthodoxy.

Materialism doesn’t offer us any supernatural beings, only natural ones, but the dictionary says that’s okay. Supernatural beings are only typically part of a myth. The myth of neutrality can get along fine with just a supernatural event. And that’s what the Big Bang is.

*NOAD, s.v. myth, slightly rearranged for rhetorical purposes.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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