New Religions as Global Cultures Paper for Philip Johnson MM 253/653 New Religions as Global Cultures By John

W. Morehead January 29, 2007 “The Truth is Out There: Postmodern Myth and Archetypes, Extraterrestrial Salvation, and Mythic Apologetics” As the church has moved through history and engaged various cultures it has discovered that differing means of engagement are necessary in varying contexts. As a result of the cross-cultural engagement process the church has utilized differing forms of missions (Bosch 1991), as well as apologetics (Dulles 1991). These differing approaches have arisen as the church faced varying cultures, each with their own questions, concerns, and unique needs for communication. In the modern Western world the church has tended to engage in forms of evangelism and apologetics that emphasize rational argumentation in order to defend the Christian worldview and as a means of communicating the gospel. While this form of engagement continues to be appropriate in various contexts, the church might consider other approaches as Western culture develops in ways in which rational argumentation connects less effectively as a means of persuasion and communication. This essay will look at one such approach by considering the significance of myth in popular culture, particularly for various new religious movements, how popular culture and these religious movements often draw upon mythic archetypes and symbols, and will then consider the need for the development of mythic apologetics by way engagement. Finally, we will consider an application of mythic apologetics for UFO religious groups and will sketch a broad outline of the elements that this apologetic might include as illustrated popular culture in response to the mythic desires of those in such groups.


Myths and Postmodernity Myths have long provided people and their cultures with narratives to live by. In the modern scientific age we are used to thinking of myths as unhistorical and false, but there are a variety of ways in which to think of myths and scholars define them variously. Hexham and Poewe define myth as “a story with culturally formative power” (1997, 81). They elaborate on their definition of myth and comment on more traditional understandings: This definition emphasizes that a myth is essentially a story – any story – that affects the way people live. Contrary to many writers, we do not believe that a myth is necessarily unhistorical. In itself a story that becomes a myth can be true or false, historical or unhistorical, fact or fiction. What is important is not the story itself but the function it serves in the life of an individual, a group or a whole story (Ibid., emphasis in original) Having defined myth in terms of its function and importance in culture, Hexham and Poewe identify various mythic fragments that they see as prominent in the West. These include pseudoscientific myths, myths of fate and prophecy, healing myths, myths of decline, other civilization myths, myths of transformation (Ibid., 84-91), and myths of technology (Hexham & Poewe 1986, 32-33). The significance of the differing types of myths will become evident as we consider how they are expressed in certain aspects of popular culture and new religious movements below. Myths are expressed in great abundance in the popular culture of postmodernity. Television programs, motion pictures, animation (especially Japanese anime), video games, comics, and books frequently depict the mythic, both drawing upon previously existing myths and creating new ones for a fantasy hungry culture. Star Trek and The XFiles from television, and the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings motion pictures provide well known examples of this phenomenon, and a plethora of other examples could be


provided from video games, comics, and animation which are lesser known by the broader public but which find a large and growing base of consumers. These expressions of popular culture entertainment draw upon various mythic elements (Star Wars and The Matrix explicitly so) (Moyers & Campbell 2001; Ford 2000), and provide a window into the spiritual yearnings of the culture (Drane 2000, 154-173). This demonstrates not only the importance of myth in postmodern culture, but also the significance of the cinema in shaping cultural ideas, especially in relation to spirituality. The Australian filmmaker George Miller, best known for his film such as the Mad Max trilogy and Babe, came to recognize that his films tapped into something deep and important in people who had viewed them around the world (Miller 1996). Miller goes further and states that in his view “the cinema has replaced the church as the arena for storytelling” (Johnson 1998, 62). Church leaders may wish to take notice of the implications of this if they hope to recapture the Western imagination.

Mythic Symbols and Archetypes But how are we to explain the existence of these myths? Why do they have such power in touching the psyche of people in various cultures? Why is there great similarity of myths across cultures? And why do many of these myths speak to our need for spiritual transformation and redemption? The answers to these questions may be found in the convergence of three disciplines – that of religious phenomenology, Jungian psychoanalysis, and folklore studies. Each of these disciplines shed light on the existence of certain motifs, commonly referred to as archetypes. From within religious phenomenology, Mircea Eliade noted


that religions draw upon archetypal patterns in their rituals which connect those in the group to the divine and their place in time and the historical process (Eliade 1971). In the arena of psychoanalysis Carl Jung has been influential in his work which described archetypes as a set of mental principles or cognitive structures that that are universal in the human race and which form the collective unconscious (Jung 1964). In folklore studies a review of the Motif-Index of Folk Literature provides evidence of the similarity of mythic motifs from various regions around the world (Thompson 1989). The result of the convergence of these independent lines of scholarly research is important. As Philip Johnson has stated: From each of these disciplines some remarkable parallel conclusions have been reached concerning the significance of myth and symbol and their relationship to the human condition of spiritual alienation. Recurrent patterns of mythic motifs include nostalgia for a lost paradise, yearnings for a utopia, and the universal hero slaying monsters (Johnson 1998, 64). We will consider the significance of archetypes and myth in popular culture and for Christian mission and apologetics below, but a few words must be said in critical interaction with Jung and Eliade’s views on archetypes. These ideas must not be accepted uncritically, and critique has been raised both in terms of the individuals who developed the notions of the archetypes, as well as the concepts themselves. It must be acknowledged that Jung and Eliade, as well as the mythologist who’s work provided a popular expression of Jung’s ideas on myth, Joseph Campbell, were “associated with the politics of the extreme right, even, according to some charges, with sympathy for fascism and anti-Semitism” (Ellwood 1999, vii). Further, Noll has put forward the thesis that Jung “underwent a visionary initiation into the Hellenistic mysteries of Mithras,” and that he


later developed his theories as part of “what was essentially a new religious movement” (1994, xi, xii). While the political and religious views of these individuals must be considered carefully, particularly as they may have a bearing on the development and validity of archetypal motifs, problematic personal views and affiliations do not necessarily invalidate the idea of archetypes themselves. Researchers must be careful to consider the historical and cultural context in which Jung, Eliade, and Campbell developed their views, and we must be careful to avoid the genetic fallacy of rejecting an idea or argument simply because of where it originated. Beyond the personal considerations and moving to critical interaction with Jungian conceptions of the archetypes, there is no need to accept a strictly Jungian interpretation. These ideas can be reinterpreted, as one scholar has done in developing an archetypal apologetic for the Resurrection of Christ from pagan myths (McKenzie 1997). Finally with reference to critical interaction with archetypes, we must remember that the existence of a common collection of archetypal symbols in the human consciousness has been recognized by three independent disciplines of study. This would seem to suggest that a genuine phenomenon exists within the human psyche across cultures and times. This then becomes an important area for Christian interaction, particularly in light of cultural developments in the Western world.

Western Re-Enchantment Scholars have noted the changing cultural landscape of the Western world, but many of the developments that have come with it, as well as their significance, have not


been noticed by many Christians (Patridge 2002), including those working in the areas of church growth, evangelism, and missions. The Western world has been described as having experienced a process of disenchantment and re-enchantment. During the intersection of the Enlightenment and modernity a secularization process began in which many scholars felt that people in the West would be less religious as they embraced science, technology, and what was believed to be more rational explanations of life and reality (Berger 1967). With this view it was believed that secularization would entail less religiosity, a disenchantment, and more of an orientation toward secularism. While some scholars still hold to this view of secularization, many now recognize that it was incorrect (Cox 1999), including some of its strongest advocates in the past (Berger 2000). A secularization process did take place which resulted in a disenchanted view of the cosmos, but this did not mean people were less religious. Rather, the disenchantment process changed the ways in which people expressed and engaged in their religiosity as they moved away from confidence in traditional and institutionalized forms of religion in favor of individualized forms of religiosity (Heelas & Woodhead 2005), usually referred to in common parlance as a preference for spirituality over religion. With the cultural shift toward late-modernity or post-modernity a process of reenchantment is well underway (Partridge 2004). Working in concert with the forces of globalization, pluralism, and consumerism, re-enchantment includes an emphasis on an individual spiritual quest (Wuthnow 1998), and an emphasis on eclectic forms of Do-ItYourself Spirituality where a smorgasbord approach to religion is the order of the day. One of the more significant aspects of the contemporary spiritual quest is the influence of consumerism. No religion has failed to be impacted by the Western habit of


creating and maintaining a sense of self and religious identity through the process of consumption, and this is especially the case with consumer religions. Adam Possamai argues that “[r]eligion in our postmodern times – whether we like it or not – is definitely part of our consumer culture” (2005, 47). One of the aspects of consumption in contemporary spirituality discussed by Possamai is the area of popular culture where various religions and spiritualities are informed by subjective myths, and at times form new religious movements in the process (2002). An example of this is found in The Church of All Worlds, a Neo-Pagan group founded in the 1960s which “bases its teachings in part on Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land science fiction, as well as the “Star Trek mythos” (Possamai 2005, 58). Possamai provides additional examples such as L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology that began with a series of stories in Astounding Science Fiction magazine, as well as various vampire and werewolf groups and subcultures (Ibid., 60-61). One of the more interesting developments that has taken place with the appropriation of subjective myths within popular culture is the creation of “hyper-real religions.” By hyper-real religion Possamai refers to “a simulacrum of a religion partly created out of popular culture which provides inspiration for believers/consumers at a metaphorical level” (2005, 79). As examples of this phenomenon Possamai discusses Jediism, a religion based upon the Star Wars films (Possamai 2003; cf. Possamai 2005, 72-75), and the religion of Matrixism, based upon The Matrix series of films. Through this discursion into popular culture we should not lose sight of the important fact that people are drawing upon various mythic ideas or archetypes within their own psyches which are expressed in popular culture. These are then consumed and


incorporated into new expressions of religion and spirituality. These archetypes are perhaps most clearly recognizable in various UFO religions.

UFO Religions and the Sacred Extraterrestrial Another of the more interesting religions and spiritualities of the modern and post-modern periods are those associated with the UFO phenomenon. The contemporary interest in UFOs can be traced back to Kenneth Arnold who reported seeing nine discshaped objects as he flew a small plane near Mount Rainier in Washington state in 1947. Arnold reported that the objects looked like a saucer skipping across the water, and once this was reported in the media the term “flying saucer” was born. It soon became a fixture in the national and international vocabulary (Partridge 2003). While the UFO phenomenon began in proximity to Cold War concerns of the 1950s as well as the space race, and was interpreted by skeptics and believers in scientific frameworks concerning extraterrestrial visitation, the UFO phenomenon also has deep religious connections. Although he lived prior to Arnold’s sighting in the 1940s, Emmanual Swedenborg was an influential figure in modern religious history who claimed contact with UFOs and extraterrestrials (Ibid., 7). Other religious influences include Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and George Adamski’s theosophicallyoriented Royal Order of Tibet (Ibid., 17). These and other groups would provide an important foundation for the developing religious dimension of the UFO phenomena (Lewis 1995, 16-64). In addition, Partridge has discussed a “sacralization of the extraterrestrial” as a part of the re-enchantment process with UFOs being interpreted largely in secular or “physicalist” ways in the disenchantment phase of the West, and in


more religious and spiritual ways with re-enchantment. In Partridge’s view, UFO faith “is a manifestation of disillusionment with traditional, mainstream religiosity,” and UFOs and alien contact also represent an aspect of re-enchantment as part of “the explicit resacralization of the phenomenon” (Partridge 2005, 170). While there have been a number of new religious movements that have identified in some way with UFOs and extraterrestrials, such as the Unarius Academy of Science and the Aetherius Society, two particular groups are worthy of note and relevant to our discussion of popular culture, myth, and archetypes. These include the Raelian Movement International and Heaven’s Gate. The Raelian Movement, founded by Claude Vorilhon, teaches that the biblical creation story referencing the Hebrew word for God, “Elohim,” refers not to a monotheistic deity, but rather, to a race of extraterrestrials responsible for cloning and implanting human beings on earth in the distant past (Lewis 2001, 362-3). The group is an interesting synthesis of various religious and scientific elements, as well as mythic ideas, borrowed from Judaism and Christianity in their common creation story and ideas related to resurrection, combining these ideas with the latest scientific and ethical speculations, activities, and controversies in the areas of human identity and cloning. The Raelians captured international attention in 2002 with their claim to have successfully cloned a human being (Partridge 2003, 60). The second group worthy of note is Heaven’s Gate which came to national attention in 1997 after law enforcement officials discovered the bodies of group members who had committed suicide in connection with the appearance of a comet that for them signaled a time of transition to an extraterrestrial dimension aboard a UFO (Ibid., 103128). Beyond the group’s tragic end, Heaven’s Gate is of interest in that its beliefs were


an interesting mix of the Protestant background of its two founders coupled with aspects of popular culture, including Star Trek and The X-Files (Possamai 2005, 59-60). The influence of mythic and archetypical notions is also significant. While writing on the influence of popular culture on the suicides of the Heaven’s Gate members, one writer has connected this to the notion of Jungian archetypes, and refers to group members as those who “were sized by an archetype” in reference to Jung’s views on UFO symbolism (Digney 1998, 322). With Heaven’s Gate we find a strong example of the confluence of archetypes, myths, and popular culture. These two examples of contemporary religious groups provide us with examples of groups that have formed in response to certain mythic and archetypal ideas within the human psyche that are expressed in popular culture and which were drawn upon in order to meet contemporary spiritual yearnings. If we consider the religious dimension of the contemporary UFO phenomenon and its connection to the mythic, John Saliba has identified seven major themes or elements that parallel those found in more traditional religions (Lewis 1995, 41-51). These include an element of mystery, transcendence (with UFOs as sky symbols connected to the divine), belief in spiritual entities (the aliens understood as special messengers from beyond), perfection (seen as an attribute of the aliens), salvation (a frequent message of the aliens who are interpreted as providing redemption from beyond earth and humanity), worldview (in the form of an alternative cosmology standing in tension with traditional religion as well as modern science), and spirituality (where contactee experiences are similar to rites of passage and rebirth).


UFO groups are often not only religious in character, but as we have seen, this religiosity is often formed through the appropriation of various archetypes expressed in popular culture. Some scholars have stated that with the UFO phenomenon we may be seeing a contemporary myth in the making (Jung 1959), and one that reinterprets religious and mythic elements for a post-modern age that presents us with “technological angels”: Jung interpreted the phenomenon of flying saucers – which often appear in the form of circular disks – as mandala symbols, reflecting the human mind’s desire for stability in a confused world. From a depth psychological point of view, it is thus no coincidence that the chariots of the gods should manifest in the form of flying saucers (Partridge 2003, 109). Several of the myths identified by Hexham and Poewe in relation to the West and new religious movements are applicable to UFO religions. These include myths of technology (Hexham & Poewe 1986), pseudo-scientific myths, other-civilization myths, myths of evolution (Hexham & Poewe 1997), as well as myths of contact or visitation which surface in connection with the apocalyptic, cargo cultic, and millenarian aspects of UFO religions (Partridge 2003, 221-238; Trompf 2000). As Partridge has also noted, “mythology is a treasure trove with more than a little importance” in understanding UFO religions (Partridge 2003, 23), one which has helped to shape a decidedly religious perspective on UFOs, and one with affinities with Christianity: As a vernacular religious response to the fears of the nuclear era, American flying saucer beliefs directly address apocalyptic fears, offering salvation by all-knowing beings with superior consciousness who oversee the fate of humanity. In contrast to the destructive technology of atomic weapons and the inescapable spectre of nuclear annihilation UFOs represent a benevolent technology and the possibility of a golden age of peace and harmony. Just as the image of the mushroom cloud has become a symbol of destruction in the modern era, the UFO has emerged as folk symbol of hope and salvation, promising rescue by means of a technological rapture brought about by saviour beings descending from the skies (Ibid., 285).


It is clear that UFOs provide an example of a mythic symbol of hope and redemption from beyond, and one which has developed in a scientific age and in many ways in reaction to traditional religion and Christianity. But how might Christians connect with the mythic and archetypal ideas present within the UFO phenomenon and UFO religions in order to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ? This might be done through a mythic apologetic and to this we now turn.

Mythic Apologetics The roots of mythic apologetics can be traced to the Lutheran theologian Johann Valentin Andreae, with other early forerunners found in figures such as Ramon Lull, the Franciscan apologist and missionary to Islam (Johnson 1998, 67 & 68). Andreae developed the first major mythic apologetic that interacted with alchemy as well as Rosicrucianism (Ibid., 68) developed as a means of bringing Rosicrucians back to belief in the gospel and the Lutheran confessions (Ibid. 69). Later Christians would also make contributions to forms of mythic apologetics including Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and John Warwick Montgomery (Montgomery 1974; Johnson 1998). Montgomery called this a “literary apologetic” (Johnson 1998, 25) given its connection to the Inklings and their great work in literature, but it is also referred to variously as a mythic, mythopoeic or subject-individualist apologetic. By contrast with apologetic approaches that emphasize rational and intellectual considerations, this model recognizes that there are people who are not only inclined toward rational orientations to life and spirituality, there are also people who lean more toward intuitive, creative, and artistic approaches. The mythic apologetic approach may


be understood as another tool in the apologetic toolkit that compliments apologetic approaches for the “tough minded” by addressing other orientations toward life and spirituality. While some evangelicals, particularly apologists used to more rational and argumentative approaches, might find mythic apologetics an unusual concept, as we have seen above, it has a distinguished pedigree in terms of its connection to the Inklings. A further exploration of this connection provides interesting reminders and promising possibilities, both in terms of our understanding of Scripture and our ability to communicate more meaningfully within the current cultural milieu of the West. In terms of Scripture, evangelicals have a tendency to approach the Bible primarily as a collection of propositional truths that are then systematized and drawn upon accordingly. While it is possible to derive and develop propositional truths from the biblical text, Duriez reminds us that the Bible presents “a symbolic perception of reality” and utilizes “narrative, story, image, and other symbolic elements” (1998, 35) in the communication of truth. In the modern period we seem to have forgotten, or at least minimized these aspects of Scripture, and the theology of fantasy lurking beneath the fantasy writings of Tolkien and Lewis provides us with a helpful reminder of the rich symbolic world of biblical revelation. Tolkien’s theology also provides us with a refreshing approach toward biblical hermeneutics that may be especially important in our understanding of the Scriptures and how we communicate the biblical story in post-modernity. Gruenler discusses Tolkien’s influential essay “On Fairy-Stories,” and explains how his views influenced Gruenler’s own thinking on biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, particularly in a “promising new


approach to gospel interpretation” (1982, 204). Two aspects of this seem especially relevant to a consideration of mythic apologetics. First, Gruenler discusses Tolkien’s view of “divine enchantment” which comes about as the gospel story causes the reader to come “under the ‘spell’ of the evangelium” (Ibid. 205). This is made possible by the gospel writers as story tellers who “portray a realm that is wide and deep and high, filled with all manner of wondrous things” (Ibid.) This sense of awe, wonder, and mystery surrounding the gospel is important for both Christians and others in post-modernity as it reminds Christians of the wonder surrounding the story of Jesus, and this sense of wonder seems especially significant for those in the contemporary West who are seeking to fulfill the human urge for fantasy through archetypes and myth embedded in popular culture. The second aspect of Gruenler’s discussion for consideration is Tolkien’s notion of eucatastrophe or the “joy of the happy ending” (Ibid., 218). Tolkien connects this aspect of the gospel story to a sense of artistry and myth: The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels – peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. The story begins and ends in joy (Tolkien 1966, 83). An approach to Scripture and the communication of the gospel involving fantasy seems especially significant in the contemporary West. As Snelling has noted, fantasy literature plays a significant role in the dissemination of “heterodox beliefs and ideals into the wider society” (2002, 187; Cf. Partridge 2005), and if alternative spiritualities utilize this genre as a means of communication Christians would do well to consider the implications for drawing upon it as a means of retelling the mythic story of Jesus.


To summarize the significance of myth and its connection apologetics, Christians interested in communicating the gospel story in fresh ways in post-modernity can draw upon a fantasy approach to Scripture with its sense of wonder and happy ending in the formation of a mythic apologetic. This mythic apologetic will draw upon universal archetypes from myth and folklore that are expressed in popular culture and which surface as significant aspects of alternative spiritualities such as UFO groups. An effective mythic apologetic in this context will seek to discover archetypical elements within these spiritualities, particularly those which point toward a recognition of fallen human nature and the need for redemption, and will then communicate the gospel as a fulfillment of these mythic yearnings in a way that connects appropriately with the symbolism of such groups.

Toward a Mythic Apologetic to UFO Religions From our discussion of archetypes and the religious aspects of UFO religions above we can identify several elements that can be drawn upon in the formation of a mythic apologetic. First, recall that Saliba recognized that UFO groups incorporate a desire for transcendence, meaning a view outward to the planets in the cosmos and their extraterrestrial inhabitants who are interpreted in a fashion similar to supernatural figures in pre-scientific periods. Second, there is the mythic desire for salvation which comes from beyond, indicating a recognition that that redemption cannot come from the individual or within their own traditional sphere of living. Salvation must come from beyond, and it is sought in extraterrestrials who visit us with a message of hope and restoration.


Third, scholars have long noted the existence of Messiah figures in contemporary cinema (McEver 1998). This is no less the case in science fiction which provide examples of the existence of alien Messiah figures (Ruppersberg 1990; Kozlovic 2001; Etherden, 2005). Ruppersberg notes that in science fiction films, “underlying the motif of the alien messiah is the mythos of the Christian messiah,” and that several films have drawn on this Christian myth in the construction of their science fiction stories. Examples include Starman, The Last Starfighter, and perhaps most explicitly, The Day the Earth Stood Still. At times the alien Messiah also dies and rises again as in The Last Starfighter and The Day the Earth Stood Still, drawing upon the resurrection archetype (McKenzie 1997) and Christian conceptions of a dying and rising Messiah. (It might also be noted that a dying and rising messianic figure is present in the character Neo in The Matrix [Stucky 2005], indicating that a mythic apologetic drawing upon the resurrection archetype might be constructed for adherents of Matrixism as well.) Fourth, we might also discern the archetype of a “yearning for Paradise” and with it hopes for restoration. This myth is closely connected to the idea of salvation from beyond, and hints of it may be discerned in science fiction films dealing with UFOs, such as Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the climactic final scene a giant alien “mother ship” descends upon an enraptured humanity appearing almost like an alien technology’s version of the Christian hope for the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. With these archetypes in mind we have now identified some of the various universal symbols and the corresponding spiritual yearnings of those in UFO religions.


These archetypes find points of contact in the Christian narrative, and we can now communicate the gospel story as the fulfillment of these aspirations. A mythic apologetic to UFO religions might draw upon science fiction films as a form of popular culture that resonates with many in UFO groups and which also dramatizes many of the mythic elements and yearnings of the group. It can be pointed out that many science fiction films include an alien deliverer figure who comes from beyond bringing us a message of hope and joy. As the story goes he warns us that we are bent on self-destruction as individuals and on a massive scale involving the entire planet. He offers us his pathway to follow that will lead us into peace and harmony. But in the face of the splendor and surprise of this alien deliverer we respond with fear and violence, and we take his life. But his powers involve those of life and death and he is able to rise from the dead, overcoming and disarming the powers of evil present in us and the cosmos. Our mythic apologetic can demonstrate that all of these mythic ideas are dramatized in the science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Might it be possible that what Hollywood filmmakers yearned for and expressed in fantasy might have been fulfilled in history long ago? Here we can present the story of Jesus as the true extraterrestrial who comes from beyond our galaxy and the vastness of the cosmos, not merely as one advanced creature coming to help another, but as the Creator of the stars and the cosmos. He demonstrates his power to transform our lives and return us to Paradise by his Resurrection from the dead, fulfilling the resurrection archetype (McKenzie 1997). He offers to lead us into the perfect community and Extraterrestrial City, not through an extraterrestrial spacecraft but through the New Jerusalem comprised of redeemed humanity.


Conclusion Mythic apologetics seem especially well suited to our cultural context in the postmodern West. As David Wilkinson has noted, a contemporary apologetic must not simply appeal to reason, but must also engage the imagination (Wilkinson 2002, 10). It must also “take pop culture seriously” (Ibid. 14), and this includes the archetypal and mythic elements embedded within it. This is especially important in relation to the UFO phenomenon. Opinion polls indicate that large numbers of Americans believe in the existence of UFOs, and that they represent visiting spacecraft. These ideas are circulated and become influential in popular culture (Clark 2003), and are especially significant within UFO religions. A contemporary apologetic that seeks to engage a shifting post-modern culture in such areas would do well to consider the possibilities for a mythic apologetic approach. Philip Johnson has summarized these possibilities in four areas. First, he states that our “apologetic methods must adjust when the cultural paradigm shifts” (Johnson1998, 69). We noted above the shift from disenchantment to re-enchantment, and the popularity of archetype and myth in this context. More traditional rational apologetic approaches seem ill-suited to communicate and persuade effectively in this environment. Second, Johnson states that “the biblical world itself was mythopeic” (Ibid.). We saw above that Tolkien provided us with a helpful reminder of the rich symbolic world of the Bible, and by engaging this perspective we are provided with fresh hermeneutical and apologetic insights. Third, “mythic apologetics build on insights into archetypes” (Ibid.) that are found through the intersection of various academic disciplines, and which are explored in


increasing ways in popular culture. And finally, “various Christian litterateurs have already made some fictional forays in the direction of mythic apologetics” (Ibid.). The foundation has been laid by those creative Christians who have come before us, and the twenty-first century provides us with a cultural milieu that invites a mythic apologetic response and waits for the next generation of Inklings.


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