Why Study Greek Mythology at a Christian School? By: Shiloh Upson
“The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact… By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle… God is more than a god, not less: Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology.” - C.S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact”
One of the questions we receive quite often from parents is, “Why are you teaching Greek mythology at a Christian school?” On the surface, it may seem irrelevant, or perhaps merely for the shallow purpose of trying to adhere to our classical methodology. As a classical Christian school, we believe it is important to study Greek and Roman myths to give our children a better context with which they can understand the ancient world, ancient history’s impact on modern culture, and our mighty God.
The Ancient Greeks believed their lives were governed by a pantheon of capricious, bellicose gods. In The Odyssey, Odysseus incurs the wrath of the ocean-god Poseidon and, as a result, is unable to return home for twenty years. As we learn about how the Greeks interpreted their misfortunes, one cannot help but feel compassion. Christians have the gift of foundational knowledge that we live in a fallen world, one in which “the whole creation groans” under the weight of sin (Romans 8:22), but that our Redeemer lives; the Greeks believed they were merely at the mercy of petty and inconstant Gods, unable to truly understand hardships and sin.
As we grow familiar with the Greek and Roman pantheon (and notably, that of the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamian cultures as well), the singularity of Judaism in the ancient world becomes more clear. Although most modern major religions are monotheistic, with the exception of Hinduism, belief in one God was unique to the Jews among the ancients. In understanding classical pantheons, we can paint a clearer picture of the beauty of our God throughout history as well as the persecution that fell upon both Jews and followers of Christ.
Lastly, we teach our children about the ancients because the nature of humanity and sin has not changed, so we must arm them with the ability to understand it. Douglas Wilson explains in the foreword of Omnibus I, “One of the most pernicious errors that has gotten abroad in the Christian community is the error of sentimentalism- the view that evil is to be evaded… The Christian believes that evil is there to be fought, the dragon is there to be slain. The sentimentalist believes that evil is to be resented.” Sin has thrived in our world since The Fall, and our world is equally as sinful today as it was the day Adam and Eve left the garden.
As we confront sin, both historical and modern, Crestline seeks to provide “godly oversight and protection” to “accompany the student through his course of work,” as Douglas Wilson asserts in his foreword essay. We study ancient sin not to endorse sin itself, but to equip our children to confront sinfulness in the modern world. Our educators aspire to constantly point the souls in our care toward Christ; we believe that providing a Christian understanding of false myths and false gods only shines a light more brilliantly on the story of the one true God.