Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020)

I was in high school when I first heard of Ravi Zacharias.  I read Can Man Live Without God? perhaps in or after my first year of Bible College (at age 21 or 22) and it was very formative for me.  Not only was Ravi defending the reasonableness of Christian truth but he was doing it all the while demonstrating Christ-like love for those he was speaking to (much like C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer).  Over the years I've read several other of his works and listened to him speak.  I have always been impressed by his gentleness, humility, and kindness when he is engaging others with the life-altering message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today Ravi has gone to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ after a lengthy time of suffering with cancer.  We might say that he has entered into his well earned rest, and Ravi might agree, but he would clarify that it was Jesus who both earned his rest, and who ushered him in to it.

Below are some links to help us remember, mourn, and celebrate Ravi's life:

Ravi's obituary at RZIM

Ravi's daughter, Sarah Davis, at RZIM

Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition

And this beautiful beautiful recollection by Alan Jacobs of an impactful conversation with Ravi when Jacobs was a young student.

I appreciate Ravi's ministry so much.  He helped me learn that Christianity was reasonable and existentially satisfying, and that defending Christian belief could be irenic and winsome even while it was intellectually rigorous.  Ravi modeled that the truest way to share the gospel of God's gracious love to us in Jesus Christ was to share it lovingly and graciously; to imitate Christ while sharing the message of Christ. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Comfort from a Catechism

Christian catechism - learning doctrine by question and answer - has long been one of the major ways the church has taught and formed Christians in correct doctrinal or theological understanding and formulation.  When done rightly, catechism can be part of robust Christian formation or disciple-making, incorporated with other Christian practices such as corporate and personal worship, liturgical formation, preaching and studying Scripture, the sacraments, prayer, meditation on Scripture, along with Christian fellowship and mutual Christ-like sisterly/brotherly love in action.

Not all catechisms are created equal, of course.  Several branches of the church have produced various versions of catechisms over the centuries.  These catechisms have often been produced in response to the theological debates or church issues of their day.  Reading them today can be an interesting experience.  It can tell us a lot about the doctrinal convictions of the opposing sides in theological conflicts.  But beyond just the theological or ecclesial controversies, reading catechisms can tell us a lot about what Christians were dealing with in the place and at the time a catechism was written. 

Considering just the catechisms of the Reformed churches of the 16th and 17th centuries is an interesting practice.  Some years ago, I read through this very good harmony of the Reformed Confessions and catechisms.  Some are more theologically oriented, sometimes getting very granular  on particular points of doctrine and seeking precise formulations on theological issues.  This was the case for the Westminster Confession (1647) and so also the Larger Catechism that later accompanied it.  Others tend to be written from a more inclusive standpoint, aiming at a broader acceptance and subscription.  One is not necessarily better than the other.  Comparing them is informative.  The first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism (1648) is:
Q. 1:  What is the chief and highest end of man?
A.:  Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him for ever. 
(Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:31; Ps. 73:24-28; Jn. 17:21-23)
That is a precious truth.  However, for daily life and for existential, experiential usefulness, I prefer the Heidelberg Catechism to the Westminster, especially in a time of difficulty, suffering, or crisis.  There is doctrinal truth in both, and right doctrine is helpful, pastoral, and comforting.  Right doctrine trains our minds and shapes our hearts, it forms our thinking such that we begin to act in light of the truths we learn as they sink deep down into the core of our being.  But the  Heidelberg catechism has a more personal, devotional, pastoral, and more down-to-earth, everyday-life sort of feel.  The Westminster (Larger & Shorter) Catechisms should never be thought of merely as right theological things to think - they were meant by the pastors and theologians who wrote them to shape what Christians believe and be the truths in whose light we live.  But their language can sometimes sound like the correct answers to a theological final exam.  The Heidelberg Catechism puts the answers in the first person, so that "I" am answering.  These are my thoughts, my answers, my convictions - this is my faith, not merely the faith. 

Many times over the last weeks, when reading news reports about COVID-19 or Christian reflections about it, I have been reminded how greatly Christians today could benefit from committing the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) to heart:
Q. 1:  What is thy only comfort in life and death?
A.:  That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
(1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 14:7-9; 1 Cor. 3:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Jn. 1:17; 1 Jn. 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15; Jn. 6:39; Jn. 10:28-29; Lk. 21:18; Matt. 10:30; Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5; Rom. 8:14; Rom. 7:22)
It helps us to remember that one of the things the first few generations of Protestant Reformers frequently had to do was to pastor their own families and congregations through times of plague and pandemic.  As historian Bruce Hindmarsh likes to remind his students, these times were
pre-anesthetic, pre-analgesic, and pre-antiseptic.  Pain was a big part of life.  Death, including death of children, or death of loved ones from plague, was common.  I can't help but think that those who wrote the Heidelberg Catechism had such times in mind when they formulated the first question and answer.

What is your only comfort in life and death?

May we all be able to answer in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism:
 That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ...

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

COVID-19 and the Church Throughout History

Bruce Hindmarsh, who is the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology and Professor of the History of Christianity at Regent College, has written a very helpful historical and theological reflection about the Church in the face of disease and pandemic-like crises.  Bruce highlights some of the church's responses to such human health crises throughout its history - both the good and the (tragically) bad. 
St. Elizabeth of Hungary washes a sick man, from the altar of St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Kassa, 15th C. Source: Wikipedia
The article notes,
"This Christian instinct to care for those who suffer from communicable disease and all its devastating physical, social, and economic consequences runs deep in the history of the church."
Although the article is primarily historical reflection, it is instructive and so very pertinent for our moment. 

I also note his repeated 'for now', in reference to the social distancing and self-isolation policies currently being advised by health professionals and government agencies and (rightfully) adhered to by churches as an act of loving our neighbours.  However, there may come a time when most flee from helping the suffering and it would then be the church's calling to take up more active roles in caring for the sick and dying. 

Let us pray for a swift resolution to the current crisis, but let us also pray for the eyes of faith and the heart of courageous trust required of Christians should things continue to get worse. 
Here is the whole article.

Monday, 23 March 2020


This morning in his email newsletter, Alan Jacobs included this encouragement in our strange times of COVID-19 in the form of a quote from Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, written 300 years ago:
No, whatever our condition is, we must bring our minds to it, be thankful for its comforts, submissive to its crosses, and make the best of that which is.
It could be understood as a merely stoic sentiment, but having read a fair bit of Matthew Henry, I know it comes from a firm faith that God is sovereign, that he is good, and that he is working everything out for his glory and the good of his people.

Peace be with you, and with your spirit.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Cotton Mather's spirituality "at the top of Christianity"

Rick Kennedy's short biography of Cotton Mather speaks of Mather advocating not a moderate Protestantism, but a hot, puritan, daily faith - his "Evangelical interest".  Along those lines, Mather preached and published much, laying out what such a faith might look like for various individuals (farmers, house wives, sailors, pastors, etc.).  He published and widely disseminated several thin tracts which were lightly edited versions of sermons he had preached on the subject.  One of these tracts contained two sermons, together titled The Christian and His Calling.  Kennedy writes:
     The first sermon in the book begins by noting that the fear of God is a pursuit of long-term, ultimate happiness.  This pursuit involves head, hands, and lips, but is primarily a "heart business."  It is a daily walk to the very top of Christianity.  It is an all-day-long faith that begins with a morning "closet time" dedicated to Bible-reading and prayer.  Progress through the day is marked regularly by holiness of thought, word, and deed.  Prayers spring forth at random moments.  Cotton wrote that with these random prayers we "shoot the arrows of our desires away to heaven," and "happy is the man that hath his quiver filled with these arrows."  All day long the evangelical Christian should be promoting happiness in others, especially among children and servants in the household.  At the end of the day the whole household should pray together after reading portions from the Bible.  Yes, Cotton noted, each day will have its sufferings.  "A Christian is a cross bearer and no day ordinarily comes to a Christian without its cross."  But it is God who sends these crosses, and God looks out for our best interest.
      Such is the "general calling" to all Christians.  But Cotton described it as only one oar in our rowboat.  We need two oars so as to properly proceed toward eternal blessedness.  The second oar, described in the second of the two sermons, is a "personal calling," or a particular calling to each Christian.  "God has placed us as in a common hive," and we each must do our part for the whole.  Each of us needs to husband our time.  We need to avoid financial debt, keep our promises, and be content with our situations.  No job should be thought too small.  We must especially value our neighbors - and here Cotton noted that his own neighbors were often sailors who had their own special calling and particular issues concerning the daily living of their faith.  Sabbath keeping, for example, was sometimes impossible for sailors.  Overall, every person must find his or her particular calling and use commonsense in determining how best to serve God with it.  "A Christian," Cotton advised, "should with piety follow his occupation," but should not let piety swallow up his daily occupational obligations.  Every Christian, even Sabbath-breaking sailors, must work out his personal calling while remaining in Christ's service as a member of the common hive.
     But most people do not have a sailor's excuse for Sabbath breaking.  Cotton insisted that the first commitment of people pursuing their particular vocations was to enter God's rest on the Sabbath.  Every Christian should honor the Lord's Day by attending worship services.  As for the rest of the week: "Let obedience to God be the spring and strain of all your business."  Be humble: "When you follow your business have your dependence on God for the succeeding of it."  And be blessed: "May you all follow your good occupation, and may goodness and mercy follow you all in your occupation."

       - Rick Kennedy, The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather, pp. 89-90.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Cotton Mather's hot tips for homeschooling (sort of)

The following excerpts are all from The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather, by Rick Kennedy.

Speaking of Cotton Mather’s upbringing, Kennedy notes how both sides of Cotton Mather’s ancestors had a “multi-generational reputation for being soft on children.”  I suppose we might qualify that by saying that they were soft for 17th century Puritans.  But the tenor of their home was loving:

Richard Mather, the first Mather in America, wrote on the importance of cherishing one’s children, especially by talking and praying with each child individually.  Cotton grew up in a home where both his parents went out of their way to talk to him and pray with him….  Later in life Cotton Mather carried on family tradition by advising parents that “Our authority should be so tempered with kindness, that our children may fear us with delight, and see that we love them with as much delight.”  What Cotton experienced in his own home growing up he carried over into the pulpit as a minister.  God was a good parent whose power was tempered with kindness, meekness, and tenderness.  Delight should be the character of the bond between creator and creature. 

                                                                                                                               (p. 8)

Kennedy describes the education of a Puritan home.

            Beginning with reading and writing, Puritan education quickly turned to memorizing catechisms.  Catechisms are a type of song, a memorized call and response between a teacher and student.  They introduce children to precise information that society agrees upon….  Catechisms are especially good for affirming traditions of knowledge.  Two people at minimum, but the more the merrier, is the ideal for catechism.  One person calls the question, and others call back the answer.  Nobody is learning to think individualistically or critically.  Nobody is learning to think like a philosopher.  Everybody is learning to think within a tradition of shared knowledge.  Everybody is affirming out loud and in the same rhythm what everybody already knows. 

                                                                                                                            (pp. 9-10)

But teaching children at home was not only about learning shared doctrinal truths about God.  It was also about bringing a child to a right relational orientation toward God, about directing them toward salvation and a personal relationship with God.  

            Along with memorizing catechisms, children were also supposed to learn at home the skills of being “wise unto salvation.”  This began with training infants to be obedient, kind, and patient, to which were added skills of self-examination, spiritual observation, and prayer…. Children were supposed to learn that spiritual warfare wages within them and around them.  Children needed to learn how to weigh both their holiness and their sinfulness…. Children should be encouraged to act “with all possible gravity” and be sensitive to the fact that their souls hung in a balance.  God must choose them for salvation.  In some children this could encourage despair, but it was supposed to encourage hope.  God is good.  “God hath made me, He keepeth me, and He can save me.”  Children were also taught that they were never alone.  This would help them be good and also feel safe.  “Dear children,” Cotton’s grandfather wrote, “Behave yourselves as having the angels of God looking upon you, the angels of God looking after you!”  Prayer was taught from the first day of life.  Young children were not only taught to pray but also to expect answers.  God wanted a two-way relationship with each and every child.

                                                                                                                       (pp. 10-11)

Before attending Harvard, Cotton’s grammar school teacher, Ezekiel Cheever, believed that the student’s affections and not only their understanding had to be involved in learning.  Learning is not merely academic, in other words, but also spiritual.

What Cotton did for American evangelical education was to articulate powerfully his own experience in Cheever’s classroom.  It was there that Cotton found a teacher who taught his students “how to make prayers out of what they read.”  It was there that Cotton saw a schoolmaster who was not “so swallowed up with other learning, as to forget religion, and the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.”  In grammar school Cotton experienced a teacher who wanted to bring children to Christ because through Christ all things become best known.

                                                                                                                         (pp. 13-14)

In a passage that resonates with the famous scene in C.S. Lewis’s, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Peter and Susan consult Professor Kirk about Lucy’s stories of finding a world in the wardrobe vs. Edmund’s denial of such a place, and the professor (lamenting that they don't teach logic in school anymore) judges their respective testimonies not based on what seems more rational but based on what better accords with logic – whose testimony is more likely to be true based on which of the two siblings is usually most truthful and honest – here is an excerpt about the reliability of testimony and social or traditional knowledge vs. purely individual rationality:

[Through his father’s catechizing] a foundation of social thinking was being established in Cotton Mather’s mind that would always uplift the authority of the Bible, Christian tradition, neighborhood fellowship, and congregational life.  “Inartificial argument” was an old Latin name for what we might describe as information known socially, the kind of information that a single person cannot think up by himself or herself but has to learn from other people in the form of books, maps, or conversation.  In courtrooms, what the jury learns from witnesses is “inartificial.”  History and geography are the school subjects most obviously learned by inartificial means.  In churches people learn from each other about God’s recent activities by inartificial means.  The events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are learned by inartificial means.  Using what was called in Mather’s textbook the “rule of reciprocation,” the credibility of a witness’s testimony depends more upon the trustworthiness of the person testifying than the seeming incredibility of the testimony.  For example, if trustworthy neighbors tell Cotton – as they would later in his life – that they saw a girl levitate to the ceiling of her room, Cotton should not judge the credibility of the story based on whether levitation is impossible or not; rather, the credibility of the story is based on whether the eyewitnesses are conscientious men and women who can be trusted to tell the truth.  Cotton knew of levitation – the ascension – of Jesus in a similar way: by means of trustworthy eyewitness reports written in the Bible.  By the reciprocation rule in logic, the appropriate first question should not be whether the even it impossible; rather, the listener should first question the trustworthiness of the source of the information.  If the eyewitnesses are trustworthy, then the report should at least by entertained as probably true.

                                                                                                         (pp. 21-22)

In a passage that reminds us that “Evangelical” was not always associated with individual interpretation of Scripture, or with technique over tradition, regarding the socialness of learning/knowledge, and talking about Cotton Mather’s learning of Logic, or Dialectic, or the Art of Thinking, Kennedy comments:

The Harvard curriculum placed a high value on teaching “reasonableness.”  This felicitous term described something both bigger and softer than hard and narrow rationality.  Cotton learned at Harvard that knowledge, like politics, was a fellowship.

          Cotton learned in his logic classes that a lone and anti-social boy could be a great mathematician, a rational genius, and even a brilliant thinker, but no such boy could be the wise leader of a state or the pastor of a church.  The most common analogy used for teaching reasonableness was courtroom jurisprudence: witnesses introduce external information into the court, prosecutors and defenders analyze the information, judges set rules of evidence and certainty, and a jury decides by consensus.  Truth rises out of the interaction of many people.  Jurisprudence – like the leading of a state, a church, or a family – was too important to leave up to a lone individual thinking rationally.

          Another analogy for social reasonableness that Cotton learned at Harvard was the classical tradition of bee imagery.  Working together, bees gather pollen (information) from widely diverse sources, organize the pollen in a honeycomb (a book or library), and, mysteriously, honey is produced.  Books that gather together diverse information and libraries that gather together many books are “honey-producing”: they are “inspired” in a mysterious way.  Going to college was bee-like and honey-producing.  Education in all the liberal arts, reading in the library, living with other students and the tutors was inspirational.  Cotton wrote that he loved large encyclopedia-style books because each was like a “hive.”  Such books gathered together the thoughts of many authors from multiple books.  The Bible was the greatest of all hives.  The canon of books in the Bible was a honeycomb of entangled divine and human testimony that was uniquely inspired in such a way as to be “infallible.”  An individual using his intuition, mind, and senses could think with pure human reason and claim to be rational; however, reasonableness was social.  At Harvard Cotton learned mathematics and philosophy and the high arts of individual rationality; however, he also learned that if he aspired to be a pastor or a civic leader, he needed to cultivate the social art of reasonableness. 

          Throughout Cotton’s most important books he would always be careful to follow the rules of social logic.  He became a great gatherer of trustworthy information and a consensus-builder of judgment.  In the pulpit he upheld the Bible as divine testimony.  In a book he titled Reasonable Religion, he declared that Christians are not reasonable “if we don’t receive that book which we call the Bible, or, the Scripture, as a Divine Testimony.”  Note that Christians “receive” the book as a community rather than individually interpret, argue, or prove its truth.

                          (pp. 22-23) 
 About collecting useful information into “commonplace books”: 

            Harvard also taught Cotton the quiet scribal appreciation of making notebooks and copying passages.  Students were not given textbooks but instead were expected to make a personal copy of a textbook by copying one that was being passed around the class.  Often tutors would create an “epitome” of a textbook, a sort-of synopsis like the Catechismus Logicus that Cotton’s father had made for him.  The tutor would pass this epitome to his students who would share it as they copied it into their notebooks.  Students, fingernails dark with ink, not only spent many hours copying textbooks, they were also supposed to create their own set of “commonplace books.”  Such books were where students transcribed useful quotes from whatever book they happened to be reading.  Ideally students were supposed to later transcribe these initial notes into much more organized commonplace books with indexes.  The highest ideal of this classroom tedium was that, in the end, the student would have a collection of commonplace books that would be an encyclopedia-like personal information storage and retrieval system.

Cotton Mather loved all this scribbling and was a master at information storage and retrieval.  He kept at it all his life.  Cotton’s largest and most complex books – his Magnalia Christi Americana, Biblia Americana, and even his more private Diary – are understood best as creatively expanded commonplace books.  Cotton found it relaxing to fold, cut, and sew several large sheets of paper into a clean new notebook, then, in his precise and clear handwriting, spend an evening organizing and copying passage from published books.
                                                                                          (pp. 26-27)

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

George Steiner (1929-2020), RIP

I am surprised and saddened by the death of holocaust survivor and brilliant literary and cultural critic, George Steiner, yesterday.  It was from him that I learned to see the religious nature of anti or post-Christian secularism and other post-Christian isms.

Steiner taught me that modern atheistic secularism is not merely the lack of religion but a new, replacement religion, a "meta-religion", and "anti-theology", a "surrogate-creed" (Nostalgia for the Absolute, 2).  He taught me that modern atheistic/anti-Christian secularism is a competing mythology with its own social, psychological, and spiritual "doctrine or body of thought" which fulfills three necessary conditions of mythology, just as Christian or Jewish theology and faith does (Nostalgia, 2-3).

First, the modern mythology of secularism makes a "claim of totality"; it affirms "that the analysis which it puts forward of the human condition - our history, of the meaning of your life and mine, of our further expectations - is a total analysis.  A mythology, in this sense, is a complete picture of 'man in the world'."  Secondly, a mythology "will have certain very easily recognizable forms of beginning and development.  There will have been a moment of crucial revelation or diagnostic insight from which the entire system springs.  This moment and the history of the founding prophetic vision will be preserved in a series of canonic texts" (Nostalgia, 3).  Third, "a true mythology will develop its own language, its own characteristic idiom, its own set of emblematic images, flags, metaphors, dramatic scenarios.  It will breed its own body of myths.  It pictures the world in terms of certain cardinal gestures, rituals, and symbols" (Nostalgia, 3).

Steiner classes Marxism, Freudian or Jungian "diagnoses of consciousness", the "account of man offered by what is called structural anthropology", as mythologies in this sense (Nostalgia, 4).  To those we might add any number of other ideologies or meta-narratives - ways of viewing reality that seek to explain the way things are in support of the tightly held beliefs of the group.  We might call them world-views also, but 'mythology' as Steiner uses it gets beyond the merely rational which might be associated by some with the term world-view, to note the deeply religious nature of such all-encompassing movements.  Its not hard to see many more current mythologies which qualify as anti-theologies or meta-religions.  C.S. Lewis's critique of modern anti-theistic scientism also fits this model, for it is the absolute faith in modern science, belief that science eventually will solve all human problems, the dogma that science doesn't just uncover facts and explain the way things work but imparts truth, meaning and purpose.

Steiner also brilliantly noted that, while these replacement post-Christian surrogate-creeds would chastise Christianity for imposing its pervasive and all-encompassing doctrines and life style upon all those under its sway, they seek to do the very same thing.  And though they might be born and grow in reaction against Christianity (or other old faiths), they quickly develop their own standards of orthodoxy and their own version of the Inquisition to punish those of their own numbers who do not keep the faith delivered once for all (think of the successive waves of radical Feminism, or the morphing gender movements that break with and attack each other, or the splintering within political perspectives and parties that frequently fight their closest neighbours more passionately than their opposite ideology - like the splintering of the right-wing in the US.  Traitors and betrayers are worse than mere unbelievers.  Speaking of these modern anti-Christian mythologies, Steiner says
Soon some of these disciples will break away into heresy.  They will produce rival mythologies or submythologies.  And now watch something very important.  The orthodox in the great movement will hate such heretics, will pursue them with an enmity more violent then that which they vent on the unbeliever.  It's not the unbeliever they're afraid of - it's the heretic from within their own movement (Nostalgia, 2-3). 
I will let Steiner speak further:
Now consider these attributes: totality, by which I simply mean the claim to explain everything; canonic texts delivered by the founding genius; orthodoxy against heresy; crucial metaphors, gestures, and symbols.  Surely the point I am making is already obvious to you.  The major mythologies constructed in the West since the the early nineteenth century are not only attempts to fill the emptiness left by the decay of Christian theology and Christian dogma.  They are themselves a kind of substitute theology.  They are systems of belief and argument which may be savagely anti-religious, which may postulate a world without God and may deny an afterlife, but whose structure, whose aspirations, whose claims on the believer, are profoundly religious in strategy and in effect (4).
Those great movements, those great gestures of imagination, which have tried to replace religion in the West, and Christianity in particular, are very much like the churches, like the theology, they want to replace (5).
Steiner examines Marxism, as a test case, in light of his thesis, and notes that it meets the criteria at every point.  After all, it wasn't capitalists who killed Trotsky.  Speaking of the eventual failure of Marxism, "if failure indeed it be", Steiner perceptively notes:
What was at stake was no mere technical critique of certain economic institutions; it is not over theoretical questions of investment, division of labour, or trade cycles, that generations of men and women fought, died, and killed others.  The vision, the promise, the summons to total dedication and a renewal of man, were, in the full sense, messianic, religious, theological (11). 
This perceptive brilliance comes from just the opening chapter in a little book which was originally the 1974 Massey Lectures.  The whole book is gold.  Steiner's cultural and societal critiques are typically overarching and broad rather than narrow and detailed, which is why they are so applicable and ring so true, for they are critiques of broad movements and the critiques make sense of the overarching way such movements work and think.  I this, Steiner resonates with the spirit of Lewis's statement of why he embraced the Christian faith:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
This is what all 'mythologies' (in Steiner's sense) are trying to do: make us see everything through their lens.  And that is because, no matter what objections people might have to the Christian faith's portrayal of reality, when you remove it you don't succeed in removing the human need to inhabit a narrative and a universe with inherent meaning.

I am grateful to Kevin Vanhoozer, who ten years ago first put me on to George Steiner's work, Real Presences, and who references Steiner many times in two of his works in particular, Is There a Meaning in this Text? and First Theology.   Steiner's insight and wisdom will be missed.