We came home from church this morning. It was impressive. The dramatic presentation of the Resurrection showed one of the guys in church dressed in a white robe, portraying Jesus. I'm not quite comfortable with actors dressing like Jesus in a worship service.
A while later I'm talking to my wife, Mary. She said, "What do you small children think when they see Jesus and think that he goes to their church?"
I replied immediately. "Same thing they think when they see Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny in the mall."
I think that gets to the nub of my discomfort. I never taught my kids to believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. I try to keep myths and history separate.
I'm told that Karl Barth was asked by some students, "Did the snake speak?" Referring to the garden of Eden and the part of the story where Eve is tempted. Talking animals are the stuff of myth. The students obviously didn't believe the Bible was history and they braced Barth at this point. He replied, "What did the snake say?" I think Barth was trying to get at the notion that there's some epistemic middle ground between myth and history. I don't know, call it "useful metaphor."
Nevertheless, I'm not completely comfortable with this business of having an actor portray Christ. I suppose Barth's strategy is useful when dealing with people who can't quite believe the historicity of the Bible. Maybe the utility of the metaphor will buy credibility until someone is ready to believe the Bible's historicity. At least, that's what I hope.