by Dr. Tom Snyder, PhD.
Joseph Campbell “didn’t have an ideology or a theology,” claims reporter Bill Moyers in his 1988 The Power of Myth television series, frequently broadcast on PBS stations across America. During the six hours of intense interviews with the late mythologist, however, Campbell proves Moyers wrong.
The supposedly non-existent theology of Campbell permeates current American religious discussion. Campbell has perhaps more influence on current American religious thought than any other contemporary writer. His books fill the religion sections of major bookstore chains; are required reading in most college and university religion, literature, and philosophy courses; and have become handbooks of spirituality to the New Agers, neo-pagans, Gaia environmentalists, and 1990s religious dabblers.
Joseph Campbell did indeed have an ideology and a theology. At one point in the PBS interviews, for example, he ridicules the Judeo-Christian belief in a bodily resurrection by calling it “a clown act, really.” He then says that immortality should instead be seen as a mystical identification with the eternal things in our present lives. If this isn’t an ideology or a theology, then what is?
Campbell against Christianity
Throughout the six hour-long programs, Campbell bitterly attacks the historical theology of orthodox Christianity and its accompanying moral code. He also peddles a pantheistic, subjective view of God and religious experience. Moyers disclaimer is simply not true. Consider the following quotes from The Power of Myth:
What was proper fifty years ago is not proper today. The virtues of the past are the vices of today. And many of what were thought to be the vices of the past are the necessities of today. The moral order has to catch up with the moral necessities of actual life in time, here and now.I have a feeling that consciousness and energy are the same thing somehow. Where you really see life energy, there’s consciousness. Certainly the vegetable world is conscious. You can see it in the Bible. In the beginning, God was simply the most powerful god among many. He is just a local tribal god. We have today to learn to get back into accord with the wisdom of nature and realize again our brotherhood with the animals and with the water and the sea.
The transcendent is unknowable and unknown. God is transcendent, finally, of anything like the name “God.” God is beyond names and forms . . . . The mystery of life is beyond all human conception . . . . We always think in terms of opposites. But God, the ultimate, is beyond the pairs of opposites . . . . Eternity is beyond all categories of thought . . . . God is a thought. God is a name. God is an idea. But its reference is to something that transcends all thinking. The ultimate mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought.
When you see that God is the creation, and that you are a creature, you realize that God is within you, and in the man or woman with whom you are talking, as well.
There’s a transcendent energy source . . . . That energy is the informing energy of all things. Mythic worship is addressed to that. That old man up there has been blown away. You’ve got to find the Force inside you. [Your life comes] from the ultimate energy that is the life of the universe. And then do you say, “Well, there must be somebody generating that energy?” Why do you have to say that? Why can’t the ultimate mystery be impersonal?”
There are two ways of thinking “I am God.” If you think, “I here, in my physical presence and in my temporal character, am God,” then you are mad and have short-circuited the experience. You are God, but not in your ego, but in your deepest being, where you are at one with the non-dual transcendent.
These quotes show how Campbell’s theology of impersonal pantheism permeates the entire The Power of Myth series. His theology seems to be a cross between eternal permeational pantheism “in which a oneness like a Life Force underlies and permeates all that is real” and changing, modal pantheism which “teaches that each individual thing [or person] is a mode or modification of God.” As such, it contains an inherent contradiction or inconsistency which destroys its own validity.
If God is an impersonal energy force that transcends all categories of human thought, then God transcends even that description and the concept of God becomes empty of all meaning whatsoever. As David Clark and Norman Geisler point out in Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism, applying specific attributes such as love or power to God does not limit God if you believe those attributes are infinite. Campbell tries to get beyond Judeo-Christian concepts of a personal God, but he sets up his own category of impersonality at the same time that he rejects the use of such categories. It is illogical to say that God transcends categories like personality, but then to turn around and claim that God is an impersonal, transcendent energy source. Campbell thus clearly contradicts himself.
If God is the ultimate mystery that lies beyond all categories of thought, then why does Campbell sometimes use human reason to defend his pantheistic view of God? If the transcendent is unknowable, as he says, then how does he know that it is unknowable? To call God an infinite mystery which can’t be grasped by the human mind avoids “rational responsibility,” is self-defeating, and shows that Campbell’s theology has deep logical flaws.
The Hebrew-Christian Bible teaches that God is a person who transcends the space and time of the material universe. Viewed as such, God is separate from His Creation. He is the divine foundation of all the rational categories which Campbell wants to reduce into one all- encompassing concept or force. Campbell may wish to deny the universal validity of these rational categories of the mind, but without them he defeats the rational plausibility of his own arguments.
Personal consciousness is not the same thing as energy. Only an Intelligent Designer with a personal, conscious, and rational mind or spirit could create a universe which includes other personal, conscious, and rational minds.
When it suits his purposes, Campbell uses reason, science, and history to refute religious beliefs he doesn’t like, but when it comes to some of his own mystical beliefs, his test for truth often changes and becomes purely subjective. Such a shift seems plainly dishonest to me. Furthermore, I have yet to find one thing which Campbell says against the Bible that can’t be refuted by looking at the actual scientific, historic, and rational evidence or by reading the text in its proper context. Despite all of his criticisms, the biblical record stands intact. (See the bibliography at the end of this booklet for a list of sources which defend the reliability of the Bible.)
Campbell’s Absolute Relativism
Campbell says that anyone who believes in only one ultimate truth, or in only one way to God, is narrow minded and wrong. But his own statements about this are themselves a belief in only one truth. Therefore, they contradict themselves. Campbell’s belief that pluralism is an absolute truth leads him to do the same thing of which he accuses conservative Christians.
In trying to rid the world of one dogma, then, Campbell simply invents a new one. Although he sometimes claims to support an “open,” pluralistic approach to religion and morality, he strongly disagrees with those people who don’t share his own narrow beliefs. He berates others for being dogmatic, but he himself is often guilty of the same thing.
Not everything Campbell says is wrong, however. He actually says some provocative things about what makes a hero.
In the first interview with Moyers, for example, Campbell notes that one of the acts which a hero does is to sacrifice himself for another person, a people, or an idea. We can apply this principle to Jesus Christ, who becomes the ultimate hero because He is the first and only person in history who sacrifices himself to redeem the whole human race from the bondage of sin. Using Campbell’s own method of interpretation, we can thus affirm the unique, comprehensive quality of Christian theology.
Even so, Campbell’s method leads him to make many false statements and unsound arguments that many Christians and other thinking people will find offensive. This problem seriously damages the credibility of all the things he says which may be true.
Before I became a Christian, I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in mythology, Campbell’s field, at Northwestern University. The title of my dissertation was Sacred Encounters: The Myth of the Hero in the Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy Films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Although Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was one of the primary inspirations for my dissertation, I also used other scholars for my research, such as religious historian Mircea Eliade, literary scholars Northrop Frye and Vladimir Propp, anthropologists Claude Levi-Strauss and Victor W. Turner, psychologists Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and James Hillman, and New Age philosopher Ken Wilber. Except for Wilber, Freud, Hillman, and perhaps Levi-Strauss, the other scholars I used were, on the whole, more sympathetic to Christianity than Joseph Campbell. In fact, if it weren’t for some of the things they said in support of Christian theology, I might still be waiting for my salvation.
Unlike Campbell and other scholars, I don’t use the word mythology to undermine the historical truth of the Christian faith. To me the word is a convenient term to describe the stories which any society tells its people. These stories may also have significance for people in other cultures. They may be historical, and even scientific, or they may be pure fantasy.
By limiting the concept of myth to the symbolic level, Campbell makes all religions, including Christianity, purely subjective. By completely separating myth from all notions of historical truth, Campbell stacks the deck in favor of his own theological world view.
Historian of religion Mircea Eliade doesn’t believe a historian can even discuss the historical truth of the Resurrection and the other miracles that Jesus did. Still, he generally accepts the truth of the other events surrounding Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of the Christian church, as described by the New Testament documents. So why does Campbell almost totally reject their historical truth? The answer is that Campbell has an ax to grind. And that ax is aimed directly at the head of the historical Jesus.
The Power of Myth series and its accompanying book are filled with logical fallacies, factual errors, hysterical attacks on orthodox Christianity, a blind acceptance of Eastern mysticism, and an almost knee-jerk reaction against the Bible.
Campbell makes two critical mistakes throughout his work: he violates basic rules of logic, and his omits factual evidence which does not fit his pet theories.
Campbell’s Reductionist Fallacy
One of his main faults is his tendency to water down the differences between the major world religions. In logic this error is sometimes called the “reductionist fallacy” — a difference that makes no difference is really no difference at all.
Under Campbell’s crafty manipulation, polytheism, monotheism, and the occult all become pantheistic in character. Pantheism is the belief that the whole universe and everything in it are part of a divine, impersonal force or consciousness.
Campbell often takes religious stories and forces them to fit his pantheistic world view. He even does this with the Bible.
For example, in The Power of Myth he compares the serpent in the Garden of Eden with “immortal energy and consciousness engaged in the field of time, constantly throwing off death and being born again.” This pantheistic image sounds Hinduistic. It may be what the snake represents in Campbell’s theology, but the biblical text makes no such comparison.
During the interviews, Campbell and Moyers turn the Judeo-Christian concept of “love thy neighbor” into a pantheistic view of morality where we are supposed to “love thy neighbor as thyself because thy neighbor is thyself.” Not only am I and my neighbor one, but God and I are also one in Campbell’s religion. Man is not made in the image of God, according to Campbell, man is God.
It is common for Campbell to make the idea of God into a kind of pantheistic dualism whereby God becomes an impersonal, transcendent principle with a good side and an evil side. Although Campbell often preaches compassion for one’s fellow human beings, he also says, “Everything arises in mutual relation to everything else, so you can’t blame anybody for anything.”
Campbell’s morality is so fuzzy at times that he fails to make any distinction whatsoever between the animal sacrifices of the Bible and the human sacrifices of pagan societies. In fact, he often reports glowingly on the horrible religious practices of such pagans. At one point, he even compares a horrible cannibal sacrifice of a young man and a young woman in a primitive tribe from New Guinea with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and the Eucharist! Adding insult to injury, he ignores the idea of Jesus Christ dying for our sins and changes it into some kind of mystical at-one-ment where people and God the Father become One.
Who are we to judge these pagan societies, says Campbell. But who is Campbell that he should judge the religious beliefs and practices of Jews and Christians, as he so often does?
Campbell’s Rejection of the Virgin Birth
One of the most significant factual errors Campbell makes in The Power of Myth is his statement on page 173 that the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is really a belief which originates from Greek mythology. J. Gresham Machen proved this idea false in 1930 in The Virgin Birth of Christ. As Machen points out, all pagan stories about miraculous births are not really virgin births. Either the god or gods have sex with human beings or the human father participates in some kind of sexual union with the mother. The virgin birth of Christ is completely different.
Critics of the virgin birth have never been able to explain the origin of this Christian belief, says Machen. In fact, they can’t even agree among themselves on any one theory for its origin. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a unique event with no known previous parallel in religious literature, unless one counts Isaiah 7:14.
Campbell sometimes personifies the image of Nature, and even the earth itself, into a divine, conscious organism from whom everything, including man, evolves. “We are the fruits of an intelligent earth,” says Campbell. To him, paradise exists in the here and now, and mankind already lives in a wonderful, magnificent garden. The key to enjoying the bliss of this garden is to rise above the suffering of this world by becoming one with the God within you.
This ecology myth excited Campbell so much that he often mentions it as the one myth which modern society should wholeheartedly embrace. We can see echoes of this kind of thinking in the Gaia myth that permeates some New Age and environmentalist groups.
Contrary to what Campbell preaches in The Power of Myth series, the Bible does not teach us to loathe Nature, nor does it tell us to take all the joy out of our present life. The Bible teaches respect for God’s creation. It shows us how to put the love and joy of God into a fallen world full of evil and sinful people.
Campbell and Evolution
In his previous writings, Campbell uses theories of evolution to make all kinds of unfounded claims about the history of religion, but in The Power of Myth book Campbell notes that “until you have writing, you don’t know what people were thinking.” This contradicts what he said in his other books, where he constantly tells the reader what early man thought and believed before writing was invented. According to the 1989 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and other secular sources, Neanderthal Man, who may have been a special race of Homo Sapiens, lived approximately 35-85,000 years ago during an intense period of Ice Ages.
These dates refute Campbell’s position in his earlier works, where he placed the Neanderthal period all the way back to 200,000 years ago. Campbell, to my knowledge, never admitted this gross error or even mentioned the new dates for the Neanderthals. Like many evolutionists before him, Campbell wrongly tried to make Neanderthal Man a separate species of human being who “evolved” into modern man, or Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
In his earlier works, Campbell also makes all sorts of claims for the religious culture of Homo Erectus, a “hominid” species who supposedly lived before Homo Sapiens. The above quotes about writing in The Power of Myth book, however, seem to indicate he eventually stopped believing this nonsense.
There really is no evidence of any religious activity among Homo Erectus or any of the other hominid species prior to Homo Erectus. In fact, according to Britannica, experts now believe that some of these hominids are more related to apes than they are to Homo Sapiens. Homo Erectus actually has unique features that neither apes nor humans share. Britannica even states (18:955-956) that there is very little, if any, evidence of evolution from Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens.
If you lean toward the view that the six days of creation in Genesis one cannot be interpreted to mean six twenty-four hour days, as several conservative scholars do, then all of this evidence seems to match the biblical account. Most secular scholars now believe that Homo Sapiens entered the world between 150-250,000 years ago, but the first examples of modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) don’t appear until 30-40,000 years ago.
It is possible that the dates for Neanderthal Man have been inflated erroneously by secular scientists, but it may also be possible that the Flood in Genesis occurred before the Neanderthal period, followed by the Ice Ages already mentioned. The facial structure of Neanderthal Man is very similar to that of the Eskimo, whose facial bones have been formed due to the tough diet endured in the frozen north. This fact has led many scientists to consider Neanderthals a special race of Homo Sapiens.
Even if we accept this possibility, however, Britannica says that “little can be confidently inferred about Neanderthal beliefs and rituals.” Some Christians in fact believe it is more likely that Neanderthal Man was a pre-Adamic race unrelated to human beings, and that Adam was not created until 12-30,000 years ago. And indeed, modern anthropologists don’t record the concrete existence of any religious artifacts until those dates.
Most anthropologists date the earliest known religious artifacts 8-24,000 years ago. According to C. Simon, the oldest known religious shrine dates about 14,000 years ago. “Evidence of religious ritual” in cave paintings, decorated objects, and apparent burial offerings older than this date “has been difficult to justify,” adds Simon. Once again, secular sources refute Campbell’s fanciful theories.
Recent studies demonstrate that some species of apes can make tools, show affection, are capable of cannibalism, can talk to humans in sign language and even lie to them, and can use a camera, but evidence of such intelligence does not prove humanity, much less any true spiritual or moral capacity. As conservative scholar Gleason L. Archer notes, “There may have been advanced and intelligent hominids who lived and died before Adam, but they were not created in the image of God . . . . there is no archeological evidence of a true human soul having animated their bodies.”
Primitive Ethical Monotheism
Using the idea of evolution, Campbell claims that ethical monotheism is a late development in man’s history. Anthropologists have long abandoned this evolutionary theory of human religion. If anything, there is strong evidence that the first religion of early man was a primitive type of ethical monotheism where the first primitive societies worshipped a benevolent, celestial god similar to the God of the Bible. The earliest examples of human writing indicate that, in several different cultures, this monotheism degenerated into a gross polytheism where people in those cultures took the attributes of the one true God and scattered them among an increasing array of deities and demi-gods.
This evidence seems to confirm the description of man’s religious activity in the first few chapters of Genesis. It also seems to match what Paul says about the religions of men in chapter one of Romans.
One of the most prominent advocates of primitive ethical monotheism was Father Wilhelm Schmidt, whose book The Origin of Religion was published in America in the 1930s. Ironically, Campbell mentions Father Schmidt’s work in the 1959 edition of his four volume set The Masks of God, but he never talks about Schmidt’s evidence for primitive monotheism, which contradicts Campbell’s own theories. Campbell is not the only secular scholar guilty of such convenient memory lapses when it comes to Schmidt’s work.
For example, both social anthropologist Edward Evans- Pritchard in Theories of Primitive Religion, originally published in 1965, and Charles Joseph Adams in “The Study and Classification of Religion” in Britannica discuss the criticisms which scholar R. Pettazoni leveled at Schmidt’s work. Pettazoni claimed, among other things, that the ethical monotheism found in primitive cultures was far different than the more advanced ethical monotheism found in later societies. Neither Evans-Pritchard nor Adams, however, discuss Father Schmidt’s own criticisms of Pettazoni’s work. Their neglect makes me seriously question the academic objectivity and skills which they bring to Schmidt’s work.
Be that as it may, it is not really necessary for Christians or Jews to prove that the very first religion of mankind was ethical monotheism. All we need to show is that ethical monotheism goes back in history as far as any other known spiritual or religious idea. This is exactly what the work of Schmidt and other proves.
Even Evans-Pritchard himself notes that most anthropologists have abandoned all evolutionary schemes for the historical development of religion. Campbell’s work must therefore be considered completely out of the mainstream of modern anthropology at least as far back as 1962 when Evans-Pritchard gave the lectures on which his book is based!
Throughout his work, Campbell assumes that the Bible teaches, at most, a 6,000 year old creation and a flat earth, but he never mentions the fact that such an interpretation was not taught by the church before Columbus. In fact, the 6,000 year date itself was not taught until the 17th century. Even today’s creation scientists who believe in the “young earth” theory don’t accept a strict 6,000 year old date for the origin of the earth. By telling us his way is the only way to interpret the biblical text, Campbell becomes more dogmatic about the interpretation of the Bible than all but the most extreme Christians.
Campbell’s Rejection of the Bible
As I noted earlier, Campbell constantly attacks the historicity of the scriptures.
In Myths to Live By, he uncritically accepts the documentary hypothesis, which rejects the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible on spurious literary critical grounds. Yet he doesn’t give one shred of evidence from the many conservative scholars who have successfully challenged this theory. As a scholar who favors fairness and objectivity, especially in controversial matters, I find this dishonest.
In The Power of Myth book and interviews, he calls the gospels “contradictory,” but he gives no evidence for this broad generalization. I doubt he ever saw John W. Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible or Gleason L. Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, much less read them. If he had, would he have cited them? Probably not.
In Flight of the Wild Gander, Campbell emotionally lambasts the eyewitness testimony of the Second Epistle of Peter, whose authorship by Peter is strongly questioned by liberal scholars, but he completely ignores other evidence from the New Testament, such as 1 Corinthians 15. The authorship and historicity of this passage is beyond question. In it the Apostle Paul presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s physical resurrection and sacrificial atonement for our sins. It is an eyewitness testimony which Paul claims to have received from the risen Jesus and from Peter and James when he visited them in Jerusalem in A.D. 36-38 Campbell also fails to mention (in Flight of the Wild Gander and elsewhere) the historical evidence for Luke’s Gospel and the book of Acts, for Matthew, Mark, and John, and for Paul’s other writings. (See the list of “Books that Defend Historic Christianity” in the Bibliography.)
Once again, Campbell stacks the deck in his favor and against historical Christianity. In effect, he has censored reliable evidence which refutes his own subjective theories. This distortion of the facts is very dangerous because it may deceive unwary readers and viewers who might be inclined to accept Campbell’s credentials, and Bill Moyers’ “integrity,” at face value.
Despite all of this subterfuge, Campbell admits in The Power of Myth that “the sayings of Jesus [recorded in the Bible] are probably pretty close to the originals,” but then he says that “the main teaching” of Jesus is “love your enemies.” And how do we love our enemies, according to Campbell’s interpretation? By getting rid of the mote in our own eyes instead of plucking the splinter from our enemy’s eye.
Here we can see the real danger of Campbell’s theology. The “main teaching” of Jesus is not “love your enemies,” although Jesus does indeed command us to do that. No, the main teaching of Jesus is that people everywhere should repent of their sins and believe in Him as their personal, divine savior. A simple reading of the first twenty verses of Mark, the entire gospel of John, or the last chapter of Matthew will make this message clear. Worse than this, however, is Campbell’s statement: “No one is in a position to disqualify his enemy’s way of life.” Here, Campbell takes a clear teaching of Jesus and perverts it into an agenda for complete moral relativism.
For the sake of seeming “tolerant” and being popular, Campbell apparently would let evil people choose whatever lifestyle they wish. In saying this, however, he is in fact disqualifying the ethical validity of anyone who makes moral judgments about other people. By morally judging those who morally judge, Campbell makes himself a hypocrite.
This is not the kind of “love” Jesus Christ talks about in the biblical text. When Jesus say “love your enemies,” he is not commanding us to accept or approve the lifestyles of wicked people. And when Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” recorded in Matthew 7:1, he doesn’t mean that we should never make moral judgments, but that they be based on God’s word in the scriptures. He is telling us to be careful how we judge and to realized that we too can and will be judged.
Contrary to what relativists like Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers (a theologically liberal Christian) might think, Christians have a moral duty to expose the evil deeds people do, including our own. Evil is judged not subjectively, but by the standards God has revealed in scripture. We also have an obligation to give people God’s solution to the problem of evil and the bondage of sin — Jesus Christ’s message of salvation.
Joseph Campbell had a God-given right to believe what he wanted, even if that belief was false. He also had the right to use logical fallacies, to play word games, and to distort the facts in order to defend his belief.
Contrary to Moyers’ dogmatic statement, Campbell most certainly had a theology. He tried to enforce his own ideology and morality on other people. Joseph Campbell was, in fact, one of the most opinionated myth scholars and lay theologians in the world. His open hostility toward orthodox Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, not to mention his emotional attacks on Judaism and Islam is plain to see. Unfortunately, Bill Moyers, PBS, and scores of literature, philosophy, and religion professors appear blind to these facts. Instead, they continue to propagate his own prejudiced theology under the guise of relativism and openness.
The Gospel of John warns, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Come out of the darkness and into the light. Recognize Joseph Campbell for what he was, an articular, charismatic literary critic and dedicated pantheist/mystic who spent his life dabbling in research, writing books, and giving lecture and interviews supporting his own moral and religious beliefs.
Recognize Jesus Christ for who and what He was: Not a clown in charge of some circus, nor a madman in charge of an asylum, nor a fool leading his followers the way to dusty death; but the only begotten Son of the Most High, Living God, the Son who died for our sins and who redeems us from those sins, the God of Truth, Justice, and Love who is the source of all goodness and who gives eternal life to all people who honestly seek Him.
Above all, let’s recognize these truths by looking at the logical and factual evidence for and against them, not by casting unfounded aspersions against those who disagree with us, and not by making mystical declarations that tickle the ears of those untrained in the basic rules of logic, appealing to the arbitrary feelings and capricious whims of people with an ax to grind.
We must accurately perceive truth so that we can proceed in truth. It is only when we see the truth correctly that we truly be able to love our neighbors as ourselves and find the bliss that God has waiting for us. —– (C)1991, Dr. Tom Snyder
Contact your local college or university that uses Campbell’s books as texts. Ask the professor, department, and administration to drop the books as texts.
Recommend objective materials on religion, Christianity, and myth to your local college or university.
Learn more about the facts and truth of Christianity. Be ready to share with those who have been unfairly influenced by Campbell’s writings.
Check your local bookstores. Suggest responsible titles to stock along with or in place of Campbell’s books.
Check your local libraries. Suggest responsible titles to accompany or replace Campbell’s books. Donate a copy of this book.
Commit yourself to truth. Communicate that truth to others.
Books by Joseph Campbell:
The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension. South Bend, IN: Regnery/Gateway, 1979.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.
The Masks of God. London: Penguin Books, 1976, four volumes.
The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Books on Mythology and Comparative Religion:
Brandewie, Ernest. Wilhelm Schmidt and the Origin of the Idea of God. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983. (An excellent resource.)
Eliade, Mircea. Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. New York: Harper and Row, 1959.
A History of Religious Ideas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, three volumes. (Although Eliade sometimes engages in subjective speculation, he gives an excellent secular overview of this broad topic.)
Myth and Reality. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.
Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth. New York: Harper and Row, 1975. (The title may be misleading. The book is not an argument in favor of reincarnation.)
The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. New York: Harcourt, 1959.
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Theories of Primitive Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Leach, Edmund. Claude Levi-Strauss. New York: Penguin Books, 1980.
McConnell, Frank. Storytelling and Mythmaking: Images from Film and Literature. London: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Montgomery, John Warwick, ed. Myth, Allegory, and Gospel. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1975.
Schmidt, Wilhelm. The Origin of Religion. New York: Cooper Square, 1971 ed.
Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier. Middletown, CN: Weslyan University Press, 1973.
Turner, Victor W. Dramas, Fields and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1974. (The late Victor W. Turner is one of the greatest anthropologists of the twentieth century. I cannot guarantee that he always, or even mostly, spoke the truth, but if anyone deserved a six-part series on television about myth, it was this man, certainly not Joseph Campbell.)
The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967.
From Ritual to Theatre. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982.
“Myth and Symbol,” The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. David L. Sills, ed. New York: Macmillan, 1968, 10:576-582. (This is one of the shortest, and perhaps the best, overviews of myth ever written.)
The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti- Structure. Chicago: Aldine Publishers, 1969.
Van Gennep, Arnold. The Rites of Passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. (Originally written in the early 1900s, this seminal book talks about the three stages of initiation rituals or rites of passage: separation, transition, and incorporation. Many myth scholars use Van Gennep’s theory, including Eliade, Turner, and Campbell, but Turner seems to mention it the most.)
Wilber, Ken. No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications, 1979. (A Buddhist, Wilber is the myth “scholar” closest in temperament to Joseph Campbell. His kind of thinking has infected both the New Age and secular societies.)
Christian Books on Evolution and Science:
Geisler, Norman L. and J. Kerby Anderson. Origin Science: A Proposal for the Creation-Evolution Controversy. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.
Hummel, Charles. Creation or Evolution? Resolving the Crucial Issues. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989.
The Galileo Connection: Resolving Conflicts between Science and the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986.
Moreland, J. P. Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.
Poythress, Vern S. Science and Hermeneutics: Implications of Scientific Method for Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1988.
Ramm, Bernard. The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954.
Ross, Hugh. <The Fingerprint of God. Orange, CA: Promise Publications, 1989.
Wilder-Smith, A. E. Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny: A Critical Survey of the Principles of Evolution and Christianity. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1975.
The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution. Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today Publishers, n.d.
The Scientific Alternative to Neo- Darwinian Evolutionary Theory. Costa Mesa: The Word for Today Publishers, n.d.
Books that Defend Historic Christianity:
Allis, Oswald T. The Five Books of Moses. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1949.
Archer, Gleason L. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1982.
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985. (Like the book by Oswald T. Allis above, Archer’s book totally devastates secular theories about how the first books of the Bible were written. In defending the Mosaic authorship, they undermine much of what Joseph Campbell says about the Bible.)
Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987. (This is a must book in any library.)
Clark, David K. and Norman L. Geisler. Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990.
Cotterell, Peter and Max Turner. Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989. (This is a new book, very contemporary, but one that gives solid principles of biblical interpretation. By reading such books, both Christians and non-Christians will begin to see why Campbell’s subjective method of interpretation is so bad.)
Custance, Arthur C. The Doorway Papers. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1976 (Vol. IV).
Geisler, Norman L. Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989 edition. (This is one of the best books defending the Christian faith. The only book which perhaps surpasses it is The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim by Stuart C. Hackett. For ways in which to combine Geisler’s view with Hackett’s, contact Bob and Gretchen Passantino, Answers In Action, P. O. Box 2067, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.)
Winfried Corduan. Philosophy of Religion. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988 edition.
and William E. Nix. From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974 and William D. Watkins. Worlds Apart: A Handbook of World Views. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989 edition.
Habermas, Gary. The Verdict of History: Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988. (Highly recommended.)
Hackett, Stuart C. The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim: A Philosophical and Critical Apologetic. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984. (This is the most complete defense of historic Christianity I have read. If one takes this book and the books by Allis, Archer, Geisler, Habermas, Lewis, Machen, McDowell, Montgomery, and Moreland listed in this section, one can answer most objections non- Christians have about the New Testament testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For help in doing such a task, contact Bob and Gretchen Passantino of Answers In Action, P.O. Box 2067, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.)
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan, 1952. (A classic work.)
Machen, J. Gresham. The Origin of Paul’s Religion. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1947. (Another classic work that refutes secular theories of the alleged pagan roots of Christianity.)
The Virgin Birth of Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985.
McDowell, Josh and Bill Wilson. He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1988.
Mickelsen, A. Berkeley. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989. (A classic work that gives solid principles of how to interpret, or explain the meaning of, the Bible.)
Montgomery, John Warwick. Human Rights & Human Dignity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1986. (Pages 131-160 give a short, but brilliant, defense of the Christian faith.)
Where Is History Going? Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1969. (Another good defense.)
Moreland, J. P. Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987. (This is a philosophical, but highly readable, argument in favor of historic Christianity.)
Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970 (third edition).
Silva, Moises. Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1983. (This book has some important things to say about biblical interpretation and how to determine the meaning of words.)
Terry, Milton S. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1974 printing. (This is a classic defense of traditional methods of biblical interpretation.)
Young, Warren C. A Christian Approach to Philosophy. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954. (Young’s book is perhaps the best of its kind. It’s also highly readable.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Snyder teaches writing, philosophy, aesthetics, social science, and film at National University in Southern California. He taught aesthetics and media criticism at Southern California College and film at Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in film studies in 1984.
Snyder worked as a journalist and public relations editor. He did post-doctoral research in Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf School of Law and currently studies apologetics, theology, and philosophy at Christ Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Costa Mesa, California. Snyder’s article on the biblical doctrine of faith versus works was published in 1989. His latest work is a new book from Baker books just released in January of 1995, Myth Conceptions, Joseph Campbell and the New Age. He enjoys writing about film and politics, and has published many short articles on those subjects in magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias. He lives with his wife, Jan, and two cats in Tustin, California. Tom would like to have a pet dog, but the cats decided that wasn’t a good idea.