image: detail: Mother and Child by the Sea, Jozef Israëls
I have been reading We make the road by walking by Brian D. McLaren (Hodder and Stoughton, 2014). Here is a quotation from it. I will not comment further; he makes the point so well.
A little girl once asked her mother if the Bible story of Elijah flying to heaven on a chariot of fire was ‘real or pretend’. How would you have answered here question?
You might try to explain that sometimes a ‘pretend’ story can tell more truth and do more good than a ‘real’ one—as Jesus’ parables exemplify so powerfully. You might explain how real stories are often embellished with pretend elements. Or you might respond as that little girl’s wise mother did: ‘That’s a great question! Some stories are real, some are pretend, and some of the very best ones use a mix of both reality and make-believe to tell us something important. What do you think about the Elijah story?’ The mother’s answer didn’t tell the little girl what to think. It invited her to think — as a bona fide member of the interpretive community.