But not for me.
The reason why is simple: I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter if these things are factual, or if they are stories (myths), because they can still be true.
Yes, you read that correctly: fact =/= truth
A myth is not true because it is factual, but because it is meaningful.
Take Job. Do you really think that God and Satan made a bet? Really? I can go along with someone being faithful through enormous difficulty, but the betting part? That never sat very well with me. (And did Satan visit Heaven or did God visit hell do you suppose? Or did they have a bookie somewhere in the middle?)
What about Jonah? Swallowed by a fish? How about the post-fish part, where he was sitting on the hilltop waiting for Ninevah to be destroyed, and the vine grew to shade him (in one afternoon?), and then a worm (one worm?!) came and ate the whole vine (in the same afternoon?) Yes, I believe in miracles...but I'm inclined to say that this one is probably a myth. There is a valuable lesson in the story of Jonah, and actually, because of the unbelievability of it, I think it might be better if taken as a parable. Because if we take it as a parable, then we stop saying "oh that poor guy, stuck in a fish" and instead we say "what is my fish? What is catching my attention to point me toward what I should be doing?" In other words, when we hear parables, we skip the "history lesson" part and move right into the "liken it to myself" part. Which I think is the more important part anyway.
I found an excerpt from CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien that I think expresses this best:
Myths, Lewis told Tolkien, were "lies and therefore worthless."And so I am comfortable with following in a faith, even though there are some things that may appear problematic. In many things I am a literal believer, but I'm also ok with trusting that some things might just be parables, and that they are still useful and valuable and, in fact, TRUTHful, even if they are not factual.
"No," Tolkien replied. "They are not lies." Far from being lies they are the best way — sometimes the only way — of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily toward the true harbor.
That has been very freeing, and helped me maintain faith in the midst of the many conflicting and confusing messages out there.
(My thanks to the several friends, particularly Jared and Genevieve, who helped me sort all this out.)