"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Literally" Worried about the Opinions of Secular Goofballs

This is my comment to Brandon Vogt concerning his interesting post on his blog. Hey, interesting. I would just caution against the idea of worrying about what secular types think though. Keep in mind, they think we are crazy if Gen. 1 is literal or not! And they certainly think we are crazy because of our belief in the literal resurrection. I love Bob Barron, but one thing I have noticed is he is far to worried what people think. They WILL find something to make fun of in scripture, period. Who cares. Also there are non-fundamentalists who make a very well reasoned case for a traditional reading of Gen. 1 and 2. http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Six-Days-Defense-Traditional/dp/1885767625 I would say I am about 75% on the side of a more face value reading. IMO, certainly man must have been created ex nihilo no more than ~6000 years ago. I would not have become Catholic if I could not have kept this belief, unless it could be reasonable explained otherwise. Here is what keeps me with that interpretation (notice it is not a knee jerk literalism) 1. Death would need to occur before the fall for evolution to be true. This is theologically impossible. Adams sin brought death. 2. The genealogies in genesis are given as real history and have very specific years for the men's lives, and when you do the (simple) math, they go back to 4004 BC for the date of Adams creation. This is serious business because it has to do with the line of the messiah. As Catholics we are bound to believe as de fide that Adam and Eve were real people and all humanity descended from them. Did Adam have a "monkey grandpa" that died? Were there other ape-humans that "evolved" alongside Adam but had no soul breathed into them? These options are far more silly to my mind than a more literal reading. I really have not heard an attempt at a good answer to these questions. Also, I caution you with your statement that "The Church says they [the Gospels] weren't meant to be historical accounts but textured Jewish story." I say hogwash to that. I don't think the Church says that, I would love to see a citation, and I think if you reflect on what it would mean if the gospels are just a story it is devastating to Christianity. Of course I don't think you mean it this way, but then why say with the words you did? It is better to default at: A. The gospels are the real history of the incarnation of God, the events recorded are not merely a "story". Default at option A and then explain that the exact wording (Example: "kingdom of heaven" in Matthew and "kingdom of God" in Luke), order of events etc may be not scientifically literal, but that it need not be in that type of literature. But we should not default at "it is not a historical account but a story"! That is so reactionary and unnecessary, and requires much more backtracking to then explain "well, it's not history EXCEPT the resurrection and EXCEPT the miracles and EXCEPT the virgin birth, and EXCEPT the incarnation..." The point is that it is much more history than it is story, it is just not history done in a laboratory. I think what you are saying is they weren't meant to be a police report type record of exactitude. As in it doesn't matter if Jesus went from point A directly to point C or stopped at B in between. The point is He WENT TO POINT C, and going to point C is the historical fact that cant be denied, while the exact CSI type examination of the events order of occurrence and such is not in the writer of the gospels mind and we need to see it as the way that type of literature is legitimately written. OK, assuming this is what you mean, I got ya, the fundamentalists get hung up on that, and that is to their detriment. **BUT**, we need to be way more careful in just saying "it isn't history it's a story" which taken at face value is simply untrue, and really can come close to sounding like blasphemy because it touches on the veracity of the incarnation. (NOT that that is what you or Bob Barron are saying, but I guarantee some listeners of his are thinking "gee I guess the born of a virgin thing and the resurrection are just a feel good story after all, and are not real history and not literal") I know you and him would not want that impression given. Nice blog btw. -Peace to you. PS, if anyones interested, check out the soft, pliable tissue found in a TRex bone. The modren scientific religionists are saying it must have remained soft for MIIIIILLLLLIONS of years! Talk about a miracle!


  1. David:

    Thanks for the response! Here are a few comments:

    1. It IS important what non-Christians think of Christianity. Many serious-minded secularists brush off Christianity not because they've tried it and found it wanting, but because they're convinced it is intellectually shallow. We Christians must have our finger on the pulse of anti-Christian sentiment so that we can mold our message to each distinct audience. This was precisely the mindset of St. Paul, and it must be ours as well. If people believe Christianity is stupid, we need to display its brilliance. If people believe it is prudish, we need to display its profound embrace of sexuality. If people believe it to be anti-science, we need to display its rich academic contributions down through history.

    2. I wouldn't consider the 6,000 year old Earth view the "traditional" view; I would consider it the fundamentalist or literalist view. If you look up and down Catholic tradition, you'll find most great theologians--including most Church fathers and many Church Doctors--saw Genesis 1 in symbolic, poetic terms. Most didn't see the accounts and the OT lineages as straight history (though handfuls did).

    3. I did struggle to find the appropriate words to describe the genre of the Gospels, and I will concede that my words don't adequately explain their narrative. Your interpretation of what I was attempting to say is right on.

    However, I do think you wrongly assume that "story" necessarily means "myth or legend". The Gospels are Jewish "stories" in the sense that they are flowing narratives communicating profound truths, though the particulars of the tale aren't as important as the messages they carry. Jewish storytelling is a genre to its own, with its own nuance and style--something completely unlike our modern biographies.

    My simple point was that the Gospels, as you recognize, were not written to communicate particular historical facts but profound spiritual realities.

    Again, thanks for the comments! I really, really appreciate your thoughtful engagement.

    Your brother,

  2. I got ya. And I agree about the "mars hill" idea of "being all things to all men", of course that is true. I think what I am starting to realize is that both sides are wrong. The fudamentalists and the people who drink the naturalistic coolaid. As a Catholic I have gotten WAY to many blank stares from other Catholics when I bring up basic holes in evolutionary theory or ask the "what about death before the fall" question. But at the same time, they are ready at the drop of a hat to dismiss the "biblical literalism" of the fundamentalists. This seems as blind and gullable as they acuse the fundies of being! I am 100%, without a shread of doubt certain, that nearly every one of these Catholics I have talked to has not a clue as to why people reject evolution and old earth threories. It is knee jerk for them. "scientist all agree..." does not convince us when they deny the ressurection of Christ, yet we roll over instantly (not even considering other theories) when it comes to evolution? Like I said, I'm not dogmatic either way on evolution/age of earth, (neither is the Catholic Church btw, thoug hsome Catholics I have talked to are ignorant of this) and I will conceede evolution for the sake of argument if it is a stumbling block to someones conversion (Mars Hill), but there are real theological issues at stake that require a third option to the blind dogmatism of the fundamentalists and the blind dogmatism of the followers of naturalistic scientism. What that third option (thats tertium quid for the science crowd)is, I don't know.

    Great conversation,

    Peace bro,

    -David Meyer