Thursday, February 11, 2010

Literalists in Good Standing?

A Catholic Blogger recently posted this interesting piece:

"There was a lot of good discussion on my post last week - Friday Fast Fact: The Big Bang Theory. But a few points came up there and in some other responses that are important to clarify and remember as Catholics.

A lot of Christians say that they believe in the biblical Genesis story, rather than the “Big Bang” theory. Of course, such a statement presents a false dichotomy. It implies that the theory of the Big Bang necessarily contradicts the biblical account of creation. That is not true.

Those that believe in a scientifically literal interpretation of the book of Genesis are known as “creationists” or “fundamentalists.” And they can basically hold those views and be in perfectly good standing with the Church. However, we must leave room for other interpretations of Genesis that are still consistent with the doctrine of Jesus’ Church. Especially when the light of reason leads us there.

Read it all here.

According to this Catholic blogger, those who insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 are in good standing with the Church. Actually, the Catholic Church discourages concordism, recognizing the inherent dangers of such an approach. 

Interestingly, the person who has best articulated the dangers of concordism isn't Catholic.  He is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College (Illinois). Here is what he has to say:  "If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology. If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said. It is not just a case of adding meaning (as more information has become available) it is a case of changing meaning. Since we view the text as authoritative, it is a dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say." -- John H. Walton, Ph.D (italics mine)

So the question must be asked:  "Should the Church welcome those who change the meaning of the Bible?"  When gay activists tried to do this in the Episcopal Church, it split apart. 

The Roman Catholic Church is held together by a well organized hierarchy and a traditional of Reason in the interpretation of Scripture. Protestant fundamentalists have no vehicle for unity and I doubt that they care whether the Catholic Church welcomes their literalist views.

To read more, go here.


Rob said...

As I get older, I find that certain things just aren't as important as I thought they were. This is especially true of the whole Genesis, origins, science, religion, evolution, ID , young earth, old earth thing.

I used to live for this stuff. I ate it up like candy. From Phillip E. Johnson to Gerald L. Schroeder to Stephen M. Barr. But recently it has become obvious that this obsession is not a good thing.

When I see supposed Christians speaking poorly of each other because one group believes in a young earth or an old earth or ID, I find myself embarassed. I see this in many blog postings these days.

Such obsession with an issue and the animosity it generates can only distract from where our real focus should be: Christ. Indeed, it only serves to divide the body and weaken it rather than strengthen it.

To me, the most important phrases in Genesis 1 are, "In the beginning, God created..." and "So God created man in his own image..." The rest I don't worry about anymore.

And my focus is better.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Excellent comment, Rob! It is sad that people fight over how Genesis should be interpreted, especially since the book offers so much information that it fairly interprets itself.

Educational psychologists have found that children remember stories better than facts, and this is true universally. The story’s linear action is the most fundamental pattern of mental organization. So it is not surprising that God’s love should be told in story form, beginning in Genesis 1. Sometimes we miss the full scope of the Divine Story by picking it apart.

Rob said...

Thanks much, Ms Linsley. I agree with your observation about stories as well.

Many years ago I read a book by John Crossan called "The Dark Interval." It had to do with creating a theology of story. Not the easiest read, but he wrote something I'll never forget. It had to do with humans living in stories the way fish live in the sea.

Probably one of the truest things he ever wrote!