Category Archives: Scripture

What is Sola Scriptura?

Sola-Scriptura

joel_peters
-by Joel Peters

“”We believe in the Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety as the sole rule of faith for the Christian!”

You may have heard these words or something very similar to them from a Fundamentalist or Evangelical Protestant. They are, in essence, the meaning of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture alone,” which alleges that the Bible – as interpreted by the individual believer – is the only source of religious authority and is the Christian’s sole rule of faith or criterion regarding what is to be believed. By this doctrine, which is one of the foundational beliefs of Protestantism, a Protestant denies that there is any other source of religious authority or divine Revelation to humanity.

The Catholic, on the other hand, holds that the immediate or direct rule of faith is the teaching of the Church; the Church in turn takes her teaching from the divine Revelation – both the written Word, called Sacred Scripture, and the oral or unwritten Word, known as “Tradition.” The teaching authority or “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church (headed by the Pope), although not itself a source of divine Revelation, nevertheless has a God-given mission to interpret and teach both Scripture and Tradition. Scripture and Tradition are the sources of Christian doctrine, the Christian’s remote or indirect rule of faith

Obviously these two views on what constitutes the Christian’s rule of faith are opposed to each other, and anyone who sincerely seeks to follow Christ must be sure that he follows the one that is true.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura originated with Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and started the Protestant “Reformation.” (1) in response to some abuses that had been occurring within the Catholic Church, Luther became a vocal opponent of certain practices.

As far as these abuses were concerned, they were real and Luther was justified in reacting. However, as a series of confrontations between him and the Church hierarchy developed, the issues became more centered on the question of Church authority and – from Luther’s perspective – whether or not the teaching of the Catholic Church was a legitimate rule of faith for Christians.

As the confrontations between Luther and the Church’s hierarchy ensued and tensions mounted, Luther accused the Catholic Church of having corrupted Christian doctrine and having distorted Biblical truths, and he more and more came to believe that the Bible, as interpreted by the individual believer, was the only true religious authority for a Christian. He eventually rejected Tradition as well as the teaching authority of the Catholic Church (with the Pope at its head) as having legitimate religious authority.

An honest inquirer must ask, then, whether Luther’s doctrine of “Scripture alone” was a genuine restoration of a Biblical truth or rather the promulgation of an individual’s personal views on Christian authority. Luther was clearly passionate about his beliefs, and he was successful in spreading them, but these facts in and of themselves do not guarantee that what he taught was correct. Since one’s spiritual well-being, and even one’s eternal destiny, is at stake, the Christian believer needs to be absolutely sure in this matter.

Following are twenty-one considerations which will help the reader scrutinize Luther’s doctrine of Sola Scriptura from Biblical, historical and logical bases and which show that it is not in fact a genuine Biblical truth, but rather a man-made doctrine.”

Love, Faith, and Works,
Matthew

(1) To the Catholic mind, the Protestant Reformation was not a reform in the true sense of the word, the way Catholics understand the word, but rather it was a revolution – an upheaval of the legitimate, established religious and civil order of the day.

Psalm 51 – Miserere

pornography

Allegri’s “Miserere” was only sung at the #Vatican for 200 yrs, until young Mozart transcribed it.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your unfailing love;
according to Your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Against You, You alone, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight;
so You are right in Your verdict
and justified when You judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb;
You taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to You.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
You Who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.
May it please You to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then You will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on Your altar.

Holy_Water_Font_Miserere
-Miserere inscribed in holy water font

Love,
Matthew

The first beatitude & Protestantism

14167-blessed_is_she_luke145_ibelieve

marcellino-d'ambrosio
-by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, PhD

“The Beatitudes rank high on the list of all-time favorite Bible passages. But what is “beatitude,” anyway? In the bible, a “blessed” person is someone who has received gifts of the greatest value, gifts that lead to true fulfillment and lasting happiness.

If I were to ask you to name the first beatitude, you’d probably say “blessed be the poor in Spirit.” According to St. Matthew’s gospel you’d be right, but not according to Luke. At the very beginning of his gospel, Luke reveals that the very first beatitude is uttered by a woman filled with the Spirit, speaking of another woman overshadowed by the Spirit. Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed.” (Luke 1: 45).

Is Marian devotion important in Christian life? This has been a bone of contention between Christians for nearly five hundred years.

Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke. First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:29). Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.” Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that provide the key to understanding why Mary is to be honored, namely, her faith.

One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!” One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works . . . that rather we receive His love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.

Now consider Mary. Did she crisscross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul? Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7)? Did she govern the Church like Peter? No. Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God. She believed He could do as He said and would do as He said.

But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such. Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to His will. That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). Mary surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan. And she did this not once, but again and again, even when He left her behind to begin His public ministry. And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, Mary’s faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.

So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue. Ironic isn’t it? And the deepest meaning of that disputed doctrine, the Immaculate Conception, is that it was the grace of God working mysteriously from the moment of her conception that made possible Mary’s exemplary life of faith. Even her faith is a gift of His grace. It’s all grace, according to Catholic doctrine.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary, of course, knew this. That’s why she responded to Elizabeth’s praise with the humble, exuberant prayer known as the Magnificat: She is like the crystal-clear pool that reflects the sun’s rays back to the heavens. So no one needs to fear that honor given her will detract from the majesty of her divine Son. She deflects all the praise given her right back to God, the source of her greatness.

So the answer is that Marian devotion is necessary in Christian life. But what is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council? Not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition, but rather, imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith (Lumen Gentium 67).”

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,
quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies
timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;
deposuit potentes de sede
et exaltavit humiles;
esurientes implevit bonis
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
recordatus misericordiae,
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in Saecula saeculorum. Amen.  – Lk 1:45-56.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.  Amen. -Lk 1:45-56.

Love,
Matthew

The Rich Young Man – Mt 19:16–30, Mk 10:17–31, Lk 18:18–30

Hoffman-ChristAndTheRichYoungRuler

– 1889, by Heinrich Hoffman, oil on canvas, purchased by John D Rockefeller Jr, now residing at Riverside Church in New York.

ronald_knox

-by Rev. Ronald Knox

“He went down the hillside with the slow, easy step of a man accustomed to deference from his fellows. A light breeze caressed him, like a ripple on the surface of the sunshine; he was well content. It was fitting that the contentment should mask itself in an outward fashion of melancholy; but the marriage of sunshine with a light breeze will whisper to a man’s heart even though he has buried his father only a few weeks back. The death had been long expected—you might almost say, unduly delayed; the Dark Angel had worn out, beforehand, his welcome of natural tears. And now that the debt of decent solemnity had been paid for four weeks—was it? or three weeks?—that other thought obtruded itself at times upon his consciousness, was obtruding itself even now, as he walked down the hillside. He was sole heir.

At first it had only lived on the faintest horizon of his attention. Naturally; did not his world know him as the most dutiful of sons? Had he not been everything to his father in those later years when strength was failing, the staff of his old age? Unthinkable that when death came, such a man should let down the flag of filial affection at a run. It was silenced, then, honorably and conscientiously, this unlovable distraction, banished to its corner like a child who will not behave himself in company.

Only, as the weeks passed, its “Mayn’t I come out now?” had been growing more insistent, and the inhibition that withstood it seemed daily less reasonable. Little details about the house and the estate, neglected by their late owner with an old man’s conservatism or parsimony, tugged at his attention like trailing branches in a forest path, “This and that must be put right now.”

Indeed, it had been partly to escape from this companionship of premature solicitudes that he had taken to the open country that afternoon. By the lakeside, where the rough fisher folk brought in the shining harvest of the unowned waters, he could shake off, perhaps, the thought of his inheritance.

And yet, there was no denying it, he was sole heir. Whatever expectations his younger brother might have had were forfeited long since, when he had realized the capital that was due to him and had set out to make his fortune—an unlucky business from the first! When he returned, bankrupt and discredited, he was received as a member of the family; there could be no question about that; but the annuity then settled on him was handsome and would be continued. True, the old man had spoken at times as if it was his intention to do more for the scapegrace in his will, but that was when his strength was failing, only when his strength was failing. Nothing could have been further from his wishes, in reality, than that there should be any division of the property. How tactless are the expectations of a younger son!

Besides, the property would not stand division. It brought in, even now, a comfortable income; but how generously its value might be increased if profits were husbanded and went back again into the improvement of the stock. As sole heir, he could see to that; already the prospect of increasing his inheritance began to present itself to him as a kind of filial duty, or perhaps a paternal duty, for he, too, one day, must resign to an heir his rich farms and his pleasant garden walks; the woods that had grown up with him would recognize a younger master, and only the faithful cypresses would bear him company to the grave.

Yes, for twenty years to come, the profits of every good season must go back into the land they sprang from; then, with the riper experience, and more educated palate of middle life, he would be able to enjoy the fruits of his own honest industry. Honest, thank God!—better anything than a prosperity secured by violation of the divine commands. These commands might almost have been themselves part of the property, so jealously had he kept them.

He had now well-nigh reached the sea’s level; and, as he rounded a scarp of the cliff, he saw a crowd gathered close to the water’s edge. A boat stood off a little way from the land, and toward it the faces of the crowd were turned in expectation. Could there have been some misadventure among the fishing people? Had the storm of last night, perhaps, claimed a toll of these humble lives? No, the boat was not putting in to shore; she was moored in a fathom or so of water.

In her stern a human form stood erect—the form (as it seemed from the gestures) of one making a public utterance. Of course, he might have known it earlier. He had heard, several months ago, rumors of the strange Preacher who somehow charmed an audience from that sluggish countryside—a fanatic, men said, and yet one who altered human lives by a word or a touch. There were stories, too, still harder to believe, that told of sick men suddenly healed, of devil-ridden folks set free.

A few hundred yards further along the shore, and he would be in full audience; the sloping beach made a natural amphitheater whose echoes carried far. Certainly he should be worth hearing, this much-praised, much-criticized Oracle of half a dozen fishing towns…”

Love,
Matthew

Psalm 118

psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
He brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; He is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.

I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my defense;
He has become my salvation.
Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
The Lord has chastened me severely,
but He has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.

I will give You thanks, for You answered me;
You have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.

Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
The Lord is God,
and He has made His light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, and I will exalt You.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.

Love,
Matthew

Psalm 27

psalm27_1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Love,
Matthew

Psalm 46

Psalm-46-1

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 25 – St Mark, Mighty in Courage!!!

st__mark_the_evangelist_by_lordshadowblade-d62zolm

johnmarksolitario
-by Br John Mark Solitario, OP

“As a child I remember being given a keychain or card meant to make me feel good about my baptismal name. As I recall, the intention of the giver was fully realized. The revelation made me quite proud: the tagline reading something like “Mark: mighty warrior.” Most little boys don’t put up a fuss when they learn their name is derived from Mars, the Roman god of war!

I did not yet know the story of the other Mark.

Christian tradition remembers the more humble origins of St. Mark. First, we look to St. Mark’s Passion, to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “[the disciples] all left him [Jesus] and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked” (Mk 14:50-52).

Perhaps the young man would prefer that we gloss over this line and move on! However, some have suggested that the fleeing youth was the Gospel writer himself. Whether or not the scared adolescent was the Mark whom early Christians recognized to be the author of the earliest-penned Gospel, one thing is certain: he draws our attention and our empathy.

Indeed, Mark can teach us something about being Christian today, even though what we know about him can only be surmised and pieced together:

Mark, who also was called by the Jewish name John, was the son of the Mary to whose house Peter fled after escaping from Herod’s imprisonment. The author of the Acts of the Apostles describes this house by saying that “many people gathered [there] in prayer” (Acts 12:12). Some have even suggested this to be the same place as the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place and the apostles received the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

John Mark accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey (Acts 13). For some reason, Mark soon left Paul and his relative to return home. Paul later refused to bring Mark on a subsequent mission due to his previous desertion and lack of perseverance (Acts 15:38).

In time, Mark appears to have become a co-worker of Paul in spreading the Gospel (see 2 Tim 4:11 and Col 4:10). This could be the same Mark who was affectionately referred to by Peter as his son (1 Pet 5:13). This same man, according to numerous Church fathers, worked as Peter’s secretary and composed the Gospel which takes his name.

So, not only did Mark grow up in a household of faith, but he may have met Jesus and witnessed the crisis of Holy Thursday. Later on he was invited to accompany his elders in proclaiming the new Christian faith. But for some reason–perhaps timidity, anxiety, or discomfort–he did not feel up to the task. Simply put, he was not yet willing to play that part.

But something more happened to John Mark. Later, as an evangelist, he penned Jesus’ response to the young man who would be His disciple:

“Amen I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (-Mk 10:29-30)

4_25_St_Mark_Evangelist_Guiseppe_Vermiglio_c1630
– by Giuseppe Vermiglio, “Saint Mark the Evangelist”, c. 1630, oil on canvas

Mark knew that being a follower of Jesus invited mockery and scorn even as it promised unimaginable blessing. Yet the example he gleaned from his mentor St. Peter–initial weakness, followed by a return to friendship with Jesus, and then great courage in the face of a horrible death–must have profoundly impacted his outlook.

Mark emphasizes the reason we have for hope amidst life’s struggles. First, as modern followers of Jesus we can be surprised by the support we receive from our new “brothers and sisters” in Christ. Next, when we do suffer for our faith–through ostracization, being bound by temptation and anxiety, sacrificing our time–we can take courage because we do not experience these things alone. Rather, we have these words of assurance, as recorded by Mark: “The God of grace Who called you to His eternal glory through Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little” (1 Pet 5:10). By His Cross, Jesus joins our plight and infuses it with new meaning.

St. Mark’s life and Gospel are not gifts to be taken lightly. He points past the physical safety and emotional contentment for which we often settle to something greater: a truly blessed life in this world, but not without sufferings, followed by the prize which exceeds all human hope. Yes, we need courage for this pursuit. But we should never rely on ourselves alone, lest we abandon Jesus upon discovering ourselves to be spiritually naked! May Jesus’ words to that earnest but imperfect youth be words that we trustingly take to heart: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mk 10:27). Blessed the one who, with St. Mark, learns to stand by the suffering Christ so as to win every good thing.

St. Mark, mighty in courage, pray for us!”

Love,
Matthew

Why does the Catholic Church (permit) teach(ing) evolution?

June 13, 2015 at 2:05 pm #12222
Sandra
Sandra
Member

“I recently converted and have been mostly studying the saints. I only recently discovered that the church is teaching evolution and I must say I am very sadden and surprised.

Please help me understand why? If God created us on the 6th day as the bible declares, then why let Darwin usurp the Holy Spirit role as teacher of all truth. When science contradicts the inspired word of God do we discard it for man’s scientific detour or do we wait for science to catch up with the truths in the bible. If you study quantum physics, you will see just that! We are made in the image of God, if we evolved then did God evolve also?”

June 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm #12224
mattmp
Matthew M
Member

“Hi, Sandra. Welcome. God bless you. Peace be with you. Firstly, the Bible is a collection of many books, as you know. There are many different literary styles within this collection of books, translated from Hebrew in the OT and Greek in the NT. Now, the Church herself defined the collection of books, the canon, of sacred Scripture.

It is generally accepted the canon of the NT was defined for the Christian world by the Church at the councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD, 419 AD). There are still scholarly debates on everything.  Scholars need to earn a PhD somehow, but generally these are the determining events.

Sacred Scripture, along with Tradition, Tradition being the part which defined the Bible canon, as mentioned above, are the two fonts of Revelation accepted within the Catholic Church. Tradition, as a font of Revelation, should not be understood, imho, as “we have always done it this way”, but rather it is the Truth which has emerged under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through living the actual faith. Both the Johannine texts, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation, were late comers to the canon of sacred Scripture, they were so unlike the other synoptic gospels, but it was eventually agreed they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

You might find reading CCC = Catechism of the Catholic Church: 80-84, 105-119, 156-159 helpful in beginning to understand the Church’s perspective accurately. The numeration goes by paragraph number and not by page number since referring across different translations and publications globally about the same text would quickly become chaotic, so paragraph numbers are used in referring to the Catechism for ease of discussion.

Basically, sacred Scripture is the truth, the inspired word of God. However, out of respect for such an awesome gift as scriptural revelation, one must be sensitive to the different genres, literary styles, ancient languages, and our ignorance of the specific times scripture was written in, now reading the latest translations in 21st century North America. It is limiting, but through the study of scholars, and our own, we can begin to come to a best understanding. It is the Magisterium of the Church who defines definitively the interpretation of sacred Scripture to be acknowledged and believed by the faithful, not any individual person, irrespective of scriptural education or lack thereof.

That being said, the Church adheres to Faith and Reason, Fides et Ratio. Where our understanding, currently, of both Scripture and science end, we believe the Truth is the truth. One cannot contradict the other. When there is a seeming apparent contradiction, Catholics understand this not as proof against either faith or reason, but an invitation to deepen one, the other, or both, if possible, until the apparent contradiction resolves in a deeper and more profound understanding of both, in the light of the other. We are not afraid of science. God is God, author and creator of all things, of all truth, which both sacred Scripture and science help us understand the magnificence of His glory and majesty.

In particular, the Book of Genesis is a brilliant and radiant theological work. Does the Bible claim to require literal 21st century North American English interpretation? I haven’t found that passage? God bless and keep those excellent questions coming!

I think the divinely inspired author(s) of Genesis knew exactly what they were doing. I do not believe they were trying to perpetrate any type of fraud, in their own time, or the future. I do believe God used them to communicate some exceedingly important truths about how we should live our lives, a beautiful, artful, poetic user’s manual for life, if you like. Isn’t that what all sacred Scripture really is? It’s not, imho, a schematic diagram, but rather a beautiful work of art, a literary painting or sculpture, which the Church Magisterium, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is charged to help us understand.  Respectfully, I think the author(s) would find our modern confusion and consternation rather funny, much like “whisper down the lane” can be.  Feel me?

God does not evolve. God does not change. You can read about the Divine Attributes: Immanence, Transcendence, Eternity, Impassibility, Simplicity on my blog: http://soul-candy.info/category/theology/divine-attributes/.

hahn_father_promises

“A Father Who Keeps His Promises” (c) -by Dr Scott Hahn, Chapter 2, pp 38-42

Avoiding Ventriloquism

“Did you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone who—you could just tell—didn’t really care what you thought? Perhaps you got the signal from a glance or some snap reply, but the attitude was clear, “I want your support, not your thoughts.” Or worse: “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” In any case, you’re almost made to feel like their dummy.

I suspect that if the ancient writer of Genesis were alive today, he would feel that way about modern interpreters of his work, especially the Creation account. To put it bluntly, many readers are more interested in figuring out whether or not Genesis can be squared with the theory of evolution than in discovering what the author really meant to say. Our modern preoccupation with science often gets in the way of a fair reading of Genesis.

In fact, the only time Scripture even raises the question of how the world was created is in the Book of Job, where God basically says to forget it (see Jb 38-41). It’s simply too hard for us even to imagine, much less figure out for ourselves.

Instead, the Creation account seems to address some other—but no less important—questions, such as what and why God created. To see how these questions are addressed, perhaps it’s time we reread Genesis through new eyes, as it were, by looking at it through old eyes. This means going back to the text in search of clues as to what the ancient writer intended to say to his original readers.

For the sake of simplicity, we will consider the author to be Moses, and his original readers to be those ancient Israelites who received this material from him as part of God’s law (the five books of Moses). Such a traditional approach may seem out of fashion, but it has certain advantages that commend it. For one thing, it takes its interpretive cues from the biblical text itself. For another, it has greater explanatory power. In sum, it makes better sense of Genesis, and the whole Pentateuch, for that matter. It also faithfully echoes the living Tradition of the Church, as it has been reaffirmed by the Magisterium.

By allowing Genesis to speak for itself, Moses becomes our teacher rather than our dummy; we become his students, instead of ventriloquists. At the same time, we should be aware of how some readers throw a modern voice back into the biblical text.

On the one hand, some readers insist upon six literal twenty-four-hour days and assert that Genesis refutes any form of evolution (theistic or otherwise), almost as if Moses and the Holy Spirit conspired to launch a preemptive first strike against Darwinism several thousand years in advance. While many of their critics reply by branding them as “fundamentalists,” like most labels, this one isn’t helpful or appropriate.

For one thing, certain versions of the theory of evolution clearly are at odds with Genesis, as well as sound reasoning. For another, some of the early fathers and doctors of the Church interpreted Genesis literally in terms of six twenty-four-hour days; yet we wouldn’t brand them as fundamentalists, any more than we would call Nebuchadnezzar a Nazi because he persecuted the Jews and sacked their temple back in 586 B.C. Some labels just don’t fit.2

But there are problems with this kind of literal reading. For instance, how were the first three twenty-four-hour days measured if the sun wasn’t made until the fourth day? In addition, there’s no end mentioned in connection with the seventh day, because it signifies God’s rest, rather than a literal twenty-four-hour period.

Of course, God could have created the world in six days, if he so desired—or six hours or six minutes or six seconds, for that matter. However, “day” (Hebrew yom) doesn’t always refer to clock-time; so it isn’t necessarily used here to refer to how long God took to get the job done.

I realize that “literal” advocates are not unaware of these problems. I raise them merely to point out how they weren’t problems for Moses (who was oblivious to them), precisely because they’re beside the point, that is, his point. However, this form of “literal” interpretation is not the only ventriloquist act around. There’s another approach, found at the opposite end of the interpretive spectrum, that would also throw its modern voice back into the ancient text.

Myth Conceptions

It is not uncommon to find readers who wish to reduce the Genesis account to little more than an ancient Hebrew myth. The line of reasoning frequently goes something like this: Since the Creation account is a religious narrative and not a scientific description of secular history, then it must be regarded as ancient Hebrew mythology based upon their primitive superstitions and sacred propaganda.

There’s one problem with classifying Genesis as myth: it doesn’t fit the facts. A comparative reading of Genesis and other ancient tales of Creation universally recognized to be mythical discloses far greater differences and divergences than parallels or similarities. For instance, the ancient myths all describe the Creation process in terms of a war among the gods, with the winners forming the cosmos out of the carcasses of the losers. Likewise, the myths treat the sun, moon and heavenly bodies as deities. Genesis is clearly cut from different cloth.3

Both of these forms of mythical and literal interpretation involve a subtle kind of ventriloquism. The net effect is much the same for both—the ancient text is forced to address modern problems by putting words into Moses’ mouth. Although contrary conclusions are drawn, the two approaches build on the same set of premises, drawn not from the ancient text of Genesis but from the categories of modern science. Unfortunately, devout readers who adopt these scientific categories often find themselves fighting an interior battle between science and religion. I’m convinced that this is a false dilemma based on two unsuitable options.

I should add, without getting into a complex discussion of interpretive theory, that the literal meaning of Genesis is not to be disregarded. On the contrary, the Church teaches that it is essential to discern the literal sense of Scripture before delving deeply into its spiritual senses (CCC #116-18). Thus, the literal sense is precisely and primarily what we’re after; we just need to look for it in the proper way.4

So a proper reading of Genesis may call for disengagement from current debates raging between evolution and religion, in order to apply the tools of literary analysis with balance and detachment. However, this doesn’t mean that we detach ourselves from the biblical text. On the contrary, we must adhere to the narrative as closely as possible; it beckons us to read it with great care and with a critical empathy for the culture and time in which it was originally written and transmitted.

If the Creation account is initially approached and studied in this manner, on its own terms, the text will yield a literal sense that remains open to the genuine discoveries of modern science, along with the valid findings of comparative religion and ancient mythology. Indeed, it’s my conviction as a Catholic Christian that the results of such an approach will eventually demonstrate a profound complementarity of religion and science, faith and reason.

So without further ado, let’s strap on our sandals, gird up our loins and join with ancient Israel in reading Genesis.”

Love,
Matthew

Psalm 82

Lucas-Cranach-the-Elder-Adam-and-Eve

-“Adam & Eve”, 1528, Lucas Cranach the Elder, oil on panel, 172 cm × 124 cm (68 in × 49 in), Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

You may recall I enjoy offering a riddle when the Garden of Eden comes up in conversation.  “What was Adam/Eve’s sin?”  “They ate the apple!”, I expect.  That was the act; but, rather it was their desire to pervert the naturally ordered relationship between Creator and creature.  They desired “to become like God, knowing good from evil” (Gen 3:4) as the serpent deceived them to believe they would be if they disobeyed God.

In every sin, we lie to ourselves, the serpent is within, not without, always deceiving ourselves somehow ‘this evil is good’.  See, we can understand good from evil, but still we are blind, even though we say we see (Jn 9:41); the definition of a lie.  In truth, imho, all sin is exactly that, the fundamental desire, acknowledged or not, eventually or never, to pervert the naturally ordered relationship between Creator and creature.  Always has.  Always will.

“1 God presides in the great assembly;
He renders judgment among the “gods”:
2 How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5 The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are Your inheritance.”

alanpiper

-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“In verse 6, “you are ‘gods'”, the saying sounds like something from the ancient philosopher Protagoras, who declared that man is the measure of all things. It might also have been uttered by that late-modern anti-prophet, Friedrich Nietzsche, who augured that a race of supermen would overthrow the old order and establish a radically new system of values. The saying also bears a resemblance to the first of Satan’s dealings with men: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5).

In fact, the saying “You are gods” comes from the Psalms. It would have been studied by scribes and sung in synagogues for centuries before it was quoted by Jesus, as reported in the middle of the last Gospel (Jn 10:34). And yet, until Jesus, its import was not fully understood.

In John 10, Jesus’ opponents accuse him of usurping the place of God. In effect, he responds by asking them to reconsider just how much God may love the world. The Scriptures teach that the ministers of God’s word possess divine qualities (Ex 21:6). In the Book of Exodus, God says to Moses: “See, I make you as God to Pharoah” (Ex 7:1). Is it so unlikely then that God would come closer to his people, such that a man who had worked great wonders could say, “I am the Son of God”? It is as if Jesus’ opponents were objecting to Him, “God is great!” And He were to respond, “You do not know how great God is.”

From the beginning God created man to have a special relationship to Himself. He created him “in the image and likeness of God,” which means, among other things, that God made man the steward of the earth and a kind of representative of God in the visible realm. It means also that man was capable of a certain closeness with God, an intimacy that the Scriptures signal by God’s careful molding of man from the dust, His breathing into his nostrils the breath-of-life, and His walking among them in the garden “in the cool of the day” (Gen 3:8).

But man listened to the Devil and tried to be a god apart from God. In a limited, twisted sense, Satan told the truth: man became his own little god, outside the garden, in the tearful valley of the shadow of death. (Ed. See what we have done to ourselves!  What misery!  What suffering!  What abomination!  Being apart from God.)  But God wished to bring man back to Himself. Just as in the beginning He had made man in his image, so in the fullness of time he made Himself in the image of man—that is, He became man in Christ—so that men might be united to the God-man and so be made gods in God. This is what it means to enjoy sanctifying grace, nothing less than to participate in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4).

The Devil has no power to make us into true gods, nor can human beings achieve divinity apart from the One Who is per se divine. And yet Satan continues to urge us: “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” But the malice of Satan is not greater than the charity of God. Jesus is God’s perfect counter-offer, nothing less than the offering of Himself.  ”

(Ed. the only possible response, the only rational reply then, is to offer ourselves back to Him in return and justice, humbly, of our own free will, as one lover offers themselves to their beloved.  We were not meant for death, but for life (Rom 5:12).  And so, it shall be.)

Love,
Matthew