Four Ep Heresies

Over the years I have read much religious comment on EP.  It is very much an open market place here, and that is what I love about it.  You come up against every conceivable point of view that is shaped by every conceivable experience.  It is an exciting place in which to be a Catholic; it really tests you out.

I have observed certain trends in the way people speak about religious subjects and I think of them as EP heresies.

1.  Confusion about what is meant by the word, "God":  The God so often derided here is not the God I worship.  This fictitious God is called such things as, "a noisy mythological being", "sky fairy", "little invisible friend" and let us not forget, "flying spaghetti monster".  The charge with which we are for ever being confronted is, "Where is the evidence?"  

And one might question why one would find some prima facie evidence of the One who is the very act of "to be".  "Ipse esse subsistum" through whom all finite beings have come into existence cannot be put under the microscope or tested with chemicals in a test tube.  The room in which I am sitting reflects the architect, but is not the architect. 

We can indeed come to the knowledge of God, but not primarily through scientific observation.  There are two means by which we may find God; the first is through God's revelation to us and the second is through metaphysical reasoning.  I will speak more about revelation shortly, but will comment of metaphysical reasoning of which there is such a long and voluminous tradition.  

When I pause to consider the great philosophers and theologians of Christendom one hardly knows where to begin there are so many and so numerous and profound are their works.  So here are a few of my favourites:  St Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, St Ignatius Loyola, Duns Scotus, St Augustine of Hippo, Albert the Great.  And let us consider just one argument, the argument from contingency.

Every living and non living thing is contingent upon something else.  We as human beings eat and drink and breathe.  We are contingent upon food, water and air.  These things themselves are contingent upon other contingent things.  There must ultimately be a non contingent Being from whom all else proceeds.

2.  Confusion about what is meant by the Bible:  Many people, whether they are Bible devotees or not, seem to have the idea that we regard the Bible as something that was dictated by God through dumb receptacles.  Biblical interpretation is a massive issue.

The Bible is not a book, but rather, a library of books.  It is a compendium of different works of different genres written in different periods of time.  And while it is the inspired word of God that came through human authors, it must nevertheless be interpreted in different ways with different methods, according to the genre of the text.

The Bible is not something that fell down from heaven and voila! - Christendom was born.  No; the Old Testament texts came first and the New Testament grew out of the Church.  It was the Catholic Church that defined which of the hundreds of works competing for attention were to be regarded as inspired.  To see the Bible as something contrary to the Catholic Church is utter nonsense.  The Bible as we now have it was not completed until the fourth century.

3.  Science is the only form of truth:  it is the paradigm of knowledge!  This heresy is called,  "Scientism".  It is the attempt to reduce all forms of knowledge to the scientific.

But, there are so many questions that cannot be answered using scientific method.  What is the purpose of my life?  What makes a city just?   How does one define beauty?

Science is not the only way of knowing truth.  Philosophy is also a way of knowing.  People like Von Hildebrand and Aristotle are not trading in nonsense.

Governing this attempt to reduce everything to scientific observation is the assumption that the world as we know it came into being from nothing.  And yet, this has never been scientifically observed and cannot be scientifically observed.  Nevertheless, if espoused by a scientist you can be sure it will be regarded as the truth. 

Stephen Hawkins said that the universe burst forth from nothing.  But upon closer examination, it transpires that this "nothing" was actually a kind of primordial vacuum in which existed energy and potential.  And one must comment that, if something has energy and potential, then why is it nothing?

The prevailing myth is that science emerged out of a desperate struggle with religion.  It is science and reason vs religion.  And their patron saint is Gallileo.

In reality, it is Christianity that gave rise to the scientific tradition. So many great scientists were Catholics - Paschal, Descartes, Mendel, Copernicus, not to mention Georges leMaitres, the founder of the Big Bang theory.  Or rather, I should say, Fr Georges leMaitres.

That religion is in a war with science is a nineteenth century myth.

4.  Religion produces violence:   The underlying reasoning goes like this:  Religion is irrational.  Therefore, when religious people are confronted with a difference of opinion they resort to violence.  And what is referred to on this subject?  The Bible, especially Joshua and 1 and 2 Samuel.  The tribes placed under the ban.  The king who was chopped to bits by Samuel.

To understand these stories properly we have to go to the last book in the Bible, the Apocalypse, or Revelation.  In this we see the scroll that seals the seven seals and the voice that says, "Who will open the scroll?"  A lamb comes out, a wounded lamb.  

We see here the non violent Christ who takes upon Himself the violence of the world.

The Bible is full of expressions for God.  In the Revelation we see Christ crucified and victorious.  But how did an ancient, warlike people convey God?  For the ancient Israelites, God is a mighty warrior.  The texts from Joshua and 1 and 2 Samuel are meant to be read, at least in part, allegorically.  What we see throughout scripture is  a developing and evolving knowledge of God.  This knowledge culminates in the person of Christ crucified - the non violent Christ taking upon Himself the violence of the world. 

In the light of Christ crucified we must read about the Amelekites  in much the same way as we read about the Egyptians and the Babylonians etc ie as the enemies of Israel.  They are all those powers arraigned against God.  We have to put the ban on sin.

perseverer perseverer
56-60, F
5 Responses May 22, 2012

And You know I have a problem with the Old Testament.

I do not think it's factual, or accurate. I think it is a lot of tribal wisdom, based on ancient Jewish beliefs. Written in the Bronze Age. By people who had no real understanding of the universe or the world around them.

It is difficult to assume that it is the word of God. This is more like the words of a national security agency code maker.

If God were really willing to speak to the people of the world. He would have to put his messages in simple terms. The Old Testament does not do that nor does it stick to a central theme of good. It is a jumble of myths and misconstrued understandings. Tales of wondrous things that have never been seen in the modern world.

What is the point of the Old Testament? Is it to make us all code breakers, myth believers, believers of magic snakes handing out apples of wisdom. I am not trying to be argumentative. It's just that the Old Testament makes me angry because of his duplicity and conflict in messages.

Archeologists do not agree with your point of view. They tend to regard the Old Testament as factual and use it for information to locate ancient sites and treasures. Jesus said, "I have not come to abolish the Old Law but to fulfil it." That is the light in which the OT should be read - as the preparation for the New. Far from being bronze age cave men the OT authors are some of the most brilliant writers the world has known. Far from being mythological fantasies, the Old Testament miracles are seen in our times too eg the miracle of the sun at Fatima, which was witnessed by over 70 000 people.

But, as Jesus said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead." (Luke 16:31)

"I find it so full of holes and backsliding." It is the story of God's covenant with His chosen people and their lack of fidelity to Him in return. It is more than just a system of living, like the Vedas. It is the actual intervention of Almighty God in human history, the Exodus and its aftermath. If you read it as a love story, in which one lover is constant and the other fickle and straying, but ultimately redeemed and won over, it makes perfect sense.

Well for heavens sakes! I knew you could do it. Now I have to go back and read the whole thing as a love story. And I was just about to start "50 Shades of Grey".

I still say that the Old Testament is (bronze age tribal wisdom). Appropriate for Jews of ancient times. I find it so full of holes and backsliding. How it represents the word of God is a mystery to me. Are we supposed to be cryptoloigists or code breakers to understand the word of God? What is the point of that? I know that you will have a good answer. But I will also have a good argument from a logical starting point. You know I deepley respect you and your faith. But the Old Testament is as hard to understand as the Faith of the Hindus and has as much credibility. It seems so contrived.

Wow. This is very well said. I may have to read it a few times for it to fully "soak-in".

Well said. There are some excellent texts around that deal with the fallacies inherent in Stephen Hawkins et. al. theories.<br />
Science has given us a lot of great things, in the way of medicine etc., but it has also led us totally away from a life in harmony with Nature as God intended. No longer do we have close communities and families living in easy proximity of one another. The earth is polluted through chemicals to the atomic level, so that the unborn are ingesting chemicals through their Mother's blood.<br />
However, I digress. <br />
You've done a great job here, Perserverer, and I'd just like to add that there are a lot of extremely good books around that explore the issues you have mentioned in depth.<br />
God is Love. I believe the most important thing we must do here on Earth is Love selflessly for Love of God.