The hermeneutic of suspicion and the paranoid society

A very good article here. It is primarily about the ascendency of the hermeneutic of suspicion in contemporary (meaning mainly post-modern and feminist) theology, but usefully beds that into the state of society itself. US theology and society are in its sights, and rightly so, but the rest of the world is far from immune: Dan Brown is popular over here, too, as are more academic manifestations of the idea that knowledge is a function of power, not of truth. We’re slightly less obsessed with conspiracy theories as yet, though. Slightly.

The juxtaposition of this default attitude of suspicion with theology is apposite, because it really started there, back in the nineteenth century, with the higher critical assumption that the whole picture of religion painted in the Bible was a pack of lies, commencing with the belief that King Josiah manufactured the book of Deuteronomy and engineered its “discovery” for his own political ends. Since then, theories have come and gone and skeptical historico-critical scholarship has morphed into a postmodern denial that truth can be found at all. But Josiah is still conspiring away in the background.

The description of the spirit of the age outlined in the linked article helps explain an awful lot to those of us brought up in an older, slightly less paranoid, age. For example, lurking not far below The Da Vinci Code is the Bauer hypothesis, hatched in the 1930s, which suggests that there never was an orthodox version of Christianity from which heresies departed, but that there was from the start a plethora of contradictory movements based on a purely human Jesus, or a mythical one, on which Constantine forced an orthodox (and much less fun) position, as well as an orthodox set of Scriptures, in the fourth century.

Now this theory was severely challenged even before it was translated into English in 1971. Since then, it has been comprehensively dismantled by many critics. Yet is now increasingly popularised by figures like Bart Ehrman (see the story here or here). Indeed, not only is the rewritten history widely assumed to be gospel truth (!) by the general public, but the hypothesis is still the ruling paradigm in academic New Testament scholarship (so it’s no wonder Joe Public accepts it on authority). I’ve long wondered why some very dubious theological theories prove so impervious to facts (like the documentary hypothesis in the light of new archaeology and ANE studies), but the article suggests why: modern scholars have a worldview in which suspicion of all truth and authority is the central tenet. For many, it is simply impossible to imagine an early Church developing apart from ecclesiastical, or political, or misogynist, conspiracies.

This insight casts light on other issues relevant to this blog, too. I’ve drawn attention in the series on modern theistic evolution  to the odd fact that in the nineteenth century you could hold varying positions without it causing a culture war. Asa Gray remained a friend of Darwin whilst categorically denying his unguided view of evolution. Benjamin Warfield accepted Darwinian theory with reservations particularly referring to design, and held an exceedingly high view of Scripture (as I said in the piece on him, he was largely responsible for the modern form of the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy). But now, mention “creation” and the chances are Jerry Coyne will accuse you of a plot to drag society back to the middle ages. Mention “design” and he’ll be joined by Ken Miller trying to out your secret conspiracy for a Taliban-style theocracy. And mention evolution … well, that supposed godless conspiracy against the Bible has been raised even here recently, with most of our contributors as paid-up members of the inner circle.

As far as I can tell, the change is likely to have started with the attempts of secular scientists like Huxley to divorce science and religion for their own reasons. Their historically deficient case is laid out in the books by John William Draper and the writer Andrew Dickson White. This wasn’t a conspiracy, though – the attempt was quite open, just like that of the New Atheists now, the latter’s rather comic implosion demonstrating that worldwide conspiracies would never work. Yet the nineteenth century attempt to separate science and faith was pretty successful, as its analysis formed the framework for the suspicious attitude of the emerging Fundamentalist movement towards science in general and evolution in particular. After that, Flood Geology, Intelligent Design, BioLogos and NSCE were more or less inevitable belligerents in a war more damaging  to American life than Vietnam.

The conspiracy suspicion motif probably explains some of the things that concern me about my own particular interest, too. As I’ve frequently said, the prevalent theology of “free nature” that underpins much theistic evolution and, notably, the BioLogos project appears incoherent and heterodox to me. I’ve been mystified by my total inability to draw out its holders to discuss it openly on BioLogos for nearly two years, and also by the unwillingness of people there to join in critiquing it, even partially.

But maybe that’s because to its largely American readership, the problem is perceived differently from the way I see it. I see a process of theologising amongst academics trickling down to popular TE writers, and affecting some, and probably not even a majority, of both influential people and foot-soldiers interested in science and faith. A bad thing, in my view. To me, opposing a strong case for a more biblical theology might well make many ordinary people examine what they’ve taken for granted, perhaps, and demonstrate the inconsistency of those actually committed to that theology. Perhaps, optimistically, it might help point TE back towards the orthodox theology of those like Gray in Darwin’s time. Even more optimistically, that might indirectly help undermine the reign of the materialist paradigm in the natural sciences. But mostly it’s just trying to speak truth, as I find it, for people to weigh.

But maybe those I write for don’t see it that way: perhaps they see me as a secret member of a Conservative Evangelical movement (no doubt including YEC Southern Baptists, tub-thumping Fundamentalists and obscurantists of every water). Oh, I left out the scheming Calvinists, of course. What’s more, they perhaps see me as trying to undermine what I wrongly see as their secret conspiracy of closet atheist scientists, and therefore doubly dangerous in my paranoia… Because nobody is actually in a conspiracy – they just think everyone else is, and that they themselves are truly autonomous individuals. Autonomy is, in fact, the actual secret heart of postmodernism, in direct line from the Promethean ideals of Renissance humanism and the Enlightenment: to try to create your own truth is the ultimate autonomy, as well as being the sin of Adam and Eve.

The trouble with suspicion is that it gets everywhere and destroys everything. Paranoia and autonomy are twin sisters. And suspicion is the direct opposite of trust. And trust is just another word for faith.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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57 Responses to The hermeneutic of suspicion and the paranoid society

  1. seenoevo says:

    From the linked article by David R. Liefeld, these words of his seemed to tie to what I wrote on the previous blog (“Fecundity in Genesis 1 – Amazing”):

    “Neither “fiction” nor “myth” are “dirty words” for postmodern scholars because they perceive reality in terms of creative IMAGINATION.” And “When history is reduced to myth, the past loses objectivity, and postmodern IMAGINATION RUNS FREE.”

    In his conclusion, Liefeld seems to switch gears, and focuses on the cause of the “canon” of Scripture. More specifically, he seems to be saying the canon resulted from popularity with the people:

    “With the exception of peripheral communities that nurtured alternative scriptures, the writings canonized reflect popular usage. As Wilhelm Schneemelcher (summarizing Jülicher) put it, “the canon grew and was not ‘made’”—by which he meant “that it is a collection of writings which in the first place were read and loved in the churches and only then were combined in a canon.” David Trobisch demonstrated, on the basis of careful textual analysis, that the canon was a product of publication and distribution.”

    Reading that quote, one could almost imagine the canon being formed by a process whereby the people went to the Fathers and insisted that the certain writings that the people really liked should be designated as Scripture; the Fathers, who themselves may have liked the same writings as the people, then had Gallupius conduct a poll, and when the Gallupian poll confirmed the widespread popularity of those certain writing, the Fathers got together in Nicea or wherever and put the authoritative stamp of approval on them. And the populist Canon boomed.

    Alternatively, one might think that while certain writings were indeed popular with the people, maybe those writings were FIRST popular with the Apostles and the Fathers, who then faithfully and truthfully and persuasively delivered them to the people, who then grew to like those certain writings very much.

    Absent that alternative understanding, one could almost make the case for Scripture being, or at least meaning, whatever the preponderance of people promoted.

    Liefeld ends with “… Christians know it finally does make a difference whether stories are TRUE or not. Proclamation of the gospel in the twenty-first century, no less than in earlier centuries, is grounded in an AUTHORITATIVE Scripture.”

    All well and good. Like when I hear a politician calling for “comprehensive immigration policy reform” or “comprehensive tax and regulatory reform”. Who could argue with, or be against, that? But the Devil is in the details, isn’t it? And now we can begin writing and speaking the millions of words on what is meant by “TRUE” and “AUTHORITATIVE”.

    Jon, I liked your ending on all of this:

    “AUTONOMY is, in fact, the actual secret HEART OF POSTMODERNISM, in direct line from the Promethean ideals of Renissance humanism and the Enlightenment: to try to CREATE YOUR OWN TRUTH is the ultimate autonomy, as well as being the sin of Adam and Eve.”

    Amen to that.

    Could it be that “autonomy” might be the reason for over 30,000 different denominations and very independent congregations, and a like number of theologies and practices?

  2. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Seenoevo

    I think you’re a bit hard on the position of the writer re canonical Scripture: his point to me was clearly that the authority of the “apostolic teaching” was recognised by the scattered groups of believers not only because they were directed to follow it from Jerusalem or somewhere, but because the Spirit affirmed internally what the documents affirmed externally. Even now the real authority of the Bible in a believer’s life is that he recognises God’s word – and if his denomination or the academics deny it, he goes on believing it anyway.

    There was certainly no central authority, in those early days, capable of imposing by force what they “must” believe. One very good point in the book I linked to was that the first believers (from the apostles down), fully aware that they were party to a New Covenant, would have expected the Lord to provide covenant documents as he had for Israel after Sinai. And maybe there’s a parallel there in how they would have received them: Moses received the Torah from God, and yet the people affirmed that they recognised God’s authorship and would obey.

    The autonomy theme is huge, vital and the big explanation for much of what’s wrong today in both religion and society. It really needs a book, which I’m not sure I have the capacity to write, but I have at least done a post on it here: http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2012/11/29/prometheus-and-adam/.

    Though you will find it hard to believe, I became aware of the “Promethean” theme as a direct result of my work on fallen creation. It appears to be a main reason, by a circuitous route, for the change in the Church’s view of the good creation, around 1500. The general idea is that western man became so self-important that he even exaggerated the damage he could to God’s world by his rebellion. Exclusion from paradise wasn’t enough for our pride – we had to to take out the whole creation too.

  3. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    You write:
    “Even now the real authority of the Bible in a believer’s life is that he recognises God’s word – and if his denomination or the academics deny it, he goes on believing it anyway.”

    I think the “authority” you speak of here is really just SUBJECTIVE choice by an individual. “Authority” here might be synonymous with “conscience”. And an individual can, and sometimes does, choose to disregard even his own conscience. Guilt results.

    The ultimate, true and divine authority is OBJECTIVE, not subjective. This authority is “authoritative” regardless of an individual’s response to it.

    Likewise, DIVINELY-GRANTED authority is objective, not subjective (cf. Matthew 16:19; John 20:21-23).

    “There was certainly no central authority, in those early days, capable of imposing by force what they “must” believe.”

    The New Testament indicates that in the earliest days, the Apostles spoke often of their divinely-granted authority and of the church. And it gives the impression that this authority was CENTRALIZED AND that the centralization worked well:

    “As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” [Acts 16:4-5]

    In later days, those not covered by the NT, I think history would show that this central authority has continued.

    However, nowhere in the NT do I see any indication of this central authority “imposing by force” anything. The Church, even now, doesn’t impose anything. It only proposes.
    [Regarding the truism that the Church doesn’t IMpose, it PROposes… please, let’s not get into Inquisitions and Crusades. That would only expand into, for example, the many tortures and executions of Catholics (lay and clerical) by the Church of (merry old) England.]

    “… a main reason, by a circuitous route, for the CHANGE in the Church’s view of the GOOD creation, around 1500.”

    My understanding is that the Church has always taught that man and creation were and are good, but that they NOW suffer from fallout FROM The Fall. Still good, but now mixed with bad, if you will.

    What was this change by the Church around 1500 and how does it differ from my understanding?

  4. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Seenoevo

    I won’t get into the authority of one established Church – not least because I count as my brother here a member of the eastern division of Catholicism that mutually excommunicated Rome over a millennium ago and supplied some of Rome’s popes. A study of church history shows that life isn’t simple.

    But nevertheless there’s always a synergy between objective and subjective authority. Christ had God’s objective authority, but it was the subjective conviction of the apostles that this was so that kept all but Judas loyal. And indeed, that conviction was a work of grace by the Holy Spirit and so, in its own way, objective and not mere opinion.

    Similarly the apostles embodied Christ’s objective authority, yet it was the Spirit-wrought faith in individuals that made them obedient to the faith rather than depart into the ranks of the apostate. Like the apostles themselves (cf Peter and Paul in Galatians), they were sometimes rebellious, but their standing in Christ included the recognition of those who represented his authority (“My sheep know my voice”). I contend that the same recognition of Scripture’s apostolic authority, through the Holy Spirit, also ensured that the decisions made by councils to canonise it were accepted by all the faithful.

    Although we will disagree on the authority of Rome (and I guess that places you in the position of needing to regard me and all the other non-Catholics in this conversation as apostates, which would be a shame) even the Pope’s authority, and those of the ecumenical councils, is exercised through the Scriptures. The disagreement is largely about who has the right to interpret them.

    But look at the earliest example we have of a Bishop of Rome writing to a church – Clement to the Corinthians – and his argument is all on the lines of “This is what the OT, Christ and the apostles taught”, and not “I have the right to decide your behaviour.” And if I look at recent official Catholic teaching, say on science and evolution, again the arguments are about the limits of what Scriptural teaching permits.

    That’s why no serious branch of Christianity (I exclude those 30,000+ US denominations…) sees itself as divorced from the catholic and orthodox tradition: Scripture does not change, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t either, wherever one’s convictions lie about the hottest source for authoritative interpretation. I was interested to read here http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/does-the-catechism-encourage-private-interpretation-of-the-bible how even Rome recognises that doctrine may originate , and has originated from the insights of individual lay people or theologians: the sticking point is about those insights being universally adopted.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Forgot to answer your last point. The difference c1500 is the start of that idea of good mixed with bad. Prior to that the idea was either that creation is good, but now harms us because we are mortal because of sin, or that it is good but now turns against us sometimes because we are under judgement (or to chastise us to repentance), or that is good but we don’t see it as such because we are blind to God’s overall picture (and that too comes from our sin).

      After that, the idea grows that our sin actually tainted and ruined the creation, and that it is at war with itself or with God, until by, say, the nineteenth century, a famous (and generally excellent) preacher is saying “the slime of the serpent is on it all,” Tennyson is coining “red in tooth and claw” and Darwin, like Catholic evolutionist Fransico Ayala today, refuses to see God’s hand in it at all.

    • seenoevo says:

      Jon,
      Re: your 2:39 pm post.

      “The disagreement is largely about who has the right to interpret them [the Scriptures].”

      No it’s not. Everyone has the right to interpret Scripture any way they choose.

      The disagreement is wholly, not largely, about who has the AUTHORITY to interpret Scripture CORRECTLY (i.e. consonant with God’s intended meaning). It’s about who has final, decisive, dispositive authority regarding the interpretation.

      “That’s why no serious branch of Christianity (I exclude those 30,000+ US denominations…) sees itself as divorced from the catholic and orthodox tradition”

      Does that tradition, and let’s just consider for now the tradition of the first thousand years A.D., include a single human being as head of the Church (starting with Peter), and seven sacraments, including the “transubstantiation” of bread and wine into the Body and Blood in the Eucharist?

      If so, are these serious branches of Christianity “married” to these traditions, or are they “divorced” from them?

      “the sticking point is about those insights being universally adopted.”

      I differ, again. We KNOW that “those insights” will NEVER be adopted UNIVERSALLY. Just read Revelations. (But we are continue to evangelize to all anyway.)

      The sticking point here is WHOSE INSIGHTS are worthy of adoption (i.e. fully, not partially, true) for the person who desires the salvation offered in Christianity.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        Seenoevo

        I’ve worked, played and had fellowship with many Catholics over the years, but your presentation of Catholicism is the only one I’ve come across that makes the largest stream of the Christian church seem like a paranoid fundamentalist cult.

        There’s so much more grace in the gospel that you appear not yet to have seen. Maybe it’ll come to you in time.

  5. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    Re: your 2:50 pm post.

    “The difference c1500 is the start of that idea of good mixed with bad. Prior to that the idea was either that creation is good, but now harms us because we are mortal because of sin or that it is good but now turns against us sometimes because we are under judgement (or to chastise us to repentance)”

    So, the animals were attacking Adam and Eve prior to The Fall, but like Superman and Superwoman, the “bullets” just bounced off them, and after The Fall, things were the same except that A&E lost their “kryptonite”?

    “or that is good but we don’t see it as such because we are blind to God’s overall picture (and that too comes from our sin).”

    So, the animals were attacking Adam and Eve prior to The Fall, and doing some damage to A&E, but they just shrugged it off, and didn’t darkly ruminate about it, because they had nothing to feel guilty about anyway?

    Regarding the idea that the Church changed its view on these ideas circa 1500, again, could you supply say two quotes to this effect from traditional texts? [You could use James’ list of traditional texts here: “Fathers, Creeds, decisions of Church councils, Papal decretals, Confessions”.] Even one quote?

  6. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    You write to me:
    “I’ve worked, played and had fellowship with many Catholics over the years, but your presentation of Catholicism is the only one I’ve come across that makes the largest stream of the Christian church seem like a paranoid fundamentalist cult. There’s so much more grace in the gospel that you appear not yet to have seen. Maybe it’ll come to you in time.”

    I’d bet a lot of money that I’ve worked, played and had fellowship with a lot more Catholics than you in my 57 years.

    And looking back over the years and around today, most of those Catholics typified the post-Vatican II Catholicism I’ve also read about: a “Catholicism” of ignorance, indifference, indifferentism, weakness, cowardice, “ecumenism”, feminization, homosexuality-accommodation, secularization, protestantism, and probably some other characterizations which don’t come immediately to mind. I should know. I used to be one of them.

    I’ll take what you graciously and civilly call my ‘paranoid fundamentalist cultism’ as a compliment.

    Will you be able to find the time and opportunity to address my responses and questions in my two posts directly above?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Seenoevo

      Your mocking questions in the last post but one should be addressed to the Catholic Fathers, not to me. To me they seem rather silly. But since I’m worn out, like the unjust judge, by your importunity, here’s a sample quote from Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechal Lectures:

      God’s command was but one, which said, “Let the earth bring forth
      wild beasts, and cattle, and creeping things, after their kinds” and from one earth, by one command, have sprung diverse natures, the gentle sheep and the carnivorous lion, and various instincts of irrational animals, bearing resemblance to the various characters of men; the fox to manifest the craft that is in men, and the snake the venomous treachery of friends, and the neighing horse the wantonness of young men, and the laborious ant, to arouse the sluggish and the dull…

      Is not then the Artificer worthy the rather to be glorified? For what? If thou knowest not the nature of all things, do the things that have been made forthwith become useless? Canst thou know the efficacy of all herbs? Or canst thou learn all the benefit which proceeds from every animal? Ere now even from venomous adders have come antidotes for the preservation of men. But thou wilt say to me, “The snake is terrible.” Fear thou the Lord, and it shall not be able to hurt thee. “A scorpion stings.” Fear the Lord, and it shall not sting thee. “A lion is bloodthirsty.” Fear thou the Lord, and he shall lie down beside thee, as by Daniel. But truly wonderful also is the action of the animals: how some, as the scorpion, have the sharpness in a sting; and others have their power in their teeth; and others do battle with their claws; while the basilisk’s power is his gaze. So then from this varied workmanship understand the Creator’s power.

    • James says:

      seeneovo:

      I, too, admire many aspects of pre-Vatican II Catholicism. But it’s not as if the only alternative to Catholic liberalism is Catholic fundamentalism. There are nuanced positions with ample historical precedent (Augustine, Erasmus, More, Chesterton, Tolkien, McInerny, Gilson, etc.).

      It is the same with Protestantism. It is not as if the only options are Marian or Genevan “burn ’em at the stake and rip all the organs and beautiful artwork out of the churches” puritanical self-righteousness, on the one hand, and loosey-goosey, liberal “as long as I’m a good person who supports the values of tolerance and the United Nations, it doesn’t matter what I believe about God,” on the other. There are nuanced positions with ample historical precedent (Melanchthon, C. S. Lewis, Charles Hodge, etc.)

      I see Jon’s effort here as to offer a version of theistic evolution that is responsible to the historical Christian tradition, and I see it as a counterblast to the TE that is *ir*responsible regarding the historical Christian tradition, i.e., the TE of most of the columnists and management at BioLogos, of many ASA scientists, of Ken Miller, etc. One may find fault with this or that particular argument that Jon makes, but I believe that his intentions are pure. I think he is trying to do what BioLogos claims to do in principle but fails to do in fact — to bring together all that good is modern science with all that is true in Christianity. As long as BioLogos exists, the Hump of the Camel will be needed as an antidote, and my hat is off to Jon (who after all used to be Dr. Garvey!) for making this theological medicine available.

  7. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    Thank you for finally producing a quote. I hope it’s not the best one you have, though, because nothing in your quote of Cyril says or implies that animals were:
    1) unaffected by The Fall, and/or
    2) ate flesh before The Fall, and/or
    3) lived and died for years before Adam & Eve.

    I hope you’re not going to expound much about Cyril’s “diverse natures, the gentle sheep and the carnivorous lion…”.

    Oh, I fully agree that’s they’re nature now and when Cyril lived. But nothing he says here is a proclamation or even an intimation that it was always so (and for millions of years so).

    Remember what st. seenoevocyril said:
    “God’s command was but one, which said, “Let the earth bring forth
    wild beasts, and cattle, and creeping things, after their kinds” and from one earth. By one command, have sprung these creatures, and also MAN with his DIVERSE NATURES, sometimes gentle like the sheep and sometimes carnivorous and savage like the lion. But as with the creatures, IT WAS NOT ALWAYS SO WITH MAN’S NATURE. For before The Fall ….”

    St. seenoevocyril, pray for us!

    • James says:

      I disagree with this analysis of the passage. Of course, I am going only on the translation, and not on the original-language text, but the most natural way of interpreting the translation, the one that involves the least forcing, twisting, or special pleading — is that Cyril understood the forms of the animals that we know now to be the forms they had when they were created. If Cyril thought that the animals were quite different when created than they are now, it would be odd that he would have worded things in the way that he did.

      He speaks of the various creatures, naming some that we now today (lion, sheep) as having sprung by God’s “command” from the earth; God surely would not have commanded “fallen” forms of the animals to have sprung from the earth at the time of creation. In the same sentence he refers to the “natures” of these creatures, and the term “nature,” unless qualified by an adjective such as “fallen,” is most naturally understood as the created nature. The most unforced reading is that the lion was created to be carnivorous.

      In response to this, to be sure, one could say the following. It is *logically possible* that Cyril is omitting vital qualifiers. It is logically possible that he meant “the original, uncorrupted versions of the animals we now know sprang by God’s command from the earth” and that he had in mind “the lion, which we now know to be carnivorous, but which was originally herbivorous.” I would respond as follows: To rest on such possibilities is to grasp at straws. It would imply that Cyril was a bad writer, a poor communicator, unaware of how the vast majority of readers would understand his words if he carelessly left out the vital qualifications.

      But even that avenue of interpretation would seem to be closed off by the ending of the passage. For Cyril also refers to the various “wonderful” (not “fallen” or “evil” but “wonderful”) powers of the creatures as coming from God’s “workmanship” — not from a *deviation* (due to the Fall or anything else) from that workmanship. He clearly implies that God designed the sting, the claws, the rending teeth, etc. for the functions they have now.

      Further the passage contains an element of theodicy — the “evils” of created things are connected with “goods” that they can produce — antidotes from poison etc. The most natural reading of this is that Cyril regards even the “evils” of animals as providential, i.e., as intended.

      Finally, he shows no concern for the fact that animals might harm *other animals*, but only that they might harm human beings — and he offers faith as a solution to that problem. That does not sound as if were written by a man who was horrified by the thought that God might have ordained predation, and other forms of animal pain or suffering.

      All in all, I think that a “no predation, no animal suffering” reading of this passage of Cyril is a forced reading.

      I am not saying that Christians are bound to agree with Cyril, but they should at least try to interpret what he said in the most natural and unforced manner.

      I’d be interested in seeing some clear passages from Church Fathers in which it is unquivocally asserted that there was no animal suffering or animal predation before the Fall. And I’d be interested in finding out how common such a view was. It would be a good research project for someone who wanted to go back to school and do a Master’s degree in theology. If you, seenoevo, would be interested in such an undertaking, I will try to look up some good graduate schools for you.

  8. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “But it’s not as if the only alternative to Catholic liberalism is Catholic fundamentalism. There are nuanced positions with ample historical precedent (Augustine, Erasmus, MORE, Chesterton, Tolkien, McInerny, Gilson, etc.).”

    Nothing wrong with nuance, per se. Depends on the extent and appropriateness of the nuance. (Similar, maybe, to what I’ve said on these blogs about “imagination”, and “autonomy”.)

    Have a more nuanced position? Maybe that’s what they asked MORE (Sir/Saint Thomas More).

    Before they cut his head off.

    “There are nuanced positions with ample historical precedent (Melanchthon, C. S. Lewis, Charles Hodge, etc.)”

    I’m not a Lewis expert, but I seem to recall reading some odd things about him. Would you say C.S. Lewis’ marriage or marital arrangement was “nuanced”?

    “I see Jon’s effort here as to offer a version of theistic evolution that is responsible to the historical Christian tradition, and I see it as a counterblast to the TE that is *ir*responsible regarding the historical Christian tradition”

    Do you think Jon will answer what he calls my “mocking” questions on this tradition which he, and you, talk about?

    I’ll replay the sequence here:

    Jon: “That’s why no serious branch of Christianity (I exclude those 30,000+ US denominations…) sees itself as divorced from the catholic and orthodox tradition.”

    Me: Does that tradition, and let’s just consider for now the tradition of the first thousand years A.D., include a single human being as head of the Church (starting with Peter), and seven sacraments, including the “transubstantiation” of bread and wine into the Body and Blood in the Eucharist? If so, are these serious branches of Christianity “married” to these traditions, or are they “divorced” from them?

    “As long as BioLogos exists, the Hump of the Camel will be needed as an antidote”

    Even Dr. Jon would admit opinions vary in medicine. Docs even disagree on what’s the right antidote.

    • James says:

      I know little of Lewis’s relationship with Joy Gresham; nor am I responsible to defend anything that was improper in it. I did not say that Lewis’s conduct as a Christian was without flaw. I know of no Christian who can boast that. I was speaking of his overall theological thought, which was a sort of via media between Catholicism and Protestant fundamentalism, retaining the Biblical emphasis of the fundamentalists (but with more nuance in his reading of the Bible) and much of the metaphysical and moral tradition of Catholicism (Aquinas, Augustine, etc.). It would be ad hominem to suggest that Lewis’s exegesis of Genesis 1-3 is somehow invalidated because of a particular moral failing on his part (assuming that he was guilty of a moral failing in the case we are speaking of). If his non-literal understanding of parts of those chapters is to be criticized, it must be criticized on exegetical and theological grounds, not on the basis of his love life.

      Your difficulty with Jon’s answers (or lack thereof) you will have to take up with him. My goal was only to make a general point about his motivation, which is, as far as I can see, wholesome and orthodox. I for one find Jon to offer about the most balanced Christian discussion of evolution and creation that one can find on the internet. I weary of the narrow partisanship which dominates most other sites. Jon has created a unique space here where IDers, TEs, and creationists can talk to each other in a rational and civilized way. You can accept design inferences here and not be mercilessly bashed (as you would be on BioLogos, Panda’s Thumb, etc.); you can also accept evolution here and not be mercilessly bashed (as you would be on most creationist sites and even by some people on ID sites); and this site alone seems to focus on what the Christian tradition (in the broadest sense, not just a limited Catholic or Protestant sense) has to say about creation, origins, design, providence, nature, etc. We are lucky to have such a place to convene. The only sad part is that so few people know of it. There are plenty of moderate people out there, seeking nuanced discussions, who would be immensely grateful to find out that this place is here.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        Thanks James – you get the idea. Of course it would be easy for visitors lacking goodwill to turn The Hump into yet another internet international invective match … it’s been a bit like that over the weekend – I don’t think it was just my dental status, and certainly wasn’t due to particularly contentious posts on my part.

        And Seenoevo – there is REALLY no point in your holding up a list of unique Catholic doctrines for me to subscribe to, as a Calvinist, as if you were an official inquisition, especially when it’s in order to pronounce “heresy” on the whole Eastern Orthodox tradition which has as much claim – I speak as an oudiser to both – to being “the original” Church as the one to which you studiously avoid saying you belong, whilst thumping a thoroughly Tridentine tub. Why should any of us listen to you?

        I don’t condemn Catholicism on this site (like I don’t condemn ID, Creationism, or atheism even if I critique them) and mutual respect is not only expected – but is a whole lot more beneficial for everybody.

        And by the way, I agree with James that your twisting of Cyril’s very plain words is an affront to what is a pearl of a passage of Christian exhortation – but I knew it was coming, which is one reason why I took so long to toss it to you.

  9. seenoevo says:

    “Nuance” might be akin to ways of traveling to a specific destination. Some use a map and check their progress, some take route A, some take route B, some ride with the top down, some stop to enjoy the view. But they all move to the same destination, in different ways.

    Non-nuance might be akin to those who lose or forget the destination, and still others who know the destination but choose to drive past it or in wholly the opposite direction. It might not be obvious at first. But eventually it is.

    A person in the final throes of a terminal disease is obviously in bad shape. The person in the very early stages of the same terminal disease, perhaps not yet detected and diagnosed, is likewise in bad shape. It’s just not as obvious, yet.

    A brighter image would be that of a woman 8 months pregnant. She’s really starting to show. But happily, the woman who’s just conceived is every bit as pregnant. It’s just not as obvious, yet.

  10. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “I’d be interested in seeing some clear passages from Church Fathers in which it is unquivocally asserted that there was no animal suffering or animal predation before the Fall. And I’d be interested in finding out how common such a view was.”

    Let’s say one has looked everywhere, in every potential traditonal/authoritative source that you or others can think of. And one doesn’t find anything.

    As I wrote to you before, James, this result shouldn’t be surprising. Creation’s focus and purpose is MAN, and likewise is the Church’s focus and purpose MAN, and likewise are the Church’s teachings and documents for MAN. Not animals.

    And now the reliance on natural and unforced interpretations of certain writings (Cyril’s):
    “but the most natural way of interpreting the translation, the one that involves the least forcing, twisting, or special pleading … The most unforced reading is that … The most natural reading of this is that…”

    And what might a consideration of Genesis 1, a considerration that involves the least forcing, twisting, or special pleading and that is the most natural and unforced reading, yield?

    • James says:

      Genesis 1, *taken by itself*? As if no other part of the Bible or Christian tradition existed? That’s easy.

      Since Genesis 1 (and I assume this includes the continuation to 2.4a) makes no mention of any “Fall,” or any other change in the situation since creation, the most natural way of reading it is that the creatures named in it (fish, sea monsters, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, creeping things) are the creatures we know now, behaving in the way they behave now. And that means that we are to picture barracudas, killer whales, sharks, squid, lions, mosquitoes, snakes, scorpions, etc. having the same killing and eating habits they have now.

      I must have read Genesis 1, or heard it read to me, dozens of times over my lifetime, before I ever heard anyone (lay or clerical) suggest (I think I was in my 30s at the time, thought it might have been my late 20s) that it taught that originally lions had no teeth or claws, or had teeth and claws but didn’t use them for their obvious purposes and chomped on apples or hay instead. (Thus stealing food from the species that eat only apples or hay, creating a food supply problem for them, but never mind that.)

      That was an easy question! Got any harder ones?

      As for your other point, it is not convincing. We know that in fact *some* Christians have floated — and often more than floated, but insisted upon — the claim that there was no animal predation before the Fall. So the notion that no one would have said that, or thought that, because the focus of creation is on man, does not hold up. We know that, even with the central focus on man, some Christian writers have suggested that animal predation is an evil and would not have existed in the originally perfect world created by God. So the question arises: is this a trendy novelty in Biblical interpretation, or a well-established notion? How representative is it? Is it found in the early Fathers? If so, which ones? Is it found in the Bible? If so, where? Did Councils or Popes ever rule on it? If so, where?

      You appear to be arguing that it is wrong for Jon to suggest that the Church Fathers did *not* endorse the position that there was no animal predation before the Fall. But there is no reason you should argue this so vigorously unless you believe the opposite, i.e., unless you think there was no animal predation before the Fall. And indeed, you have indicated that this is your belief based on Genesis 1.30. But you have *also* said repeatedly and emphatically that Scripture alone is no guarantee of truth unless accompanied by an authoritative interpretation. And you have indicated that the authoritative interpretation belongs not to individuals but to the Roman Catholic Church. This makes it a matter of obligation for you not to come to a firm conclusion about the meaning of Genesis 1.30 without first consulting the Doctors of the Catholic Church to see what they have to say about it, and without first reading whatever other Catholic documents you can lay your hands on that speak about life on earth before the Fall.

      If you are simply saying that Jon has not yet provided *enough* documentation for his view, that is one thing. But you have indicated support for the opposite view, and for that view, you have provided *no* documentation, except for one Biblical verse whose meaning (in the context of the whole passage of Genesis 1) is far from clear. So if he is to be charged with holding a theological view on insufficient evidence, you would appear to be even more vulnerable to the same charge. I would think you would be digging through the writings of Athanasius, Augustine, Clement, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen, Aquinas, etc. for authoritative opinions on this subject, to confirm that your Biblical interpretation is correct. But you seem strangely uninterested in doing that kind of research, and oddly willing to maintain your view purely on the basis of one verse of Scripture.

      This is very odd behavior, if you deem this question (whether or not there was animal predation before the Fall) as important as you seem to deem it. It might make sense if you lived on a research station in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and had no access to books or the internet; you would then have to theologize on the basis of a translation of the Bible alone. But since books are available — and since most of the Fathers can be read for free online nowadays, and most of Aquinas, and many medieval theologians as well — your lack of interest in bolstering your Biblical exegesis with the readings of Catholic writers with teaching authority strikes me as inexplicable.

      I cannot tell you where you can find discussions Father by Father. But I can tell you that a number of modern Catholic theologians have written commentaries on Genesis or on parts of it, and as commentaries often proceed verse by verse, it is likely that such commentaries will mention some of the traditional views on Genesis 1.30 So I recommend you look up some Catholic commentaries on Genesis. The Catholic Encyclopedia may also have something. Even some Protestant and Jewish commentaries on Genesis may lead you back to Catholic sources which discuss the verse. A devout Catholic who wants to know what his Church teaches on animal predation and animal suffering before the Fall has some definite starting-points for research.

  11. James Penman penman says:

    In the opinion of some, those animals which now are fierce and kill others, would, in that state, have been tame, not only in regard to man, but also in regard to other animals. But this is quite unreasonable. For the nature of animals was not changed by man’s sin, as if those whose nature now it is to devour the flesh of others, would then have lived on herbs, as the lion and falcon. Nor does Bede’s gloss on Genesis 1:30, say that trees and herbs were given as food to all animals and birds, but to some. Thus there would have been a natural antipathy between some animals.
    Aquinas Summa Theologiae Part 1:96:A1

  12. seenoevo says:

    James,

    Thanks for the 900+ word response of 9:01 pm. This kind of verbosity should produce a feast. But I find little sustenance (or substance).

    You write:
    “I must have read Genesis 1, or heard it read to me, dozens of times over my lifetime, before I ever heard anyone (lay or clerical) suggest (I think I was in my 30s at the time, thought it might have been my late 20s) that it taught that originally lions had no teeth or claws, or had teeth and claws but didn’t use them for their obvious purposes and chomped on apples or hay instead. (Thus stealing food from the species that eat only apples or hay, creating a food supply problem for them, but never mind that.)”

    And in your many readings of Genesis 1, what did you think about the inclusion of verse 30? “And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

    And moving forward, to Genesis 2, what did you think of verse 19? “So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”

    Did you envision God “straining” on the leash to hold back the raging, carnivorous lion from devouring Adam so that Adam could peacefully and with dominion name the king of the jungle?

    Just to be clear, the above are NOT rhetorical questions. I hope you will answer, and do so with a lot less than 900+ words.

    And James, you are twisting words and positions and creating new ones:

    “As for your other point, it is not convincing. We know that in fact *some* Christians have floated — and often more than floated, but insisted upon — the claim that there was no animal predation before the Fall. So the notion that no one would have said that, or thought that, because the focus of creation is on man, does not hold up.”

    The issue here is NOT, and never has been, whether “*some* Christians” ever said this or that about animals pre-Fall vs. post-Fall. The issue here IS, and has ALWAYS been, whether TRADITIONAL TEACHING AND TEXTS (e.g. your “Fathers, Creeds, decisions of Church councils, Papal decretals, Confessions”) authoritatively make the case that (and make Jon Garvey’s case that) animals were or were not affected by The Fall.

    I’ve already stated, more than once, that I’ve found no such documentation and gave a possible reason for this “dryness” (namely, such authoritative documentation may not exist). Yet still you persist in asking me “If so, where?”

    “But you have *also* said repeatedly and emphatically that Scripture alone is no guarantee of truth unless accompanied by an authoritative interpretation”.

    I don’t recall ever saying that. If I did, then I’ll go with that old line: “I meant everything I meant to say!” And what I mean is, everyone is free to read and interpret the Bible, but that interpretation should be TESTED to make certain it’s NOT IN CONFLICT with what the Church has authoritatively declared about that.

    [“Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but TEST everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes 5:19-21). Question: How does one TEST authoritatively?]

    “This makes it a matter of obligation for you not to come to a firm conclusion about the meaning of Genesis 1.30 without first consulting the Doctors of the Catholic Church …”

    But I HAVE consulted so, and I find nothing to contradict my firm conclusion or firm position. If I DO find anything, or you or Jon produce anything, which contradicts my firm position, THEN, I’ll be obligated to change.

    How about this James? How about I’VE FOUND NOTHING in “the writings of Athanasius, Augustine, Clement, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen, Aquinas, etc” or confirmation of those writings in authoritative teaching (e.g. the Catechism of the Catholic Church) which contradicts my position.

    How about that?

    “This is very odd behavior.”

    • James says:

      Seenoevo:

      If you find 900 words too long, no wonder you don’t want to consult the thousands of words written by the Fathers! 🙂

      We are not as much in disagreement as you seem to think. Some of our disagreement is over phrasing only, not substance.

      For example, I agree with you when you “correct” my statement and write:

      “And what I mean is, everyone is free to read and interpret the Bible, but that interpretation should be TESTED to make certain it’s NOT IN CONFLICT with what the Church has authoritatively declared about that.”

      And I agree with you that if the Church has not “authoritatively declared” against vegetarian lions, then Christians are free to hold either a “pro” or “con” position on the question.

      I am *not* saying that the Church has declared *against* vegetarian lions. I don’t think Jon is saying that, either. I think he is saying that the idea that lions etc. were vegetarian, and more broadly, the idea that all of nature “fell” with man, was never *official Church doctrine*. I think he is saying that in pre-modern times the idea of “all nature” falling with man (and part of that fall would be the change from vegetarian to carnivorous lions, for example) is not very commonly held, and that it is much more commonly held in modern, i.e., post-Renaissance, versions of Christian theology. He’s not saying that it is a *forbidden* position; he is saying that it is not the *traditional* position — meaning, the view commonly held by the Fathers and other early and medieval writers. He is not saying that holding a view of animal vegetarianism contradicts the Nicene Creed or condemns one to perdition; he is simply saying that it is a minority view which should not be represented as *the* Christian view. That’s how I read him.

      Let me make clear where I am coming from. I’m much less interested in this particular quarrel you are having with Jon, than with a broader question concerning US fundamentalist readings of the Bible. Many Protestant fundamentalists are of the view that the only possible interpretation of Genesis 1:30 is that all animals were originally vegetarian, and they also tie that in with a broad general view of a “fall of nature” that went along with the “fall of man.” This affects how they view all kinds of questions — certainly evolution, but also theodicy etc. So for me it becomes important to establish whether there are in fact other ways of reading 1.30. If there are no other possible ways, then the fundamentalists are right and other things follow. If there are other ways, then they are being too insistent and dogmatic.

      My objection to what you have said is *not* that you interpret Genesis 1.30 to support animal vegetarianism; indeed, taking the verse out of context, by itself, that is how I would interpret it. But it is in a context, first of all, of Genesis 1, then of Genesis 1-11 (with a somewhat different creation story nearby, in Genesis 2-3), then of all of Genesis, then of the Pentateuch, then of the Hebrew Bible, then of the Christian Bible. And when you take the nearer and broader contexts into account, I don’t think your interpretation is a slam-dunk. Yet you seem to be representing it as the only possible reading of that verse. So it’s your insistence that straight-thinking people would have to agree with you that I’m resisting. Your interpretation itself I think is fine *as a provisional interpretation to put on the table, in competition with other interpretations*.

      And if you should demand: where are these other interpretations? I’d say: go to a university library of a decent size; you will find probably 20 or 30 commentaries on Genesis in English alone (and more if you can read other languages); many of them will have detailed discussion of Genesis 1.30. In some cases the discussion will give not merely the commentator’s opinion on the meaning of the verse, but also some of the opinions of other commentators whose work is not available in English, old German commentators, medieval Christian and Jewish commentators, Patristic commentators, etc. I’m recommending that you consider the views of a wide variety of highly educated people on the meaning of Genesis 1.30 before you decide that yours is the only reasonable interpretation. And I’d say that not just about Genesis 1.30 but about any Biblical verse or passage.

      As for your question on Genesis 2, I interpret the Garden story as originally independent of the Genesis 1 story, and I think that the Garden story is a “paradise narrative” with a semi-mythical flavor. I therefore imagine Adam and Eve as getting along fine with all the animals, even the ferocious ones; that’s how such stories go. I haven’t given any thought to how lions were supposed to have behaved toward sheep in Eden; the story doesn’t comment on that subject. In any case, given my view on the compositional question, I don’t allow myself to read Genesis 1.30 into the Garden story. And I can’t justify my view of the compositional question in the short space of a blog site. I would need a 30-page essay in a journal to do that. So at that I will leave it.

      Sorry if this reply is too long, but I didn’t have time to write anything shorter. Best wishes.

  13. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    You write about “visitors LACKING GOODWILL to turn The Hump into yet another internet international INVECTIVE match”.

    And then you not indirectly but directly address me with:

    “Why should any of us listen to you?”

    I’ll answer you yet again, Jon.

    One reason people should listen to me, or at least may consider listening to me, is that I think I make some sense.

    Another reason is that in making my points, I actually try to respect and stay FAITHFUL TO THE MEANING OF WORDS.

    You and James, in particular, seem to think respecting and staying faithful to the meaning of words is very important.

    Consider, for example, this exchange on the “Fecundity” blog:

    Jon: “Of the use/abuse of a word like design, I’m reminded how … by abandoning the whole terminology to their opponents rather than insisting on the original usage, they left … If the word “design” were abandoned by Christians because of some supposed contamination by a particular movement, then sure as hell the original concept would be lost, too… and the word sacrificed on some kind of ideological altar.”

    James: “Excellent point, Jon. Surrendering a valid term is never a good option. One should fight for the proper and traditional meaning of words for as long as there is hope that the meaning will communicate and be constructive.”

    Yes, words and their meaning are very important. One might say the meaning is even more important when the original meaning in a given context (e.g. in a Christian religious context) has continued to the current day. (As opposed to words with many changes in meaning over time. Example: “You’re BAD, man!” actually can mean ‘You’re COOL, man!” which means “You’re GREAT/AWESOME/TOUGH, etc. man!)

    And here, in a Christian religious context, I might consider the meaning of words such as “catholic”, “orthodox”, “tradition” and “traditional”. Important words, I think. But not very important if the speakers of the words change the rules, and think they get to make up their own definitions for them.

    I repeat this sequence:

    Jon: “That’s why no serious branch of Christianity (I exclude those 30,000+ US denominations…) sees itself as divorced from the catholic and orthodox tradition”

    Me: “Does that tradition, and let’s just consider for now the tradition of the first thousand years A.D., include a single human being as head of the Church (starting with Peter), and seven sacraments, including the “transubstantiation” of bread and wine into the Body and Blood in the Eucharist? If so, are these serious branches of Christianity “married” to these traditions, or are they “divorced” from them?”

    To which you’ve never seriously responded.

    So might ask you, Jon:

    “Why should any of us listen to you?”

  14. seenoevo says:

    James,

    It’s good to see we’re in agreement on some things.

    However, I think you are STILL misrepresenting what’s going on here regarding the view of animals pre-Fall vs. post-Fall, and specifically my view that they WERE affected (e.g. lions became carnivorous). You write:
    “[Jon’s] not saying that it is a *forbidden* position; he is saying that it is not the *traditional* position — meaning, the view commonly held by the Fathers and other early and medieval writers. He is not saying that holding a view of animal vegetarianism contradicts the Nicene Creed or condemns one to perdition; he is simply saying that it is a minority view which should not be represented as *the* Christian view.”

    I ALREADY said I knew, and Jon ALREADY said he knew, that mine was not a forbidden position. Where we have been differing, over and over and over, and apparently unbeknownst to you for some reason, is that Jon contends that mine, as you say, “is not the *traditional* position — meaning, the view commonly held by the Fathers and other early and medieval writers.” I’ve asked him over and over and over to demonstrate this with some quotes/passages. He’s produced only one (Cyril’s), and I told him I hope he’s got some better ones because that one doesn’t cut it (i.e. it doesn’t clearly and definitively support Jon’s contention).

    “Many Protestant fundamentalists are of the view that the only possible interpretation of Genesis 1:30 is that all animals were originally vegetarian… This affects how they view all kinds of questions… So for me it becomes important to establish whether there are in fact other ways of reading 1.30. If there are no other possible ways, then the fundamentalists are right and other things follow. IF THERE ARE OTHER WAYS, THEN THEY ARE BEING TOO INSISTENT AND DOGMATIC.”

    If your last sentence is true, then they ARE definitely doing the dirty dogmatic.

    For we both know of at least one OTHER WAY of interpreting “And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” Specifically, the OTHER WAY is seeing the “every/everything” as ‘NOT every/NOT everything” and the “green plant for food” as ‘green plant AND NOT green plant (hint: what bleeds?) for food’.

    And there may be at least one other way, A THIRD WAY. Some vegetarians may take Gen 1:30 as God’s command to go veg/vegan. This is the way man is supposed to be in God’s eyes. Man, still pure before The Fall, was a vegetarian. So, this is not only a better way, it’s the BEST way. God said so. Oh, some may argue against this, but you know, there will always be people who will argue against anything, and who’s to say who has the autho…

    So again, if that last sentence I quoted is true, then they ARE definitely being dogmatic.

    James, the following two questions are NOT rhetorical. I hope you’ll answer.
    1) Is being dogmatic ever acceptable?
    2) If yes, would you please give JUST ONE EXAMPLE?

    “So it’s your insistence that straight-thinking people would have to agree with you that I’m resisting.”

    And it’s your insistence that straight-thinking people would have to agree with you that I’m resisting.

    I guess, then, we’re even in a sense. In another sense, we’re not, and I lose. Because you probably have more people with PhDs on your side. Oh, well. ‘It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game’ or whatever.

    “I therefore imagine Adam and Eve as getting along fine with all the animals, even the ferocious ones.”

    Another point of agreement!

    “And I can’t justify my view of the compositional question in the short space of a blog site. I would need a 30-page essay in a journal to do that. So at that I will leave it.”

    Thank you.

    “Sorry if this reply is too long, but I didn’t have time to write anything shorter.”

    That’s an excellent line. A close paraphrase of Chesterton, I think.

    • James says:

      seenoevo:

      I believe I said, somewhere back near the beginning of this long conversation, that I have no objection to your asking Jon for more examples of traditional commentators and theologians. If I didn’t say that, I’m saying it now. Go ahead and ask Jon for more examples. (It seems to me that Jon gave more examples, in some other columns, way back, long before you started posting here, so I wasn’t insistent about it; but I can understand why you want examples and I’m not chastising you for asking for them.)

      That said, my concern all along has been that, for the discussion to be edifying for the readers, *both* of you should be providing examples for the position you think is the best one. Now, my perception is that you think that there was a “fall of nature” which greatly affected animal life, even the relationships of animals to other animals. My perception is also that you are not claiming to be the first one to have ever thought of this, and that you are aware that Christians before you have held this view. And finally, my perception has been that you have not provided even as many examples as Jon of Christians before you who have held this view. And I for one would find the discussion more useful if it would go like this:

      Jon: Well, Cyril of Jerusalem says X.

      Seenoeveo: Yes, but Tertullian, in *this* passage, says not-X.

      Jon: Yes, but isn’t Tertullian an outrider? In The City of God, Augustine says X, and Athanasius’s commentary on Job he too says X.

      Seenoevo: Aha! But in a later work of Athanasius, his commentary on Genesis, he appears to have changed his mind, because he says not-X.

      Jon: Yes, but that work of Athanasius is regarded by many scholars as not genuine. And don’t forget Minucius Felix who in says X.

      Seenoevo: Well, here are some passages where Irenenaeus and Albert the Great that definitely say not-X, so your position may be true for some thinkers, but doesn’t stand as a generalization.

      Jon: Hmmm … you may be right … let me think about those passages and get back to you.

      Seenoevo: And I, in turn, think I should ruminate on the passages you have provided before rendering any decision.

      Do you understand now, Seenoevo, what I am looking for? I am looking for historical documentation of “What Christian thinkers have believed” about animal pain and predation before the Fall. I am looking for a two-way dialogue about what the texts say, with evidence presented on both sides. So I have no objection at all to your pressing Jon for examples, but I wish you would press yourself for examples as well. I would learn more in that case.

      Now, your question about “dogmatism.” I am not sure what you mean by the word. You could be thinking of “dogma” in the formal sense, as the Church uses it. Obviously any Church will have “dogmas” — posited truths which believers are expected to accept and take as starting points of future reasoning. In that sense, Christianity can’t get along with some “dogmatism.” But as you know, the word is often used in English to mean something like “stubborn attachment to a position which responds in a cavalier or inflexible manner to evidence and reasons advanced against the position.” In that sense, I think that dogmatism is always wrong. (I think that the Darwinians, for example, tend to be dogmatic, because of the “man the battlements” attitude they take toward any criticism of random mutation and natural selection. But I have found dogmatism among Thomists, among Marxists, among libertarians, among feminists, among atheists, among TEs, among global warming devotees, etc. And I’m equally repelled by their certainties in every case.)

      So if someone says: “I think that Genesis 1.30 teaches an original animal vegetarianism” and then proceeds to give reasons for that position, and reasons against the opposite position, he is not being “dogmatic” in my sense. But if someone makes numerous comments to the effect that people who come to different conclusions are not thinking straight, are not reasonable, lack common sense, etc. then I think that person is being dogmatic in the bad sense — too sure of himself, too sure that he has covered all possible options, too sure that he hasn’t missed anything in the text or context, too sure that others aren’t capable of reasoning as well as he does. Sometimes I have found that you express yourself — not just on this verse but on a number of theological matters — in this way.

      Finally, I do *not* insist that straight-thinking people would have to agree with me about animal vegetarianism before the fall. I don’t know which statements of mine you are picking up on. I have said that I am not convinced by the position of animal vegetarianism; I have not characterized those who hold it as lacking logic, reason, common sense, etc. I simply think that on balance, it is a less likely meaning of the text than the alternative, i.e., that Genesis 1 takes for granted the existence of carnivorous creatures even though it does not highlight their existence. My focus here is not on opposing your belief in pre-Fall animal vegetarianism; my focus is on opposing what I take to be your characterization of those who disagree on that point. You seem to think that they are unable to understand the obvious meaning of the Bible, either due to some intellectual defect or to being seduced my modern ideas and not trusting in the Bible’s simple teaching. And my point is that there is a more charitable interpretation, i.e., the evidence may be ambiguous and it may be that reasonable people can disagree over the point.

      If you agree with me now that reasonable people can disagree over animal vegetarianism before the Fall, and over the existence of a general “fall of nature” — if you can acknowledge that faithful, informed, and intelligent Christians can study the Bible for a long time and still have opposing views on these subjects — then I don’t see that we have anything further to dispute on this point. We can end in agreement.

  15. seenoevo says:

    James,

    In answering my question on dogmatism, you left the most important word out of your most responsive sentence:

    “In that sense, Christianity can’t get along with some “dogmatism.”

    I believe you meant to say ‘In that sense, Christianity can’t get along withOUT some “dogmatism.’ A Freudian slip, perhaps.

    I’m confident you WOULD like to see Jon and me going back and forth, and back and forth, swapping quote for quote of Augustine and Tertullian and Athanasius and etc., with erudite analysis and referrals to august commentaries. As I wrote before, let’s put another pot of tea on, sit in our comfy chairs with our laptops and legal pads, and discuss discuss discuss.

    But never decide.

    Similar to the way you’ve done on this and other related matters for probably the last 30 years or more.

    I’m also fairly confident that with all that, you would not change your position. You wouldn’t decide.

    If that near-endless exchange between Jon and me is a possible coming attraction for you, you may have to wait a very long time for it.

    Those who adamantly hold to the belief in The Fall of all creation (i.e. after The Fall, animals first began dying, and some became carnivorous), will ultimately be proven to be 100% right or 100% wrong. Their “dogma” will be proven pure or polluted. Nothing in between.

    With or without you.

    (That U2 song is playing on the McDonald’s muzak as I end this post!)

    • James says:

      Correct — I meant to write “without some dogmatism.”

      As for the rest of your reply, it is unjust: not only is there no data warranting your judgment of endless indecisiveness on my part, but there is plenty of data in my posts indicating that I have come to conclusions on a number of points. I have come to the conclusion, for example, that Genesis never meant to teach original animal vegetarianism. I have come to the conclusion that Genesis 1-11 was never meant to be understood as an ancient news report. I have come to the conclusion that neo-Darwinism is bad science. I have come to the conclusion that there is design in living cells. Thus, I am no different from you in one respect; I take positions. But I am different in my attitude towards others who take different positions. I don’t (unless I have long personal acquaintance with the people, or extensive acquaintance with their theoretical writings, and thus have a very broad and deep basis for such judgments) say or broadly hint that they are taking their positions because they have failed in Christian faithfulness or that they have abandoned the truth in order to gain the esteem of academics. I assume — until it is proved otherwise — that they disagree with me based on evidence and reason.

      So I assume that you think that evidence and reason point to pre-Fall animal vegetarianism. I assume you aren’t taking that position to be popular with some local priest or local congregation, or to rise in the ranks of whatever Catholic movement you belong to. I assume you have thought the matter out, and have come to different conclusions from mine. I think those conclusions faulty, but I believe you hold them out of principle, not lack of principle. I would prefer to be treated in the same way. So if I say that the Garden story has elements of the genre of myth, I expect you to believe me when I tell you that I believe this on the basis of my textual studies, not because I want to cozy up to atheistic or liberal higher critics. I don’t ask you to accept my conclusion — I know you won’t — but I do ask you to treat me as someone who disagrees with you on the basis of reason and evidence, not fear or ambition or some other external motivation.

      I agree that there are times when discussion must cease and decisions must be made. I long ago decided that the Christian life, as described in the Sermon on the Mount and in other places in the Gospels, is the best one. I do not always exemplify it! But I think it is better than its current rivals — secular humanism (whether of the right or the left) and other teachings. But adopting the Christian life, and having clarity on theoretical matters — matters of systematic theology, matters of Biblical exegesis, etc. — are two different things. I imagine that most Christians believe that Jesus is in some sense God and accept in some sense the doctrine of the Trinity. But do they all interpret the Trinity in exactly the same way? And if they differ, due to differing perceptions either of the vocabulary or the metaphysical problems, are they lacking in faithfulness? I don’t think so. The same is true of questions of free will and predestination. Who can claim to have laid down an absolutely clear account of those matters? If someone has doubts about Aquinas’s position, or Calvin’s, etc., is that a sign of lack of faithfulness? If someone has doubts about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, is that a sign of lack of faithfulness — *to Jesus Christ*, I mean? I think there are many, many matters of exegesis and theology where prolonged discussion is warranted, and decision, in the sense of “this is what we must believe, and henceforth no turning back or even discussion will be allowed,” is unwarranted.

      Decisiveness in the right place and time is a virtue. Decisiveness just for the sake of decisiveness is not a virtue. It can be just stubbornness, dogmatism, or the product of intellectual laziness which dislikes the investment of time and effort that come with serious thought. The man who jumps in the river and gives his life to save a drowning child, without consulting Kant or Luther or Calvin on ethical obligation first, practices the right kind of decisiveness. The man who decides that all past-tense narrative statements in the Bible are to be understood as ancient news reports, *without first engaging at some length* with serious scholarship regarding the genres and styles and historical contexts of the Biblical texts, is practising the wrong kind of decisiveness.

      Christianity does not demand that human beings sidestep thought, reflection, study, and debate and make snap theological decisions. It makes room for lengthy reflection where no urgent action is required. If this were not the case, then it would be fair to say that Aquinas wasted a massive amount of time in his theoretical efforts, and that Suarez, Bellarmine (now a Saint) and others were guilty of the same. Why didn’t they save a lot of time by just asking the current Pope what they were to believe on the subjects at hand, and affirming whatever he said? But I do not know of any Catholic authority who has ever criticized such people for taking far too long to decide theoretical matters and admonished them to stop reasoning and simply “decide.” Catholicism has never exalted pure will to that extent; it has always had more respect for reason.

      This is what was so wonderful about the previous Pope’s Regensburg address — the rejection of an understanding of religion which is based on sheer will, sheer affirmation for affirmation’s sake, and the encouragement of a religion which respects and fosters reason. Reason often takes time. And when that is the case, where there is no urgent policy matter requiring action, decisiveness must take a back seat to the processes of research and reflection.

      In the present case, there is no urgent Christian need forcing us to decide whether or not animals were vegetarian before the Fall. No one needs an answer to that question, for example, before deciding whether or not to have an abortion, commit adultery, fight in a war, or donate money to a tornado-ravaged community. There are no lives at peril which require us to decide this question without further thought. We therefore have leisure to acquire familiarity with the history of Christian thought on the matter, to read the Fathers and compare and contrast their views, etc. And that’s what I think we should do. But if you aren’t interested in participating in such a discussion, it is your right to opt out of it. Best wishes.

  16. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You write to me:
    “As for the rest of your reply, it is unjust: not only is there no data warranting your judgment of endless indecisiveness on my part, but there is plenty of data in my posts indicating that I have come to conclusions on a number of points. I have come to the conclusion, for example, that Genesis never meant to teach original animal vegetarianism.”

    Yet, earlier you wrote:
    “And I for one would find the discussion more useful if it would go like this… Do you understand now, Seenoevo, what I AM LOOKING FOR? I AM LOOKING FOR historical documentation of “What Christian thinkers have believed” about animal pain and predation before the Fall. I AM LOOKING FOR a two-way DIALOGUE about what the texts say, with EVIDENCE presented on BOTH SIDES.”

    Why are you STILL LOOKING for more historical documentation and for presentations of evidence and for more dialogue and for arguments from both sides? You said you already had come to a conclusion on this (and as I said, probably after 30+ years of LOOKING). Why do you want to see more on this?

    I think I know. It’s because you’re a true, open-minded scholar. Always open to more truth (or maybe just more “evidence”). Never say never. St. John (Kerry), pray for us! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esUTn6L0UDU

    “But I am different in my attitude towards others who take different positions. I don’t (unless I have long personal acquaintance with the people, or extensive acquaintance with their theoretical writings, and thus have a very broad and deep basis for such judgments) say or broadly hint that they are taking their positions because they have failed in Christian faithfulness or that they have abandoned the truth in order to gain the esteem of academics.”

    You forgot the third “PERHAPS” I used on the “Fecundity” blog:
    “And/or perhaps he highly values being free to defend at all costs the decades he’s spent learning, reading, “degreeing”, and writing in defense of an “imaginative” TE.”

    “PERHAPS”. I don’t know. I can only infer, based on everything I’ve read of yours.

    “The same is true of questions of free will and predestination. Who can claim to have laid down an absolutely clear account of those matters?”

    I can, and I think any person with some common sense and real Christian faith can. Here’s how the “absolutely clear account” might be “laid down”:
    [God knows all things, including what the future holds. Predestination does NOT mean only that God knows what your future destiny is. Predestination more importantly means your destiny is PREDETERMINED by God such that you have NO CHOICE, NO FREE-WILL DECISION and action in the matter. If Predestination is true, what’s the point of Christ’s incarnation and preaching and death, what’s the point of following his commands to grow in virtue and preach and evangelize? If Predestination is true, WHAT’S THE POINT OF ANYTHING? Be it resolved, therefore: Predestination is false, anathema.]

    That’s how I might lay it down, anyway. It’s not that hard. You could even do it without a PhD or even without pouring over countless texts in countless libraries for countless hours.

    “If someone has doubts about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, is that a sign of lack of faithfulness — *to Jesus Christ*, I mean?”

    The Catholic Church would say it is. The RCC would say the IC is a dogma of the faith, articulated by the Church (cf. Matthew 16:19). The RCC would say doubting the IC is a sign of lack of faithfulness to the Church which Christ himself established for us. How can one say he’s faithful to X if he doesn’t have faith in what X has established and has told one to follow? It would be like a child saying he loves and is faithful to his Daddy, but when Daddy tells him (maybe through Mommy) to do some things the child doesn’t like or understand, the child disobeys, screams bloody murder, raises hell (and is put on Ritalin by certain daddy’s).

    “Christianity does not demand that human beings sidestep thought, reflection, study, and debate and make snap theological decisions.”

    Agreed.

    “It makes room for lengthy reflection where no urgent action is required.”

    Not at all sure about that. WHEN and on WHAT is action, even urgent action, required? WHAT yields to lengthy reflection whose lengthiness is tbd or forever? If it’s tbd/forever that would mean the WHAT is NOT important, and no decision is needed. It would mean one shouldn’t be wasting time on it. Maybe, James, you shouldn’t be wasting time (including perhaps decades) on this topic.

    Although they’re only analogous to this point, these verses came to mind:

    “But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lys’ias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”
    Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but should have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.
    After some days Felix came with his wife Drusil’la, who was a Jewess; and he sent for Paul and heard him speak upon faith in Christ Jesus.
    And as he argued about justice and self-control and future judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity I will summon you.”
    At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.
    But when two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” [Acts 24:22-27]

    I sometimes wonder whatever became of Felix. I hope he didn’t run out of time.

    James, you had over 1,100 words this last time. You must have had even less time, this time!

    • James says:

      seenoevo:

      The discrepancy which you note at the beginning can easily be accounted for.

      I have a tentative (not rigid, not beyond reconsideration due to new evidence or arguments, but reasonably firm) conclusion regarding what *the author of Genesis* intended regarding animal predation before the Fall. I do not have any view nearly as firm regarding what *the Church Fathers* or *the official documents of the Roman Church* say about animal predation before the Fall.

      This makes perfect sense, as I have studied the early chapters of Genesis in great detail, and have not studied the writings of the Fathers or the documents of the Roman Church in anywhere near such detail. I therefore would appreciate help from people who have read such documents, to highlight some of their contents. And until I get such help, I will continue to have an open mind on the question. So you and Jon both have a chance to influence my opinion regarding the view of historical Christianity, by educating me with a discussion of the ancient and medieval documents. If you both choose not to avail yourself of this teaching opportunity, I will have no choice but to render the verdict “No decision.” Or if Jon comes up with a boatload of passages which seem to indicate that the majority view of ancient authorities was that there was predation before the Fall, and you come up with no passages that contradict this opinion, I will have to conclude — albeit only tentatively, and open to revision — that Jon’s claim is stronger. If you are happy with this situation, then we need not quarrel.

      Your analogy about the child obeying Daddy by obeying Mommy is instructive, because it overlooks the possibility that the child may be disobeying, not because he disrespects the authority of Daddy, but because he has strong reason to believe that *in this particular case* (not in all or even most cases, but in this case) Mommy has simply misunderstood what Daddy wanted to convey. Thus, if Daddy says “Never play with matches, because you might burn the house down,” and Mommy says, “Daddy’s away, so I’m in charge, and today we are going to play a game where we run around the house in the dark, hiding in various places (behind dry, aged curtains, amidst piles of dried old newspapers, etc.), waving our matches around as the only clue to where we are hiding,” the child might well think that in defying Mommy’s orders, because they put the house at risk, he is actually obeying the higher authority of Daddy. He would then be being faithful to Daddy, which is (from his point of view) a higher priority than being faithful to Mommy — in the rare event where those two loyalties clash.

      Of course, Mommy may be very angry at the disobedience, and will probably spout high-sounding principles about her authority as the Vicar of Daddy in Suburbia, and how disobedience to her, for any reason at all, is automatically disobedience to Daddy. That would be true, of course, if Daddy’s grant of authority to her was: “This woman, no matter how idiotic her decisions, and no matter how deleterious they are to the very purpose for which I married her, i.e., to found a safe and stable home for a family, is always to be obeyed.” In that case, the child would rightly conclude that he should *knowingly let the house be burned down*, in order to be loyal to Daddy. (But then the child would also rightly conclude that Daddy is self-contradictory and possibly insane, and would start to wonder if he should obey even Daddy any longer.)

      Regarding your concern about waiting forever for doctrinal decisions, I see no reason why *some* doctrinal decisions should not wait forever, if there is not enough evidence on either side to compel an answer. Presumably God would not leave us in that situation regarding anything *essential* to “faith and morals.” I do not consider knowledge of whether animals were vegetarian before the Fall to be vital to the maintenance of “faith and morals” — and I don’t think the Catholic Church has ever held it to be so, either. So the discussion can be very prolonged without doing any harm. But here the ball is in your court. Suppose that you die without any clear opinion regarding animal predation before the Fall, but in full faith that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and fully shriven to boot. Are you in danger of eternal perdition for not having made a “decision” about animal predation? And if not, why are you pressing for such a “decision”?

      As for your use of “perhaps” — that covers you against the charge of directly accusing me, but only formally and technically. The rhetorical effect of the “perhaps” is to make the charge by insinuation, without actually making it. If you really don’t know my motivations, it would be best not to speculate aloud on them at all.

      Your confidence that you can lay out a clear account of free will and predestination, when the greatest minds of the world have wrestled with the question for millennia, would be audacious and shocking, were it not for the fact that this sort of overconfidence is encountered daily on the internet in the writings of people who comment on theological matters. As for the actual account of predestination that you give, I find it far from clear, and insofar as I understand it, I suspect that it disagrees in part with both Thomas Aquinas and with authoritative Catholic teaching. But I will leave the theological experts here, Jon and penman, to analyze your opinion and assess whether it resolves the perplexities that have troubled the wisest of our race. Best wishes.

  17. seenoevo says:

    James,

    To borrow some words from your expansion of the Daddy/Mommy/Child scenarios, do you think the Church’s proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (which you brought up earlier) is like Mommy ‘misunderstanding what Daddy wanted to convey’ or ‘burning down the house’ or being “idiotic” or “deleterious”?

    “I do not consider knowledge of whether animals were vegetarian before the Fall to be vital to the maintenance of “faith and morals””

    I wouldn’t either, if Scripture and this modern age were different.

    “ — and I don’t think the Catholic Church has ever held it to be so, either.”

    I agree.

    But maybe someday the CC will. This “veggy” issue, being an integral part of the old ages & evolution position, is a RELATIVELY NEW phenomenon. And as I’ve stated multiple times before here, the CC usually moves very slowly. Belief in evolution raises theological issues/problems, evidenced by the creation of websites like this and BioLogos. It CAN weaken a person’s Christian faith, and even lead to the complete loss of such faith. (I have known several people personally who “lost it” for this very reason. And they were educated, intelligent adults. Nothing is more serious than this result, with or without “education”.)

    Maybe someday soon. God only knows.

    “But here the ball is in your court. Suppose that you die without any clear opinion regarding animal predation before the Fall, but in full faith that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and fully shriven to boot. Are you in danger of eternal perdition for not having made a “decision” about animal predation?”

    No danger regarding the issue of animal predation, per se.

    Big danger, however, if I’ve not REPENTED (Repentance being a necessary salvific element you failed to include above but probably assumed.).

    And if my failure to repent takes the form of disobedience of Church teachings which I’ve dismissed or discounted or “nuanced” as a result of belief in evolution which HAS a distinct position on animal predation, THEN, you might say I’m in danger of eternal perdition for having made a certain “decision” about animal predation.

    “Your confidence that you can lay out a clear account of free will and predestination, when the greatest minds of the world have wrestled with the question for millennia, would be AUDACIOUS and SHOCKING, were it not for the fact that this sort of overconfidence is encountered daily on the internet in the writings of people who comment on theological matters.”

    Then call me “audacious and shocking”. You’ve called me a lot worse.

    P.S.
    Latest post: 962 words. You’re batting around a thousand.

    • James says:

      seenoevo:

      Regarding repentance, I used the word “shriven,” and I assumed that repentance would be part of the process.

      I am glad we agree that a particular opinion about animal predation is not in itself central to faith and morals.

      I of course agree with you that evolution has been and can be deleterious to faith. Certainly, when it has been presented as it has been presented by many leading scientists and science popularizers (Sagan, Dawkins, Gould, Coyne, Bertrand Russell, etc.), it is necessarily so. I have long been opposed to such an understanding of evolution — non-teleological, unplanned, unguided, dependent on iffy random events, etc. However, it much more commonly destroys the faith of Protestants than Catholics, in my experience, and I think that this is so because Catholics, generally speaking, are allowed more latitude in their interpretation of Genesis than certain types of Protestant are.

      Your position is rather odd, because it seems to be an attempt to push Catholicism in a Protestant fundamentalist direction, *at least as far as Genesis interpretation goes*. Thus, your position has the effect of making *any* form of evolution (not just the aforementioned materialistic, reductionist form of evolution) a direct challenge to the inspiration and truth of the Bible; those Catholics who interpret Genesis in *your* manner — six literal days, a literal Garden and talking snake, etc., will thus be likely to swing from belief to atheism, just as many Protestant fundamentalists have, when presented with many of the results of modern science. (And I’m not even speaking of biological evolution here, but just things such as an old earth and the overwhelming geological and historical evidence against a *global* flood at the time demanded by the Biblical genealogies if those genealogies are insisted upon as the real timeline for the world).

      The Catholic position on Biblical hermeneutics outlined in the document which was pointed out to you on BioLogos — the document produced by a commission headed by the former Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict — does not run this risk. It does not tie Catholic faith to Genesis literalism. Nor does the Catholic Catechism, which speaks of “figurative elements” in the Garden story.

      I thus find myself in an odd position — a Protestant advising a Catholic who seems to wish that Catholics were more like (fundamentalist) Protestants. Be careful what you wish for. I’m advising you, with all sincere good wishes for yourself and for the Catholic Church, “Don’t go there.” Instead, insist on creation, without a rigid six-day time frame, as the expression of God’s sovereign will, which is carried out (by whatever physical means it is carried out) in accord with God’s plan and hence is no “chance” process; insist on the beneficence and goodness of creation; insist on the uniqueness of man; insist on the special creation of each individual soul; insist on a real historical “Fall” without insisting on all the details of Genesis 2-3 as news reports. You can keep all of traditional Catholic doctrine regarding sin and salvation by maintaining these basic elements. You can then accept or reject “evolution” in the broad sense, as you please, knowing that, even if God did choose evolution as his means of producing the hominid body, the Catholic faith is untouched. Evolution then becomes a non-issue, as long as the *narrowly Darwinian conception* is not insisted upon (as of course it is by most American TE leaders).

      Note that my advice does not prevent you from being a Genesis literalist yourself (though I advise against it). I have no objection if you believe in six literal days, a literal talking snake, etc. I’m advising you not to press the Catholic Church to adopt such a position *as an article of faith*. I’m predicting that if the Catholic Church ever does so, its “dropout” rate due to evolution, and modern science generally, will drastically increase. You will get all kinds of Catholic Bart Ehrmans and Will Provines cropping up all over the place. There is also the danger that, even where faith is not lost, an emphasis on Biblical literalism will in other (and doubtless unintended on your part) ways cause Catholics to “think more like Protestants” and focus more on the Bible and much less on the Catholic tradition.

      In short, I think that “Catholic fundamentalism” (if I may use that term) is a lose/lose scenario. I think it has nothing to offer to Catholics that they don’t already have, and it poses many dangers for Catholics. I think that Benedict (even more clearly than John Paul II, who I though was a bit too obsequious to the scientists) had a balanced Catholic approach to these problems. I hope the new Pope will maintain such a balance.

      I thank you for the perceptible moderation in your tone over the last couple of posts. You will find that I make an effort to respond in kind, focusing on issues rather than personalities. Best wishes.

    • James says:

      P.S. I forgot to answer your other question. Yes, I do think that the Roman Church erred in its handling of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. (In that particular case, I would say it was more like “Mommy misunderstanding Daddy” than Mommy being idiotic or deleterious.) On the other hand, something like the Inquisition — that was more like “Mommy working positively *against* the true will of Daddy,” and I think that “civil disobedience” of both laity and clergy against the Inquisition would have been justified, and indeed that all true Christians at the time should have refused to co-operate with any Catholic officials — even the Pope himself, even if he issued bulls and infallible pronouncements declaring the Inquisition right. Against the authorities, they should have appealed to the teaching of the Gospels, the spirit of which is antithetical to the spirit which motivated the Inquisition.

      By the way, I do not think the Immaculate Conception is necessarily false or impossible; but I think Rome erred in making it an unquestionable article of faith. It should have remained what is was before, an acceptable theological opinion on which the Church had not declared. It was a bad move to invoke Papal authority at that particular point, for a doctrine which is not mentioned in the Bible, is not part of the Creeds, was not confirmed by any of the seven Ecumenical Councils, is in no way necessary to be believed for salvation, and whose *logical* basis is more shaky than many doctrines upon which the Catholic Church has left its priests and lay people free to make up their own mind.

      But our disagreement over this should not mislead you. I have much more respect for the Roman Church overall than I have for many Protestant churches. I just think that it is *capable of theological error* (as it is capable of sin — which Popes have acknowledged regarding the treatment of Jews, etc.), even in its official statements. I do not think that the mind of the Pope, or the mind of the Roman Church, is always the mind of Christ, even when its resolutions and proclamations have gone through “due process” (of councils, commissions, reports, debate, Papal meditation, etc.) I think the Roman Church — like all other Churches — is and always will be the flawed Bride of Christ, not the infallible or unerring voice of God on the earth. But its track record regarding error is pretty good in comparison with the theology of liberal Enlightenment Christianity which is the ethos of most mainstream Protestant churches, and even of many evangelical Protestant churches, and which to a large extent drives modern TE. I’ve many a time considered crossing the Tiber, believe me. So don’t think I personally disrespect you or your Church, even though I do not admit all that you claim for it.

      One thing is certain, however; if your Church ever *did* adopt Genesis literalism as mandatory, I would *never* cross the Tiber. Not that your Church should worry about me in making its decisions. I’m just sayin’. 🙂

  18. seenoevo says:

    James,

    Your last response of 500+ words could be boiled down to 7:
    You do not believe in the Church.
    =========================

    A summary with slightly more, but nevertheless adequate, explanatory power might be just 24 words more:

    You believe the Church described in Scripture** does not exist today.

    You believe that you are the highest authority on earth for determining what is true about God and about Christianity.
    ==========================
    I’m not trying to exaggerate or sensationalize. I think the above is true. (I also think it’s true for millions of other “Jameses” around the world.)

    Hop to another church if you’d like. Hop (or swim) across the Tiber. I’m fairly confident you’d be greeted warmly. And there’s a decent chance you’d actually be accepted/admitted, due to your disingenuousness and/or their carelessness.

    But if you see the Church across the Tiber NOT as THE one true catholic and apostolic Church, but only as the current ‘best in class’ (and at that, only “pretty good”, to use your words), I don’t understand why’d you bother hopping/swimming.

    If you do hop/swim, you should at least be honest with them, and tell them that when and if ‘push comes to shove’ on matters of faith and morals, YOUR authority will trump theirs.

    And if they’re not careless, and are true to the faith, they’ll say
    “No thanks.”

    ** Examples: Mat 16:18-19; Acts 16:4-5; 1 Tim 3:15.

    • James says:

      Seenoevo:

      It is truly amazing, the verbal alchemy which enables you to take statements of mine that amount to: “I don’t acknowledge that the Roman Catholic Church is correct in all its doctrines and practices” and transform them into: “You don’t believe in the Church.”

      As if “the Church” without qualification means “the Roman Catholic Church.” And as if one could not acknowledge the teachings of Christianity as true and binding, while being aware of the doctrinal, moral and administrative failings of the various organizations that call themselves churches. And as if there could never be a time when it would be right for Christians to refuse to accept a doctrine taught by their own Church. If the Pope declared tomorrow, as an infallible statement, that theistic evolution was the correct theological position, would you obediently fall into line?

      It is also truly amazing, the audacity with which you impute self-conceptions to me, as when you say: “You believe that you are the highest authority on earth for determining what is true about God and about Christianity.”

      Not only have I never said this; I don’t even think it.

      I of course have opinions about God and opinions about Christianity. But unlike some persons and institutions, I claim no infallibility for my opinions. I never claim that I got them from God. I know that I can err, and I’m always willing to reconsider my opinions when they are criticized constructively.

      And of course, you too have opinions about God, and opinions about Christianity. And opinions about how to read Genesis. And opinions about which of the many doctrinal “camps” existing within the Catholic Church are orthodox, and which are heretical. Etc. And you express these opinions quite forcefully, sometimes leaving the impression that you think that those who hold different opinions can’t think straight, are stubborn, are motivated by the vanities of the world, etc. So one might get the impression that *you* are the one who sets himself as the earth’s theological authority.

      In any case, I don’t find it profitable to discuss my self-concept, or yours. I think we should be discussing the issues instead.

      As for your continual comments about the length of my posts, if you desire oversimplified summaries rather than lucid expositions, I recommend that you do not read them. I am not writing only for you, even in the posts addressed to you. I am writing for anyone who might be reading here, and at least some of the people reading here prefer to see a rational, worked-out position to a superficial statement that lacks nuance. In any case, many of the posts you have written are as long as many of mine, so complaints of this sort involve something of a double standard.

  19. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “In any case, many of the posts you have written are as long as many of mine, so complaints of this sort involve something of a double standard.”

    Yes, I’ve written some lengthy posts. But I was just looking at recent history.

    Not counting this one, I’ve made 16 posts on this blog (including 6 addressed to Jon). Excluding quotes/re-quotes of the other person, my posts totaled about 4,400 words, for a 277 word average.

    Compared to your 11 posts totaling 8,000 words, for a 727 word average.

    I’m thankful you haven’t posted as often as me on this blog.

    P.S.
    I continue to maintain everything I wrote in my 6:07 a.m. post.

    • James says:

      seenoevo:

      727 words is about the size of at typical op-ed in a daily newspaper — not exactly an onerous intellectual chore. For a person with average reading speed, that’s about 2 minutes. (Faster, if the topic is familiar and it’s a continuation of an ongoing conversation — both of which apply here.)

      But if time is so precious to you, you could save some of it by not investing so much of it in counting and averaging my words! (Especially since I don’t intend to change my writing habits due to your request — telling me to write differently will only consume more of your time without having any effect on the outcome.)

      I did not expect you would back down on your characterization of my thought even after I told you that you had misread me. I am used to the pattern by now.

      I continue to maintain my position regarding the imperfection and possibility of error in all Churches, including the Roman Catholic, and I continue to reject the idea of “infallible pronouncements.” I am, as always, open to changing my mind, but the arguments you have offered so far are not persuasive, and as your arguments tend to be the same over time, and not to advance or deepen through the dialogical process, I don’t expect this to change.

      You will be glad to know, however, that I am currently reading some books by great pre-Vatican II Catholic scholars, so you can keep hoping. Best wishes.

  20. seenoevo says:

    Pope Francis recently catechized on ecology, primarily on HUMAN ecology. While his talk was not at all about evolution, he had a line which jumped out at me:

    “When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it (cf. 2:15).”

    I thought that was an interesting choice of words: God PLACED man and woman on earth. Placed, not ‘allowed the evolution of’, not ‘after man and woman came to be, God had them cultivate …’.

    I sure wish I could blog with HIM about this.

    http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-at-audience-counter-a-culture-of-waste-with-s

    • James says:

      Your literalist hermeneutic apparently extends beyond the Bible, and even to the statements of modern writers. The assumption that Pope Francis was not using “placed” in a broad way, that he meant it in the narrow sense (as in “place that book on the table”), betrays a rigid conception of the use of words. In the broader sense, “place” would not be incompatible with an evolutionary understanding.

      Of course, we use “place” and “put” in a broader sense all the time. How many times have we heard people say something like: “This is what I was put/placed here on earth to do” (as an artist might say of painting, a military man of commanding, a nurse of healing, etc.)? But of course, no one supposes that God picked up the person in Heaven and then reached down millions of light years and physically set the person on a particular spot on the earth. Everyone understands that the person was not “placed” in that sense, but arose out of a fertilized cell via embryonic development, and emerged out of his/her mother’s womb. The meaning “placed” here is clearly not incompatible with a long developmental process, and no one is confused by the usage.

      I do not know the views of Francis on evolution. But I see no reason, based on the word “place” alone, to infer that he differs from the view of the two previous Popes, who appear to have accepted (with caveats) a process of evolution as the means by which the human body (though not the human soul) was “placed” upon the earth.

      Sometimes I think that no one should be allowed to become a theologian without first doing an undergraduate major in Classical and/or English literature, in order to render the linguistic faculty supple enough to deal adequately with religious texts and religious thought. I think one of the reasons why C. S. Lewis was such a superb lay theologian was that he, with his expertise in Classical and Medieval/Renaissance literature, had a deep grasp of words in all their varied uses. I highly recommend C. S. Lewis to all those Christians who have healthy conservative instincts but are in danger, due to philological narrowness, of lapsing into fundamentalism. He is a great physician for that illness, and those who read him with appreciation tend to become “conservatives with nuance.”

  21. seenoevo says:

    Another big-bite-size “typical op-ed.”

    As I said, I’d sure like to blog with Francis on this.

    P.S.
    Next month we’ll commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. A few months after that battle, a dedication ceremony was held. Some noteworthy person preceded Abraham Lincoln at the podium. As I recall, that person spoke for about an hour, maybe two. Abe had the unenviable task of following such august oratory.

    Lincoln’s address was only about 270 words.

    But his words were profound and true and memorable. Many many people recognize and remember Abe’s 270 words even today.

    I don’t remember the name of Abe’s predecessor at the podium, or the number of his words.

    Few people do.

    • James says:

      In the interest of factual accuracy (and non-preposterous comparisons), can you name even one of my posts that took you “about an hour, maybe two” to read? Can you name one that took you more than three minutes?

      The goal of theological exposition is to acquaint the mind with truth. The goal of political rhetoric is to stir the heart. The first task, by its nature, often takes a considerable amount of time. Just as there is no royal road to geometry, so there is no shortcut to theological truth. For political purposes, however, shorter, punchier prose is generally more effective. Are you suggesting that your main goal in posting on theological subjects is political? That would explain a great deal.

      Note also that:

      “You’ll wonder where the yellow went /
      when you brush your teeth with Pep-so-dent”

      is both short and memorable. Then there are Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, and Lord of the Rings, which are long and memorable. Perhaps some publisher should edit these novels, using advertising jingles as his model. This would make the world’s great literature more attractive to people with low attention spans.

      There is no end of useful applications of this principle. I can envision a new approach to theological writing based on the principle that truths should be short and memorable:

      “You’ll increase your moral fiber /
      on the day you cross the Tiber”

      Who needs the Summa Theologiae when you can encapsulate 200 pages of moral theology in deathless verse like that?

      or

      “There once was a heretic gent
      Who denied a histor’cal ser-pent
      But then one infallible
      (a fundy quite voluble)
      To Peter’s chair made his ascent.”

      This would wed the spirit of Ken Ham and the spirit of Hildebrand more effectively than a Pulitzer Prize-winning essay, don’t you think?

  22. seenoevo says:

    In the theological discussions here at The Hump, as well as at BioLogos, a good bit of name-dropping occurs.

    More often than not, I think, the name has some quotes or writings which the name-dropper feels supports his position.

    And far more often than not, those dropped names belong to Catholics.

    That’s pretty remarkable for name-droppers and web sites which are decidedly NOT Catholic, and which discount and dismiss (if not despise) Catholicism.

    I made a modest attempt to confirm my impression with some data. I did a theological-name count on this particular blog. James names about 30 people above in regards theology. Here’s the breakdown:

    22 Catholics
    2 CINOs (Catholic-In-Name-Only)
    6 Protestant/non-Catholic
    1 Atheist

    Remarkable. Probably worth 500-1000 words of coming remarks.

    • James says:

      We were doing so well. The tone of our posts, if not exactly cordial, was less aggressive, and we were agreeing on much content. I thought I saw a glimmer of an indication that you were interested in person-to-person conversation, where genuine exchange of ideas might take place, as opposed to a rehearsal of partisan thrusts and parries. Thus, when I sensed that you were veering back toward a confrontational tone, I attempted humor (in the form of gently teasing poetry) as a means of making the conversation milder again. But to no avail. It appears that not even a faint smile creased your face. And now you accuse me of “name-dropping.” Sigh.

      Neither Jon nor I despise or dismiss Roman Catholicism. We simply do not defer to its more sweeping claims. And there is no more point in your getting upset about that than there would be in our getting upset that you do not embrace Protestantism. It’s just a fact of modern religious life that tolerance of difference has become a social virtue. And anyone who has read the history of Europe should be glad that it has.

      I wonder whether the apparently substantial time you invest in counting the number of words in posts, and counting the number of times Catholic authors are mentioned in posts, would not be better spent studying alternate theological positions, so that you could better and more sympathetically understand the views of your dialogue partners. Certain it is that you have expressed a disdain for Protestant thought that neither Jon nor I have expressed for Catholic thought. I take this as a sign that you know Protestant thought only as an outsider, and only through fundamentalist caricatures of that thought.

      You did not answer a good number of questions above, of which I will repeat only one:

      “If the Pope declared tomorrow, as an infallible statement, that theistic evolution was the correct theological position, would you obediently fall into line?”

      I will take silence on this question as an indication of desire on your part to end the conversation, and will leave you in peace. Best wishes.

  23. seenoevo says:

    James,

    Continuing the quest for the meaning of the name-dropping numbers I noted above…

    World-wide, Catholics number about 1.2 billion, non-Catholic Christians about 1.0 billion, so roughly a 50/50 split.
    In the U.S., however, Protestants outnumber Catholics 2 to 1. I think Jon’s U.K has similar numbers.

    So, why doesn’t Protestantism have a similar number of theological luminaries worth raising (“dropping names”) in these theological defenses and investigations here (and on BioLogos)?

    Some might say it only makes sense that Catholic stars would outnumber Protestant lights since Catholicism has been around much longer. But that’s seems like an invalid explanation, since it depends on the continuous “time/tradition” argument which Protestantism denies. Having so much more history should just lead to a great and growing list of famous but Protestant-discredited Catholic Saints and Doctors. Stated differently and colloquially, giving the Catholics more time just gives them more theological rope with which to hang themselves. One would think the Protestants would have an All-Star team equal or greater in number than what the Church fields.

    So why this disproportionate referral to, and even reliance on, the words of the great Catholics from history?

    To borrow your words, James, “This is very odd behavior.”

    P.S.
    You write:
    “You did not answer a good number of questions above, of which I will repeat only one: “If the Pope declared tomorrow, as an infallible statement, that theistic evolution was the correct theological position, would you obediently fall into line?””

    I think the only type of person who would “obediently fall into line” in that case would be a person who was a real Catholic, a true Catholic.

    If I answered Yes or answered No to your question, I’d be getting into the type of personal stuff which YOU AGREED we would NOT be getting into. I’ve already said, more than once, that I’m keeping personal information (e.g. denomination/non-denomination, occupation, education) out of this blog.

    You were doing so well, too.

    Sigh.

    • James says:

      The reason I asked the question was that the ecclesiology to which you have publically subscribed (here and on BioLogos) would *require* you to make your submission to theistic evolution in such a case. If you would make such a submission, then you would be true to your principle. But if you failed to do so, on the grounds that your “conscience” told you that the Pope had erred and fallen into non-Biblical doctrine, you would be reasoning like one of those anarchistic Protestants whom you have steadily denounced for their wayward refusal to submit to the legitimate authority of the One True Church.

      On the other hand, if you *don’t* accept the ecclesiology you have been championing for months now, then you have been arguing insincerely, and manipulating your conversation partners. In that case you would not deserve any further reply on any subject whatsoever.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        We’ve all got to go back to Rome
        The Pope is there – so’s St Jerome
        It’s that, or despair –
        But it seems once we’re there
        Seenoevo might not be at home.

  24. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    So why this disproportionate referral to, and even reliance on, the words of the great Catholics from history?

    Clue: most of the discussion on this thread has been with Seenoevo, who does not accept any non-Catholic teaching as valid, and questions quite a bit that is Catholic.

    So I’ve no doubt that citing the names of Melanchthon, Beza, Farel, Owen, Baxter, Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Hodge, Tom Wright, Don Carson and so on would have been a waste of ink.

    By the way, I note that many of the early names cited on this thread were (a) pre Great Schism and (b) Greek speaking. That is they were Orthodox, not Catholic. I leave out the western names like Augustine whom the Orthodox also claim as their own, Rome having seceded from Orthodoxy by its heretical insistence on the filioque clause.

  25. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    So you’ve named your All-Star team:
    “Melanchthon, Beza, Farel, Owen, Baxter, Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Hodge, Tom Wright, Don Carson”.

    All household names, I’m sure, to any Christian somewhat familiar with Church history, philosophy and theology.

    This could be an interesting game. Those Catholics have a very deep bench, but the coach seems to be leaning toward the following roster: Augustine, Athanasius, Clement, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen, Aquinas, Bellarmine, Irenaeus, Albert the Great, Chesterton, Tolkien, Pope John Paul II. I think they play man-to-man defense. I think I like their chances.

    I have a question about your last sentence:
    “…Rome having seceded from Orthodoxy by its heretical insistence on the filioque clause.”
    1) Do you just mean they had a disagreement and a split, and each called the other “heretical”, or
    2) Do you mean that Rome’s position was truly and infallibly heretical to orthodox Christianity, or
    3) Do you mean something else?

    Is it 1, 2 or 3, (in 123 words or less, please)?

  26. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    Thank you for answering, and for exceeding my expectations by providing the shortest answer in Hump history! (Some other readers might take a lesson from you.)

    But your answer makes me wonder why you directly above (as you have several times before) broached the Schism, with the insinuation that the Orthodox were better or purer than the Catholic. But your “1” answer indicates you see neither as better, neither as having the infallibly true position; “heretical” is just a point of view or a matter of taste – similar to “I like chocolate, you like vanilla. Viva la difference!”

    You’ve already shown that you won’t answer my question on what is orthodox (small “o”). [Please don’t ask me to find the sequence and post it for at least a third time.] But why do you continue to hold up the Orthodox (big “O”) above the Catholic?

  27. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Can you point to any words I have used suggesting one side as more or less heretical than the other? As far as I remember I have only ever opposed the proposition that Rome is self-evidently infallible.

    Heresy is not mere opinion, but neither is it something that can simply be decided on the grounds of a single human authority. And hence the struggles between the conciliar movement and the Popes, and the (rather sensible) belief in Orthodoxy that even the decisions of councils become binding only through the consent of the churches generally.

    Which, of course, matches the role of Synods in the Anglican communion and Presbyteries in the Presbyterian. And even then Popes, councils, churches, synods, presbyteries or anyone else sometimes have to be corrected by recourse to Scripture and with reference to the historical conclusions of the whole church (now 2000 years old).

  28. James says:

    “This could be an interesting game. Those Catholics have a very deep bench, but the coach seems to be leaning toward the following roster: Augustine, Athanasius, Clement, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen, Aquinas, Bellarmine, Irenaeus, Albert the Great, Chesterton, Tolkien, Pope John Paul II. I think they play man-to-man defense. I think I like their chances.”

    But of course, all of those belonging to the “Catholic” bench prior to the Reformation (Augustine, etc.) belong to the Protestant bench as well. Luther and Calvin eagerly studied the Patristic and Medieval theologians and Biblical commenters, and regarded the theology of the Reformation as continuous with all that was true in those writers. So really the “Catholic” team must be restricted to players who were drafted after the Reformation, with the emergence of “Roman Catholic as opposed to Protestant” Christianity. Thus, the “Catholic” team above would be reduced to consist of Chesterton and Tolkien, Bellarmine and John Paul II. Of course its roster could be supplemented with other great post-Reformation players: Ignatius of Loyola, Suarez, Gilson, Maritain, Pope Benedict, etc. But even with such additions, when you pit the post-Reformation Catholic team against C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, George MacDonald, the Cambridge Platonists, Richard Hooker, John Milton, William Blake, John Bunyan, John Donne, Soren Kierkegaard, Rudolf Otto, Emil Brunner, plus the people mentioned by Jon, you have a pretty impressive field at both ends. The game is likely to go into overtime.

    This may go some way toward explaining why Jon and I have great respect for both Catholic and Protestant traditions, and eschew partisan chest-thumping. It is clear that people of the highest intellectual ability, spiritual depth, and personal integrity can be found in both traditions. What we have are two branches of the great Christian tree, not a “true Christianity” versus a “false Christianity.” (And there are other healthy branches as well, e.g., the Orthodox.)

  29. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    “Can you point to any words I have used suggesting one side as more or less heretical than the other?”

    I’m sorry, I must have been mistaken.

    But why, then, do you continue to bring up the subject of the Schism?

    “As far as I remember I have only ever opposed the proposition that Rome is self-evidently infallible.”

    The more I read, the more I think virtually NOTHING is “self-evident” in this forum.

    “… the (rather sensible) belief in Orthodoxy that even the decisions of councils become binding only through the consent of the churches generally.”

    Sounds pretty Protestant. I wonder if the Orthodox have defined “consent of the churches generally”. Maybe their truth is dependent on polling results?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      “The more I read, the more I think virtually NOTHING is “self-evident” in this forum.”

      That’s a plus then – might mean there’s some self-examination going on.

      “Sounds pretty Protestant.”

      If it is, it was a thousamd years before Protestantism, at a time when Catholicism and Orthodoxy were the same beast. The majority of Eastern churches refused to ratify at least one council back in the first millennium.

      Here’s a neat cut and paste contribution from Wikipedia on the Orthodox view:

      The test of catholicity is adherence to the authority of Scripture and then by the Holy Tradition of the church. It is not defined by adherence to any particular See. It is the position of the Orthodox Church that it has never accepted the pope as de jure leader of the entire church. All bishops are equal ‘as Peter’ therefore every church under every bishop (consecrated in apostolic succession) is fully complete (the original meaning of catholic).

      Referring to Ignatius of Antioch[2] Carlton says

      “Contrary to popular opinion, the word catholic does not mean “universal”; it means “whole, complete, lacking nothing.” …Thus , to confess the Church to be catholic is to say that She possesses the fullness of the Christian faith.”

      I’d say that’s historically true (regarding the claim of papal supremacy as always perceived by the East) and theologically true (which relates to James’s points).

  30. seenoevo says:

    James,

    Further above you wrote: “In that case you would not deserve any further reply on any subject whatsoever.”

    I guess I DO deserve further replies, then. Lucky me.

    Immediately above you wrote: “But of course, all of those belonging to the “Catholic” bench prior to the Reformation (Augustine, etc.) belong to the Protestant bench as well.”

    Yes, and a “Yankee fan” is still a Yankee fan even though he roots for the Red Sox, and even roots for the Red Sox when they’re playing the Yankees. Orthodox pinstripes all the way.

    So, Protestants are on board (or on the bench) with the Catholic old-timers on, for instance, allegiance to the Pope, and the establishment of seven sacraments, including the Eucharist? (Instances, by the way, which were also held by all those post-Reformation Catholics you noted.)

    “What we have are two branches of the great Christian tree, not a “true Christianity” versus a “false Christianity.” (And there are other healthy branches as well, e.g., the Orthodox.)”

    You know what came to my mind first when I read that? The evolutionary “Tree of Life”, which even evolutionists today admit can’t be supported.

    • James says:

      The question was:

      “So, Protestants are on board (or on the bench) with the Catholic old-timers on, for instance, allegiance to the Pope, and the establishment of seven sacraments, including the Eucharist?”

      Not on those particular items, but on many, many others. Luther and Calvin were both solidly Augustinian, and Augustine’s theology is, of course, the backbone of medieval and modern Catholicism (even Aquinas is heavily indebted to Augustine) as well as of the mainstream of modern Protestantism (Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, etc.).

      Luther and Calvin were raised as both Catholic and catholic. And when they ceased to be Catholic, they did not, in their minds, cease to be catholic. Indeed, they thought that it was the Church of Rome that had departed from true catholic teaching on many points.

      This is not the place to debate whether or not Luther and Calvin were right in their criticism of the Roman Church. The point is that, historically speaking, the theology of the Fathers isn’t “owned” by Roman Catholicism.

      That’s why, to continue the sports analogy, the Fathers aren’t on either team. They are the referees. And over them, in case of disagreement, is the head referee, the Bible. In a game like that, where the rules aren’t stacked in favor of one team (as they are when one man in the game is *both* a player on one side *and* the head referee), the outcome of the Rome-Reformation final is far from certain.

  31. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    Me: “The more I read, the more I think virtually NOTHING is “self-evident” in this forum.”
    You: “That’s a plus then – might mean there’s some self-examination going on.”

    It’s not a plus when one discovers that the meaning/understanding of many common terms in a specific context can’t be presumed to be shared by others. Virtually no prima facie. And where disagreement exists on the meaning of many key words, you end up with a lot of “babble”. (Examples: “orthodox”, “traditional”, “the church”, “every” (Gen 1:30), “predestination”, “team” (see below).)

    Me: “Sounds pretty Protestant.”

    You: “If it is, it was a thousamd years before Protestantism…”

    And the Tower of Babble was a couple thousand before that.

  32. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “Luther and Calvin were raised as both Catholic and catholic.”

    And Hermit Gosnell was raised as both physician and healer. And Judas Iscariot was …

    How can one claim to be with others on the same “team” when one plays by different rules and has a different coach/manager?

    Here’s another word or term we can disagree on: “Protestant Reformation”.

    Oh, we’ll agree on the common understanding of the term and of the history. But I think “Reformation” is improper or at least imprecise. Better to say Protestant “TRANSformation” or Protestant “Revolution”. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena and St. Ignatius of Loyola were reformers. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli were not. They threw the baby out with the bath water.

    P.S.
    I’m reminded of a very powerful politician who had campaigned to “transform” America. Note that word. Not restore, not reform, but TRANSform America.

    And he’s succeeding.

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