Tuesday, August 23, 2005

ITB: Things To Keep in Mind

Pope Benedict XVI points out early in his first homily in In the Beginning that the now standard Catholic response to the story of creation and the fall is something like, "Genesis is not a science textbook and neither are science textbooks religious texts. We don't read Genesis to discover scientific truths and we don't study evolution to discover religious truths. We need to appreciate each for what it is."

While the then-Cardinal Ratzinger says he agrees with that, that alone is not a sufficient understanding of Genesis. He raises two points in his argument to move to a more complete understanding of creation and the fall.

First:
For when we are told that we have to distinguish between the images themselves
and what those images mean, then we can ask in turn: Why wasn't that said
earlier? Evidently it must have been taught differently at one time or Galileo
would never have been put on trial. And so the suspicion grows that
ultimately perhaps this way of viewing things is only a trick of the church and
theologions who have run out of solutions but who do not want to admit it, and
now they are looking for something to hide behind...There is an almost
ineluctable fear that we will gradually end up in emptiness and that the time
will come when there will be nothing left to defend and hide behind, that the
whole landscape of Scripture and of the faith will be overrun by a kind of
"reason" that will no longer be able to take any of this seriously.


And second:
For one can ask: If theologians or even the church can shift the boundaries
here [in Genesis] between image and intention, between what lies buried in
the past and what is of enduring value, why can they not do so elsewhere - as,
for instance, with respect to Jesus' miracles? And if there, why not also with
respect to what is absolutely central - the cross and the resurrection of the
Lord?

B16 gives two answers on how we can distinguish between the images in Genesis and the reality of the Gospels (though reality might not be the right word here, since that implies Genesis is "unreal"). The first is the unity of the Bible, that it was not written as a novel from start to finish but "is, rather, the echo of God's history with his people." The second "criterion" is Christ. The Old Testament is not the end of the story. It points toward Christ and He is the one who illuminates Scripture.

Those two criterion were recognized throughout most of Church history, B16 wrote, and it is only in the modern times that we have abandoned this.
The new historical thinking wanted to read every text in itself, in its bare
literalness...As a result of this isolation from the whole and of this
literal-mindedness with respect to particulars, which contradicts the entire
inner nature of the Bible but which was now considered to be the truly
scientific approach, there arose that conflict between the natural sciences and
theology which has been, up to our own day, a burden for the faith. This did not
have to be the case, because the faith was, from its very beginnings, greater,
broader, and deper. Even today faith in creation is not unreal; even today it is
not unreasonable;even from the perspective of the data of the natural sciences
it is the "better hypothesis," offering a fuller and better explanation that any
of the other theories. Faith is reasonable. The reasonableness of creation
derives from God's Reason, and there is no other really convincing explanation.