Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Media is at it again

The Pope apparently spoke to a group of scientists today, and the media can't be bothered to understand a thing he said in context.

A note on the translation issue involved in what the Pope said that has conservatives going ape:
What is being translated as “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,”” is “E così la creazione è andata avanti per secoli e secoli, millenni e millenni finché è diventata quella che conosciamo oggi, proprio perché Dio non è un demiurgo o un mago, ma il Creatore che dà l’essere a tutti gli enti.”

What is translated “divine being” is “demiurge,” a Platonic notion explaining the existence of the world. The pope is distinguishing orthodox (small “o”) Christian understandings from Platonic and Gnostic notions. FYI.

Here is what St Augustine said on the issue:

"Scripture called heaven and earth that formless matter of the universe, which was changed into formed and beautiful natures by God's ineffable command...This heaven and earth, which was confused and mixed up, were suited to receive forms from God their maker."
-On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis 3.10.        

This is exactly why I say (and the Catechism says) that proper biblical interpretation has to begin with the Literal Sense. The literal sense includes the background of whom the text was originally written. We come at reading Genesis on the far side of the Enlightenment. We view the universe in terms of Newtonian physics with laws that govern the heavens like gravity, etc. We approach the reading of the Creation story (or any miracle story for that matter) from that lens, that somehow God to do this miracle suspends the laws of physics, does His thing, and then lets physics go back to its normal laws. This is a completely modern way of looking at things, and is completely backwards to the way the people of Bible times would have understand how God acts in history.

In days of yore, nature in its pure form was understood to be chaos. Iron age man was very much at the mercy of storms at sea and diseases that they have little knowledge about. The world was a very scary place that was not understood. This is why Aristotle believed that only wild animals and madmen lived out in the wild, because it was chaos. Chaos was the natural order of the universe. So, the revelation of the creation story to the original hearers of this story was not that God somehow suspends the laws the physics to create the world as we know it. The good news is that God steps into the chaos and creates order. That God is in control and brings order to a chaotic world. Every miracle would have been interpreted through this lens, not from the lens of scientific laws.

I always take umbrance with the idea that the Genesis creation story is only to be interpreted as an allegory. This is why the Church interprets the bible through the 4 senses of scripture. I am currently filming a video series on this, so I don't want to tip my hand on this yet, but the Allegorical Sense is but one sense in how we interpret texts. There is also the Literal sense, and you have to on some level start with the literal sense of the creation story. To say that the original Jews of the Old Testament times would only have interpreted the creations as some sort of allegory like Pilgrim's Progress, I think is erroneous, and we do violence to the text to say that that is the only sense of the scripture.

I say that I really dislike when people say the creation story is only an allegory because part of the creation story involves Adam. Adam and the Fall is far more than some sort of simple allegory. We believe that Original sin is a real thing, that it has actual, continuing consequences in this day and age. To say that the creation story is only allegory is to fall into another type of  fundamentalism that says it is this and only this sense of the story is all there is and can have no other layer or interpretation.

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