Saturday, November 19, 2005

Roman Catholic Church Challenges Fundamentalism

I've never been too interested in the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate, as I've never quite understood why it is such an issue for some folks. However, after Pat Robertson's recent damning of the town of Dover Pennsylvania, who voted out their school board for advocating ID, I offered a commentary on the topic for the Christian Alliance for Progress. Here's an excerpt from that commentary;

...I believe in a Creator, and recognize elements of the teleological argument for the existence of God within Intelligent Design. What I have difficulty with is insisting that a philosophical theory be taught as science. Virtually no scientist agrees with Intelligent Design. There has not been one article accepted for publication by any peer reviewed scientific journal on the topic of Intelligent Design. It’s not science.

It seems to be Creationism in new packaging. If it is an attempt to force folks to believe God created everything in six days, then it is an absurd proposition. As an attempt to expand on Aristotle’s Prime Mover or Aquinas’ fifth proof of God’s existence, it may be a valid exploration. But, in light of the strong support ID has from the fundamentalists, I suspect that it is nothing more than a stealth attempt to sneak the bible back into the public schools.

As a non-scientist and a lightweight theologian, what is my opinion? I think that the creative act of God never ended. God continues to make all things new. One way this happens is through evolution. Consequently, since I believe in a Creator and evolution, I’ve really never understood what all the fuss was about...
I was surprise to stumble across this article later in the week; Intelligent Design not Science. From the article:

The Vatican's chief astronomer said yesterday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms...

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Father Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence, Italy.

Mixing the two, he said, is akin to mixing apples with oranges...

In a June article in the British Catholic magazine the Tablet, Father Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."
It does not appear that Pope Benedict XVI would agree with Father Coyne, but the fact that divergent views are being allowed to be made public within the Roman Catholic Church, which includes more than half of all Christians, is encouraging.

We heard a report last month about a new study being released by the Roman Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland entitled The Gift of Scripture. According to the report, here are a few examples of the contents of this new study;

...“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture...

They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language” and that proper acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its human dimensions.

They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”.

The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others"...

As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.

Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.

The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”
Some will most likely see this as a denial of the authority of scripture. Might we expect to soon hear claims that the Roman Catholic Church is also a "non-Christian, foreign, alien and pagan religion"?


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