Thursday, October 13, 2005

British Catholic Bishops Warning Worshippers Not to Take Bible Literally

I recently clashed with JC Masterpiece over at his place after he wrote: "Thus evolution undermines almost every major religion in the world. The theory of evolution was formed and is at it's very core anti-religious as it's founder was." I pointed out that many religious people, including the last Pope, believed in evolution, but JC thought the late Pope didn't maintain that belief later in life.

Although the Bishops don't explicitly address evolution, I thought JC and my other Christian readers might find this article illuminating about the beliefs of other Christians, even if they be Catholics.

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible...

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.


via Metafilter

28 comments:

asher said...

As soon as they deny the divinity of christ, the power of the eucarest, the notion of immaculate conception and the idea that only christians go to heaven, I think they might have something going there.

Sadie Lou said...

For a faith that has always taken Scripture out of context to support eucarest, Mary being the mother of the church and praying to saints, I don't think this new "revelation" is all that earth shattering for Christians.

Eric said...

yeah Sadie, Christians never take anything out of context.

btw, do you want your bible literal or figuratively, or will you pick and choose?

For one: the Eucharist (sic). Now I don't actually agree with Catholic Doctrine in this one, as I think Christ is speaking figuratively when he says "this is my body". But a literal interpretation of the bible would lead one to agree with the Catholic doctrine.

My question is: if you think the doctrine of the Eucharist is taken out of context and taken too literally, then aren't you doing the same thing the council of Bishops are, just with a different chapter?

Sadie Lou said...

You raise an interesting question, eric. The way I want to answer it is with this:
The Bible interprets itself. Scripture should support Scripture.
A literal definition of Christ saying to eat of his body and drink of his blood would not be supported by other parts of Scripture. In the Old Testament, it was forbidden to drink another man's blood. Why then would Christ not mention this when asking them to partake of his body? Also, Christ often speaks in parables and imagry.
When he says he is our daily bread, is he literally our daily bread? Jesus is not bread. He is not a drink--although he says that the thirsty will be satisfied.

See?
Scripture has to support itself through other Scripture. No where can I find evidence that Mary was conceived by immaculate conception or that she was sinless. In that case, Scripture debunks that doctrine.
When he says he

Sadie Lou said...

sorry for the added words there...don't know where they came from.

asher said...

The doctrine of the immaculate conception was not recognized by the chuch until about 1840, about the same time as that little girl named Bernadette somehow saw something in the town of Lourdes. When Bernadette asked the apparation what her name was, the reply was "I am the immaculate conception"

Please refer to the film "The Song of Bernadette" about 1943 based on a best selling book by a jew fleeing the nazis.

It is a difficult concept to believe that god's wants his son eaten as a part of his worship.

Laura said...

Catholics have never been ones for literal interpretation - otherwise their clergy would be out of jobs. Historically, the Church controlled the masses by interpreting scripture for them (part of the reason for the Protestant reformation). If your congregations can't read or write (let alone in Latin) then they'll believe whatever the Church told them. Men in funny hats interpreting the scripture is what keeps the Vatican in business.

JC Masterpiece said...

By the way. I have mentioned many times that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. I know plenty of people that i would disagree with on one point of doctrine or another but that i have no doubt that they are Christian.

My issue is that evolution goes against major principles of almost every major religion whether some religious leaders accept that or not.

As for the rest of it, i don't think that i need to add anything as you guys seem to be doing a better job than even i may have done.

JC Masterpiece said...

I have mentioned many times that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one.

I know plenty of people that i would disagree with on one point of doctrine or another but that i have no doubt that they are Christian.


Sorry, those were supposed to be two separate thoughts. Didn't mean to be confusing.

asher said...

I think you should extrapolate on why evolution goes against the tenents of most religions.

In my view evolution is a "theory" and has been once since the 1840s.
It should not be taught in science class since it is not science. What should be taught is the History of the Theory called Evolution from Darwin's ideas (and those who came before him) the changing ideas of Gould, and the logical discussions showing the failure of anyone to find a single fact about evolution. Perhaps we could create a new catagory called "Psudo Science Philosophy" and show students how an idea can be generated and discussed because there is no alternative.

JC Masterpiece said...

I think you should extrapolate on why evolution goes against the tenents of most religions.

Actually, that's the discussion that JA refers to in his post at my place

Jewish Atheist said...

In my view evolution is a "theory"

"Theory" in science means more than "theory" in plain English. In English, for example, we wouldn't call gravity a theory, but in science it is. It's the same with evolution.

Here's what the wikipedia has to say about the word "theory."

In common usage a theory is often viewed as little more than a guess or a hypothesis. But in science and generally in academic usage, a theory is much more than that. A theory is an established paradigm that explains all or much of the data we have and offers valid predictions that can be tested. In science, a theory is never considered fact or infallible, because we can never assume we know all there is to know. Instead, theories remain standing until they are disproven, at which point they are thrown out altogether or modified to fit the additional data.

Mis-nagid said...

I wrote a post on the Times article.

JC Masterpiece said...

The theory of gravity does not control gravity. It is merely an attempt at explaining it and may or may not be correct.

Thus is so with all theories. To say that one disagrees with the theory of gravity does not necessarily mean that one denies that the gravitational process exists. Rather it could be that that one denies that the theory of gravity (as it presently exists) is correct.

Eric said...

Also, Christ often speaks in parables and imagry.
When he says he is our daily bread, is he literally our daily bread? Jesus is not bread. He is not a drink--although he says that the thirsty will be satisfied.


do you have the color coded bible that tells you which parts to take literally, and which figuratively? Because I'd like to borrow it and have a look at Genesis and Revelation. I'm just assuming you do, because you seem very sure of what's literal and what's not. Also, I'm assuming you're able to read the Sanskrit, ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, because it might lose something in the translation.


As far as scripture supporting scripture - it can't. There are many internal conflicts within the bible - too many for me to take all of it literally. For an exhaustive list - see http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/gen/1.html

Sadie Lou said...

eric--
I would enjoy this debate more if you weren't so abrasive. Then again, that might be your intent.
You don't need to be some kind of scholar to interpret the bible. If I were a hermit, confined to a cave in the mountains somewhere, I'd have all the biblical information I needed in order to have a healthy relationship with God through Christ. The essentials are openly clear.
As far as doctrinal issues--they are not salvational issues for the most part. Praying to Saints, in my opinion, is not going to keep people from entering into heaven.
Fortunately, we have access to plenty of information and opinon as far as biblical interpretation.
I suggest getting a couple of books on biblical interpretation. R.C.Sprowl, John Piper--whatever floats your boat.
There is a very systematic way to read the bible with understanding. Praying to God for wisdom helps.

Eric said...

Sorry Sadie,
I'm here for a good discussion, and i won't offer any guarantees that I'll be nice all the time, and that your feelings won't get hurt. This is the internet, if you wan't to hear your opinion regurgitated back to you, I'd suggest you go elsewhere.

Jewish Atheist said...

Hey let's try to keep it friendly, folks. Being rude's no way to change someone's mind.

Sadie Lou said...

Thanks JA.
Eric, I certainly don't want my opinion thrown back at me and I expect in a discussion--that we will not agree. What I'm asking you is the same thing I ask of myself: Show some respect to people with a difference of opinion. Have I ever addressed you with a tone of malice or sarcasm? I could--I choose not to out of respect for you and your beliefs.
If you can't extend to me a little patience and hold back your contempt--then why would I want to have a discussion with you? I can assure you that I WILL be nice to you and I WILL do everything I can not to hurt your feelings, why? Because this isn't personal. Like you said, this is the internet.

Eric said...

Sadie - I can come off sarcastic and even bellicose occasionally. I'll try to keep it in check. You've never been intentionally rude to me. What you should realize is that your views run counter to most of mine, and that in many ways posts like the one above suggesting that I pray come of as condescending and pedantic.

I don't have contempt for you, but I do deeply disagree with some of the viewpoints you've espoused, and sometimes that disagreement spills over into sarcasm.

Sadie Lou said...

Well stated and I appreciate the explanation. I'm sorry that asking you to pray comes across as condescending. The bible is clear that in order to really have wisdom and understanding, one should approach the text with reverence and prayer. One would do well with asking the Lord to give you wisdom and understanding through his holy spirit.
I had assumed you were of some faith, since you know a lot about Scripture and I didn't think that asking you to pray would appear to be presumptious under that assumption. I apologize.

Eric said...

I don't know what to say. You come off pedantic again in the first paragraph, and conciliatory in the second. Sadie - please understand - I do attend church, I do pray, but I don't take scripture literally, and the presumption on your part that this is wrong, and that prayer will fix it is not something I agree with.

Sadie Lou said...

eric--
You don't take any of Scripture literally???
I'm confused.
Do you ever pray before you read the bible?
Why do you attend church?
Why do you pray?
Why do you read the bible?
All of these things can be found in the Scriptures so there are SOME things you take literally. Am I wrong for assuming that?

Eric said...

All of these things can be found in the Scriptures so there are SOME things you take literally. Am I wrong for assuming that?

When I say literally, I mean it in both dictionary senses.
The first definition for literally is "In a literal manner; word for word: translated the Greek passage literally. " So I mean that if the bible has words attributed to Paul I don't necessarily believe Paul said those exact words. The bible is not immune from faulty translations, or from editorial spin by its translators. It doesn't mean I don't believe a word of it, it means I try and keep the context and history in mind when reading it.

The second definition for literally is "In a literal or strict sense: Don't take my remarks literally. " So in this sense I mean that I don't believe that 7 days of Genesis strictly means 7 calendar days. (for instance).

I attend church and pray because I believe in the message. The fundamental tenent of grace, and a higher power. What I don't accept blindly is the 2000+ years of societal prejudices and preconceptions that accompany that message.

Sadie Lou said...

I see. So how do you deal with the Scripture that says all Scripture is God breathed? Or how do you deal with the Scripture that says Scripture is not to be tampered with or else there is a cost?
By societal prejudices do you mean issues like women not speaking in church and things of that nature? So as a rule of thumb, what do you believe? The passages in red spoken by Jesus? Because the message is second-hand information, too.
I'm just having a hard time understanding the concept of holding the Bible at arm's length and picking and choosing what is to be believed and what is open for being subjective.

Eric said...

I see. So how do you deal with the Scripture that says all Scripture is God breathed?

Simple, I don't take it literally. A self referential proof is no proof at all. I can't think of any religon that would tell you not to follow it absolutely.

Or how do you deal with the Scripture that says Scripture is not to be tampered with or else there is a cost?

Again - self referential, and in this case I'd ask you about all the ways its already been tampered with (Council of Nicea, translations, etc), and what cost was paid.

By societal prejudices do you mean issues like women not speaking in church and things of that nature?

Precisely. The bible is a set of books written by men in a time where these were the societal norms, and when women were treated as chattel. Is it blasphemous to suggest that these mores might be added and codified to religon? I'm not trying to denigrate the central message of Christianity, just the prejeduces and preconceptions of the society it emerged from.

So as a rule of thumb, what do you believe? The passages in red spoken by Jesus? Because the message is second-hand information, too.

I don't have a rule of thumb. It's possible to believe a message without knowing the precise words spoken. I don't disbelieve that Jesus said something along those lines.

I'm just having a hard time understanding the concept of holding the Bible at arm's length and picking and choosing what is to be believed and what is open for being subjective.

That's understandable, you and I apparently come from very different backgrounds. I'd argue that I'm not picking and choosing, but that I'm trying to get at the core of the matter. I think at the end of it all it's not important whether Genesis is a true rendering of history, or a creation mythos.

Sadie Lou said...

I think we can agree to disagree. Afterall, none of these issues are salvational. As long as you and I both agree on the core principles of the message, then everying else is debatable.

JC Masterpiece said...

I'd argue that I'm not picking and choosing, but that I'm trying to get at the core of the matter. I think at the end of it all it's not important whether Genesis is a true rendering of history, or a creation mythos.

It sounds an awful lot like what you are doing or saying is actually picking and choosing the scriptures to fit your view. When it fit's your view or you like it you take it more literally, when it doesn't fit your view or you don't like it you make it more aligorical.