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The YouTube Heresies

YouTube

A few years ago I began posting brief reflections on movies, music and culture on YouTube, probably the most watched Web site in the world. In my mind, this exercise resembles St. Paul's venture onto the Areopagus in Athens, preaching the Gospel amid a jumble of competing ideas. YouTube is a virtual Areopagus, where every viewpoint—from the sublime to the deeply disturbing—is on display. Never as a Catholic teacher or preacher have I addressed less of the "choir.” The most numerous responses have come to my pieces on atheism and belief. I have made a video called Why Do We Believe in God?, several answering Christopher Hitchens, and, the most popular, a response to Bill Maher's film Religulous.

YouTube viewers can post comments the hundreds I've received have been overwhelmingly negative. Some are emotionally driven and rude, but others are thoughtful and have given rise to serious exchanges. As I debate with these mostly young opponents of religion, and Catholicism in particular, I have discerned four basic patterns of opposition that block the reception of the faith. In the second century, St. Irenaeus wrote his classic Adversus Haereses (Against the Heresies). If a contemporary thinker would like to know the heresies of our time, she might consult these YouTube objections. I have identified four: scientism, ecclesial angelism, biblical fundamentalism and Marcionism.

First, Scientism. In the videos, I have appealed to classical and contemporary arguments for the existence of God, demonstrating that there must be a stable ground for the contingency of the world and an intelligent source for the intelligibility of the world. I am met with some version of the following assertion: Matter, or the universe as a totality, or the big bang, or "energy” is an adequate explanation of all that is. When I counter that the big bang is itself the clearest indication that the entire universe—including matter and energy—is radically contingent and in need of a cause extrinsic to itself, they say that I am speaking nonsense, that science gives no evidence of God's existence. I agree, insisting that the sciences deal with realities and relationships within the world but that the Creator is, by definition, not an ingredient in the world he made.

What I am up against here is not science, but the philosophical position that reality is restricted to what the empirical sciences can measure. When one of my opponents asserted that science alone deals with reality, I informed him that he was involved in an operational self-contradiction, for he was making an unscientific remark in support of his claim. Though many of my YouTube interlocutors can speak rather ably of physics or chemistry or astronomy, they are at a loss when the mode of analysis turns philosophical or metaphysical.

The second heresy I call ecclesial angelism. Repeatedly my conversation partners say: "Who are you, a Catholic priest, to be making truth claims, when your church has been guilty of so many moral outrages against the human race: the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, support of slavery and the clerical sex abuse scandal?” My arguments in favor of religious belief are not so much refuted as ignored, with a "consider the source” wave of the hand.

I respond by insisting that the existence of bad Catholics does not in itself demonstrate that Catholicism is a bad thing. A rare ally on a YouTube forum observed that the use of Einsteinian physics in the production of the nuclear weapons that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents does not amount to an argument against Einstein. As the old dictum has it, bad practice does not preclude good practice.

I do not deny the major premise of their argument. I've told them I stand with John Paul II, who spent years apologizing for the misbehavior of Catholics over the centuries. But Christians have known always that the church, as Paul put it, "holds a treasure in earthen vessels.” In its sacraments, especially the Eucharist, in its essential teachings, in its liturgy and in the lives of its saints, the church participates in the very holiness of God. But in its human dimension, it is fragile. Ecclesial angelism blurs this distinction and allows any fault of church people to undermine the church's claim to speak the truth.

A third heresy is biblical fundamentalism. I hear from my YouTube opponents that the Bible is a mishmash of "bronze-age myths” (Christopher Hitchens) and childish nonsense about talking snakes, a 5,000-year-old universe, and a man living three days inside of a fish. I observe in reply that the Bible is not so much a book as a library, made up of texts from a wide variety of genres and written at different times for varying audiences. Just as one would not take "the library” literally, one should not interpret the whole Bible with one set of lenses.

My YouTube conversation partners typically fire back that I am proposing a novelty in order to respond to the attacks of modern critics. I try to steer them to Irenaeus (second c.), Origen (third c.) and Augustine (fourth c.), all of whom dealt with the complexity of the Bible through the exercise of a deft hermeneutic. Some of those who appreciate the library analogy wonder how one would decide which kind of text one is dealing with and hence which set of interpretive lenses to wear. I respond that their good question proves the legitimacy of the Catholic Church's assumption that the church—that variegated community of interpretation stretching over 20 centuries—required for effective biblical reading today. I ask, How do you know the difference between Winnie the Pooh, The Brothers Kara-mazov, the Divine Comedy, Carl Sandburg's Lincoln, and Gore Vidal's Lincoln? Then I answer my own question: You have been taught by a long and disciplined tradition of interpretation. Something similar is at play in authentic biblical reading.

The fourth YouTube heresy is Marcionism, which brings us back to one of Irenaeus's principal opponents, Marcion. He held that the New Testament represented the revelation of the true God, but that the Old Testament was the revelation of a pathetic demigod marked by pettiness, jealousy and violence. This ancient heresy reappears practically intact on the YouTube forums. My interlocutors complain about the morally offensive, vain, psychotic and violent God of the Old Testament, who commands that a ban be put on cities, who orders genocide so that his people can take possession of the Promised Land, who commands that children's heads be dashed against stones. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this complaint becomes more pointed. If I gesture toward the wisdom of the biblical tradition, I am immediately met with this objection.

In reply, I urge my respondents to read the entire Bible in the light of Christ crucified and risen from the dead. I tell them of an image in the Book of Revelation of a lamb standing as though slain. When no one else in the heavenly court is able to open the scroll that symbolizes all of salvation history, the lamb alone succeeds. This indicates that the nonviolent Christ, who took upon himself the sin of the world and returned in forgiving love, is the interpretive key to the Bible. It was in this light that Origen, for example, read the texts concerning the Old Testament ban as an allegory about the struggle against sin. The bottom line is this: One should never drive a wedge between the two testaments. Instead, one should allow Christ to be the structuring logic of the entire Scripture.

What are the biggest misunderstanding regarding Christianity today? Many things. But I would suggest these four stand above the rest.
 
 
Originally posted at Word on Fire. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Mashable)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Steven Carr

    ' I tell them of an image in the Book of Revelation of a lamb standing as though slain. When no one else in the heavenly court is able to open the scroll that symbolizes all of salvation history, the lamb alone succeeds. This indicates that the nonviolent Christ, who took upon himself the sin of the world and returned in forgiving love, is the interpretive key to the Bible.'

    Here is (allegedly) what Jesus dictated in Revelation.2

    20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

    'Children' is of course a metaphor for followers.

    But the hatred and bile expressed by the Lamb of God are not metaphors.

    • William Ric-Hansen

      So you take 4 verses of the most difficult book in the Bible to interpret and then pass it off as some kind of a statement?

      As you said "Children" is a metaphor for followers, well then to be able to interpret it properly we have to define "Jezebel". So what is "Jezebel" that will be punished like this?

      Either way you are wasting your time because we (99% of Christians) don't interpret this book literally anyway.

      • Steven Carr

        'Jezebel' was an early Christian accepted by that church as a prophet.

        And , of course, Christians hated each other then as much as they do today. They still fight in various You Tube videos which show clergymen brawling with each other.

        I don't interpret your Bible literally either. Jesus was literally the Son of God? Jesus literally walked on water?

        Why do you think your Old Book is worth bothering with, when even believers have to say that they don't bother with the bits full of Christian hatred anger and desire to see other Christians killed?

        • William Ric-Hansen

          Close but no cigar I'm afraid because you missed out the word "false" in front of "prophet". Jezebel is widely accepted to be representative of false prophets.

          I take it from the lack of substance in the of you post that you accept the fact that your initial post contained no valid criticism of the original OP?

          Regarding fighting, people (religious and not) fight all the time, including atheists. Maybe some clerymen fight and are in-appropriate but as the Bible so eloquently states (courtesy of your qoutes) "I will repay each of you according to your deeds". So I will leave any judgement to God. Either way, I don't fight, my friends don't fight. We treat people (and their views) with dignity and respect. Whether all Christians do this is irrelevant.

          Anyway, if behaviour deteremined the worth of a religion RichardDawkins.net would be final conclusive proof that religion is better.

          Regards,

          • Steven Carr

            'Jezebel is widely accepted to be representative of false prophets.'

            That's OK then.

            If a Christian is a false prophet, Jesus can kill her and her followers, 'Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.'

            This is called Christian love.

            It is how Christians prove Jesus loves them. They read a book where Jesus allegedly dictates that he will strike followers of false prophets dead.

            Of course, atheists don't believe in Christian love. They think that a book where Jesus promises to kill Christians is not a book of love.

            They should read Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira mess with the God of Love and are struck dead.

            You don't mess with the God of Love!

          • William Ric-Hansen

            Well any argument is easy when you pick and choose what you want to from the Bible and ingore the parts that don't prove your point.

            A responsible reader reads the entire book, and understands the whole context, before making sweeping statements about the facts the book proports. If read fully, and interpreted with knowledge and tradition and an appreciation for context, it is evident to the reader that the message of the gospel is one of peace, hope and love... not violence.

            Again you refuse to partake in meaningful study of the verses you qoute and therefore you provide an argument which doesn't hold water. If Jesus taught the murder of non-believers as a mandatory Christian belief, or even that it was acceptable, you wouldn't be living in a world where 99..99% of Christian acknowledge the evil of murder.

          • Steven Carr

            You can wash your hands of your Old Book all you want.

            The fact remains that it says that your Jesus threatened to kills Christians who were false prophets.

            If you don't like what your Bible says, don't wave it around as a book atheists should read.

            Because they will read it if you tell them to.

            And, being adults, they will understand what they read.

            So be careful when you ask people to read the Bible.

            You might get what you ask for!

          • William Ric-Hansen

            I never "washed" my hands of anything. I merely stated that you cannot qoute out of context verses, and not engage in serious study, and pretend to be an authority on Jesus (or Scripture).

            You seem to be purposefully ignoring the points of my posts and going on a tangent.

          • DannyGetchell

            "the message of the gospel is one of peace, hope and love..not violence"

            Personally, I think that the God of the Old Testament is a good deal more merciful. When that God's enemies were dead, He allowed them the eternal peace of the grave.

          • Robert Pentangelo

            Are you trying to be ironic?

          • Michael Murray

            Succeeding surely?

            In any case you won't get a reply from Danny here. He is one of the two dozen or so atheists commentators who have been banned from this site. Some of the others are

            Andre B, Andrew G, Argon, Articulett, Ben Posin, BenS, Danny Getchell, Epeeist, felixcox, Geena Safire, Gwen, Ignorant Amos, Jonathan West, josh, MichaelNewsham, Mike A, Noah Luck, M. Solange O'Brien, Paul Boillot, picklefactory, Ray Vorkin, Renard Wolfe, Rob Tisinai, stanz2reason, Stjepan Marusic, Susan, Zen Druid.

            You can find many of them over at

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

          • Octavo

            "A responsible reader reads the entire book, and understands the whole context, before making sweeping statements about the facts the book proports."

            Actually, reading a book of the bible in the context of books written much later by completely different authors is considered a fundamentalist reading of the bible by some academics. James McGrath over at Butler University usually beats that drum pretty hard.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • felixcox

            Jesus allegedly was a pacifist, as far as this life was concerned. But he explicitly states that those who don't believe in him will be tortured for ETERNITY. That's even worse than violence on earth, which only lasts one lifetime.
            So from an earthly perspective, you could argue Jesus advocated peace (notwithstanding the very different behavior advocated and performed by the old testament god (and I'm quite familiar with christians' awkward attempts at reconciling these inconvenient pictures- no need to refer me to ancient theologians)). But from the heavenly perspective, the one that Jesus is claimed to stress, he is as violently intolerant as any god. You can try again with the, "you can't take verses out of context," but that won't work with me. I'm quite quite familiar with the bible, and as a former believer, I can assure you the harder the look, the less cohesion you will find. Sure, with enough metaphor, you can rhetorically unite it- just as you can with ANY collection of disperate texts. Instead, you are left with a mundane anthology- in some parts beautiful, in some parts boring, fascinating, in some parts moving. Unfortunately, God didn't see fit to include a helpful chapter that explains which passages should and shouldn't be interpreted literally. No matter; there are far too many verses attributed to Jesus that speak of the eternal suffering of his enemies. You can deny his words mean what he said. You can cite some later epistles that offer alternative theories (which also entail ignoring the actual words of the son of god). Or you can just shrug off the centuries of whitewashing and admit that such attitudes are sadistically and mercilessly intolerant of those like me who, after years of studying the subject and sincerely believing and worshiping, see no extraordinary, compelling reason to believe in the incarnation, the holy spirit, ancient miracles, ascendance into heaven (a pretty preposterous claim that christians correctly disbelieve of anyone not in the bible, such as Mohammed). What does it say about the judgment of a diety who advocates infinite suffering for finite sins? To me, that's repulsive.

          • Alden Smith

            A emotional argument really lol.

          • felixcox

            No, it's a logical argument. Assuming the gospels are accurate, I'm simply going by what this god/man said. If you are uncomfortable with the words Jesus is said to have uttered, you can just do what most christians do- twist the words of Jesus and creatively interpret them to mean what you'd prefer.

          • Michael

            No It's a straw man. The whole thing really.

            Your subjective expeience with scripture =/= Objective truth.

            Theres over 55,000 different denominations in the whole of Christianity. That's a lot of different ideologies.
            This site, in theory, should give you the chance to focus on and discuss just one of these ideologies. Catholocism =/= the whole of Christianity, at least not since the 11th century (at least to my current knowledge). Evangelical Protestentism is where the more literal interpretations of the Bible come from. It's actually one of their trademark signs.

            http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jesus/evangelicals/evmain.html

            Here are some links on Catholic Bible reading.

            http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/index.cfm

            http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

            Sure you can disagree and say that Catholics are reading the Bible incorrectly but that is just a subjective statement. I can say that I believe that Catholic understanding of the Bible is most the most correct and that would also be a subjective statement. But if you are making an argument against Catholics using a Bible understanding that they don't hold, it's just attacking straw.

            But it seems to me that the way you insist Catholics must interpret the Bible despite historical and traditional way that Catholics have been taught the understanding and message of the Bible, makes you guilty of what Fr Barron was referring to about biblical fundementalism.

          • felixcox

            Michael, it will be easier for me to take you seriously if you can share which NT supernatural claims you read literally. You seem to imply that Catholics do not engage in biblical fundamentalism (which you seem to conflate with literalism), but unless you disbelieve in things such as the resurrection, you too engage in fundamentalism (using your terms). In fact, no sect of christianity (despite what they might claim) is totally fundamentalist; there are too many contradictions in the good book to make that logically possible. Therefore any who believe in ANY extraordinary claim of the bible can be labeled a selective fundamentalist. Sure, some sects do this more than others. But all who call themselves christian engage in fundamentalism (literalism).
            Also, I plead guilty to ignorance of catholicism. I was raised protestant, and in my early adult-hood embraced a form of evangelicalism. I am familiar with catholicism, but it is only as an outsider. Do I understand you correctly that you (or the catholic church) are suggesting the Gospel's accounts of Jesus's words are incorrect? I'm simply taking Jesus's quotes at face value, as if the ancient authors were writing down what he said.
            If that is a non-catholic way of reading the alleged words of Jesus, let me know.
            I'm seeing a bit of post-modernism in defenders; picking and choosing whatever bits of the bible are literally true whenever it conveniently justifies pre-conceived notions.

          • Michael

            I think we have a difference of opinion on the term fundementalism. When I say fundementalism I mean that the Bible is viewed as the inerrant word of God, word for word literally true or at face value as you put it.

            In example, a fundementalist would almost definitely likely be a young Earth creationist because they take Genesis as word for word factual. And then the desparities among fundementalists would just be a matter of individual interpretation.
            An answer in short is that no Catholicism is not this way.
            Using this example the position of the Catholic Church would be theistic evolution. The Bible is not viewed as a history book in Catholicism.

            I'm not certain and please correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me the way you are using fundementalism is any time something is to be taken literally?

            Perhaps this is one of our big mix ups. You are the first person I've ever heard consider the Catholic Church as fundementalist.

            They first way that I perfer to learn to understand scripture is by listening to the priests homily at mass. But this is a slow going way.

            Another way that can help you with the Catholic understanding would be if you use the link I provided for the USCCB. You can read the NAB online there. There is notes at the bottom of every chapter, I would recommend starting with the Gospels and read the introductions too. When you read through them you can use the notes on the bottom to improve understanding and also they give consideration to translational issues. Also the Catechism is a good way to improve understanding as well.

            Also forgive me if I'm taking a leap here. But I figured maybe it was worth mention since you brought up that you were raised protestant and that protestentism has scripture as the sole authority (or Sola Scriptura as it's normally put) but that is not the case in Catholicism.
            This is from Wikipedia: In Catholicism, the Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church.[1] According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.
            Here's a decent article that helps explain this:

            http://www.catholic.com/tracts/whats-your-authority
            I hope this helps clear the air a little.
            Have a good one

          • felixcox

            Thanks for the reply. I'm aware that fundamentalists see the bible as the inerrant word. What I said earlier is that even though they say that, it's impossible because of the staggering number of literal contradictions. Therefore, whether they admit it or not, they also have to pick and choose (not consciously) which verses to see as literal or not. What I suggest is that all religious believers are selective fundamentalists, even catholics- Catholics because there are CERTAIN parts of the bible that they interpret literally, like the NT miracles. So it's a continuum, and while catholics might very well be one of the most "unfundamentalist," they still are, just selectively so, because of those supernatural accounts in the bible that they literally believe. Sorry if I'm using these words in a confusing way. I hope at least I'm clearly explaining what I mean.

          • Michael

            Ahhh now I see what you are saying and also thanks for the reply. I see now where you might be getting confused with Catholicism. What you have to remember is that Catholicism predates the NT.
            Think about it like this: The NT came from Catholicism, Catholicism didn't come from the NT.
            That being said, the Catholic Church couldn't cherry pick it's teachings and doctrines from NT seeing as the NT didn't exist yet so it's kind of impossible to be selectively fundementalist as you put it. The early Church only had the teachings of the Apostles to go off of, which were the teachings of Christ because there was no such thing as the NT scriptures. This gets back into the discussion of sola scriptura. Protestant faiths have the Bible alone to go off of which was never the intended function of the Bible. This makes as I believe the whole fundemental premise of Protestantism fundementally incorrect.
            If it helps you can think of it like this. In Protestantism the Bible is the rule. All ecclesiology has to be based in the scriptures. In Catholicism the ecclesiology was already in place before the NT. The NT came from Catholic ecclesiology.
            Pointing this out usually gets me some angry looks from Protestants. The most common objection i hear to this is that once the Bible was cannonized it became the sole rule of faith. Not only is there nothing to back up that claim but why didn't sola scriptura make an apperance before the 16th century then. This is why I believe that through the magisterium of the Catholic Church is the one valid interpretation of scripture.
            Have a good one,
            Mike

          • felixcox

            Thanks, and I think I"m confusing my responses betwen you and Lionel, sorry!
            Whether or not you believe catholicism precedes the NT, you presumably believe the miracles reported in the NT. If you believe them literally, then you are a fundamentalist in that you read some parts of the bible literally. the chicken-or-egg thing is interesting but irrelevant so long as you hold SOME supernatural scripture accounts to be literally true. Do you believe the NT accurately and literally records the life of Jesus? If yes, then that's a kind of fundamentalism. That you have other ways of interpreting OTHER verses means you are a selective fundamentalist. It's on the same continuum, with a difference in degree not kind.

          • Michael

            Thanks for the reply and no apologies necessary.

            I will agree that using your personal definition of fundementalism your statements are not technically incorrect. However (and I'm not saying that you have to) if you don't change it to what the popular perception of fundementalism (in regard to Christianity) means then your arguments will only continue to confuse especially if the initial claim is on fundamentalism as it was here.

            From Merriam Webster : Fundamentalism - a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundemental to Christian life and teaching

            Have a good one,
            Mike

          • Rick

            That's an excellent point, Michael, regarding the Bible. I can't tell you how many sola scriptura Protestants I've come across, who extol "Bible based Christianity", and treat anything Catholic as if its demonically contaminated. Yet, they are base their entire relationship with & understanding of God based on a book compiled by the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, since the 1500's virtually as many Protestant sects have come & gone as there are ways to (mis)interpret scripture.

          • As an Eastern Orthodox Christian who works from a paradigm far different from most Western Christianity (though Rome and Alexandria bear the same roots as we do), the idea of 'Sola Scriptura' is both weird, nonsensical and somewhat offensive. There was one Church established. We fragmented over doctrine, but have kept the sacraments holy. Perhaps atheists should consider talking more toward Catholic and Orthodox groups, both of whom can refer to the Church Fathers in a language comfortable for all angles of philosophy, rather than from these Protestants who should the "Bible alone" mantra.

      • felixcox

        William, you probably wouldn't call yourself a christian if you didn't believe some of the supernatural claims of the bible. Do you believe Jesus was perfect, never sinned? was the human incarnation of god on earth? rose from the dead? performed hundreds of miracles? levitated up into outerspace (aka heaven)?
        if not, you are not really a christian. if so, then you are a selective fundamentalist, picking and choosing (not randomly, but certainly not objectively) which verses to interpret literally.

  • Steven Carr

    I ask, How do you know the difference between Winnie the Pooh,...

    Easy,

    Winnie the Pooh has talking animals in it, and is fit for children to read.

    2 Peter also tells us about a talking animal.

    • So any book that feature a talking animal contains no truth? I'm curious what you think about Orwell's "Animal Farm."

      • DannyGetchell

        That's beneath you, Brandon. The truth in Animal Farm is not that the animals spoke, and no one, least of all the author, pretended it was more than an allegory.

        • Octavo

          In fairness, the same can be said of Winnie the Pooh.

          ~Jesse Webster

    • Michael

      Let's try this,

      A mule, frolicsome from lack of work and from too much corn,
      galloped about in a very extravagant manner, and said to himself:
      "My father surely was a high-mettled racer, and I am his own
      child in speed and spirit." On the next day, being driven a long
      journey, and feeling very wearied, he exclaimed in a disconsolate
      tone: "I must have made a mistake; my father, after all, could
      have been only an ass."
      Seems like an inane story about a talking animal, if you are unfamiliar with the text. But when you say that it's Aesop (if you are familiar with Aesop) then you understand the light it is supposed to be read in.

  • "Matter, or the universe as a totality, or the big bang, or "energy” is an adequate explanation of all that is" I would agree that this Is fallacious. The matter and energy of the cosmos is however the only source of information we seem to have. This approach is called materialism, not scientism. And yes we need to apply reason to this information to make sense of it for ourselves. The sense of understanding of it and the reasoning itself are concepts in brains and are themselves material.

    I think this approach deal with Fr Bs concern that you tubers assert only empirical science has answers. My personal view accepts materialism and is best labelled empirical skepticism. I think this is a workable and reliable way to approach the world. No, it does not account for everything, but neither does theism or supernaturalism. I'd be happy to discuss this in the comments over the weekend.

    • William Ric-Hansen

      Hi Brian,

      1st. Materalism and Scientism are synonymous in that both reject any form of "immaterial" truth, which I think is where the poster was going with this.

      2nd. Whilst I fully understand your personal views, the reality is that hardly a single person in the world is true to that worldview. Not even Richard Dawkins. You say that "it does not account for everything" however what's more important (to me) is what does it not account for?

      For instance I take comfort in the love of my friends and family. I cannot prove empirically that this type of unconditional love exists but I know it exists. Things like 60 year marriages are not natural for humans, our chemical make-up is not such that we can easily live and be satisfied with one woman for our whole lives. But hundreds of people reach this place, and experience a great deal of love. I'm sure most humans hope to reach this themselves. There is no empirical evidence for this either. When you look at the world and see someone doing a selfish, sacrificial action for other humans there can be nothing natural/empirical about that. But it's just as real as any scientific fact.

      It is my contention, they will fervently deny it, the vast majority of Atheists feel very strongly about something or someone immaterial and have an absolute belief in the value and existence of this immatural thing (whether they recognise it as immaterial or not).

      Again, and I'm sure you have heard this before, there is an inherent contradiction in your worldview. As you hold a worldview which cannot be tested to be true of false empirically. That is your world view of materialism/empiricalism.

      In fact everyone in the world (with no exceptions) blindly holds onto at least one immaterial, untestable, worldview, be it religion or materialism.

      Kind Regards,
      William

      • Steven Carr

        'I cannot prove empirically that this type of unconditional love exists but I know it exists'

        If I went crazy and said that a priest loved 6 year old boys, you would soon demand that I prove that empirically in court, or withdraw such a vile accusation!

        • William Ric-Hansen

          Your last statement is a deflection from the topic of my post. I did not come here to talk about inappropriate behaviour forms.

          So (on topic) do you not believe in love? Do you believe that anyone loves you?

          • Believing in love does not mean one accepts the immaterial exists. I believe that when I have certain experiences and interactions with people and things, these result in various thoughts, emotions, sensations. Following a very complex set of thoughts and experiences I call some of these, in aggregate, "love". Nothing in this needs to be "immaterial" whatever that might mean for this to happen.

            If you call this aggregate "immaterial", fine, but that is difference of labels. If you think something "exists" beyond the physical events and thoughts, please explain what it is, and how you know it exists.

      • While scientism and materialism share some qualities, they are not the same thing. Lets not worry about labels and focus on what I think we can agree as the central issue, the rejection of claims of immaterial things.

        I actually think that almost everyone applies materialism, but most people have wishful thinking that there is something more. But when you scrutinize what the something more could be and how conclusions can be reached that it exists, we hear of only material sources.

        In your example you point to material evidence of loving relationships. There is enormous empirical evidence that these people exist, that they say they feel love, even individually experience feelings and thoughts that I label "love". I experience no such feelings or thoughts with no material origin. If you do, please tell me about them.

        I accept that many atheists, myself included have certain experiences of wonder and awe, and in fully acknowledge that there is more to this world than what we see and science has proved. But that doesn't mean these things immaterial. I can't even contemplate what something immaterial could "be". To me is seems incoherent.

        Finally, I see no contradiction in materialism. Please keep in mind that neither it, nor science make absolute claims. Everything is contingent on induction being generally reliable. Like any approach it has strengths and weaknesses. The strengths would be that it allows for some conclusions to be reached at all and to be as confident as possible in these conclusions. The limitation is, as you allude, the problem of induction. But I see no way around this in any reasonable approach.

      • Rick

        "Things like 60 year marriages are not natural for humans, our chemical
        make-up is not such that we can easily live and be satisfied with one
        woman for our whole lives."

        I'm not sure if you really believe this proposition or read this somewhere in a "scientific" study - probably the same type of materialist propaganda that states that humans are naturally amoral, that familial and romantic love are constructs, that we are just a set of selfish genes, etc. What's scary about these lies is that if you just accept them as facts, paradigms, and assumptions, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

    • Vasco Gama

      But, unlike the presumption of scientism (that science is the source of all knowledge), theism doesn't pretend to be anything of the sort, but leveling scientism (which is not the same as materialism) with theism is nonsense (well at least for me)

      • I really don't think anyone credible actually thinks that science is the only source of knowledge. I mean no one takes the approach that they need to wait for multiple studies and peer review to accept their subjective observation that it is three o'clock. When people make such comments don't you think they really mean empirical observation and critical thinking relative to the extradinariness of the claim.

        We are discussing hyperbolic statements in the abstract. It would be really helpful if the authors of such pieces as this could provide a brief example of what scientist is.

        • Vasco Gama

          I agree with you that scientism is not a credible philosophical idea. But it is a fact that a lot of people think that it is reasonable to take it seriously (in various degrees of applicability, not always consistently), further these days it is deeply rooted in popular science and philosophy (as something reasonable), and this view is defended among scientists (such as Dawkins) and philosophers (such as Steve Pinker).Pinker published an article making an apology for scientism not so long ago (this summer I guess) that was harshly criticised by a variety of people (theists and atheists). I found the link to his piece:

          http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114127/science-not-enemy-humanities

          • I don't think Pinker is apologizing or explaining "scientism" he is defending science.

            I think you are overstating the impact of "scientism" as it is defined here. It is not a philosophy or serious approach to knowledge. I doubt you could find anyone defending it.

            Science however is the most reliable source of knowledge because of the rigour it requires. This also means that for many things, for example the causes of the First World War can never reach scientific standards of acceptance.

            Skeptical empiricism can however, this is why courts use it. Any clam can be considered and scruntinized. It is the best we can do. It's only requirement is that there is evidence and the claim logically fits the evidence. The confidence we have in the claim depends on the amount of evidence supporting it.

            Anything else is speculation and wishful thinking. These things have their place, but until there is evidence to support them it is wrong to say they are knowledge, in any sense.

            I would say theistic claims fall into this latter category. When skeptical empiriists like myself point out that these claims are not evidence-based, or that the evidence adduced does not fit the claims, we may be accused of scientism, and this would be unfair.

          • Vasco Gama

            Brian,

            I guess our interpretations from the article are different. What Pinker does is an apology of scientism, all through the text he pretends to defends it against the extensive criticism of scientism (as he acknowledges that has negative connotations), but he goes a little further pretending that somehow scientism is a defense of science (in reality the worst enemies of science are the supposed apologists of science, they are an embarrassment to science). Pinker is a well-known philosopher and this article didn’t go unnoticed, if fact various people scientists and philosophers (theists and atheists) criticized him. From time to time I read articles in the blog of Massimo Pigliucci (who is scientist and philosopher that happens to be atheist), and he wrote a post on Pinker’s article (may be you could give a look at it):

            http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.pt/2013/08/steven-pinker-embraces-scientism-bad.html

          • I am well-acquainted with both Pinker and Pigliucci.

            I am not sure you are understanding the distinction between "science" and "scientism".

            Pinker is reacting to the negative views of science from both the left and right and dismisses the "scientism" label as a pejorative straw man early on. He then goes on to promote the actual benefits and use of "science" not "scientism".

            What we should be discussing in this context is what Fr Barron is concerned with. This is the approach that he says some YouTubers take that only when ideas have passed the onerous requirements of science, should we accept them as accurate. He would be right if anyone actually thought this way.

            I don't think anyone really would defend this. Pinker accepts that this is a ridiculous position when he says "No sane thinker would try to explain World War I in the language of physics, chemistry, and biology as opposed to the more perspicuous language of the perceptions and goals of leaders in 1914 Europe."

            Difficult to lay this all out in a comment and so I have done a blog post rebuttal to Barron's concerns with "scientism". http://wp.me/p3T8eg-K

          • Vasco Gama

            Brian,

            I am well aware of the distinction between science and scientism (and I acknowledge that you too recognize the distinction). I respect Pigliucci position (of a moderate
            criticism towards scientism), that is somewhat complacent (he is wrong but that is his problem), but I am not. In general I tend to agree with Barron (no major disagreement at least). Scientism is deeply wrong and it is the last
            superstition (the most fashionable these days) to use the expression of Edward Feser.

          • Well, you have said:

            "a lot of people think that it [scientism] is reasonable to take it seriously (in various degrees of applicability, not always consistently), further these days it is deeply rooted in popular science and philosophy (as something reasonable), and this view is defended among scientists (such as Dawkins) and philosophers (such as Steve Pinker)"

            I do not think anyone takes it seriously or would defend it as a reasonable philosophy. Despite what Piguliucci says, I don't read Pinker's essay as embracing scientism. At least not the heresy described by Fr Barron above.

            Can you point me to anyone who actually defends the idea that if something is not established scientifically we cannot say it is knowledge at all?

          • Vasco Gama

            Brian,

            At the moment, actually I can’t present you with a name (is not that I didn’t heard it or read it), but that absurd statement pretty much corresponds to the idea, that it is possible to all human knowledge that is not established scientifically can be dismissed. That is basic idea (of course is quite incoherent), and nobody states that in those terms.

            But the notion is quite popular between those that have a minimum scientific literacy (but not really meaningful), particularly between those who follow the modern popular
            science apologists (such as Dawkins, who tend to propagate mythical notions of an overreaching and overachieving science that doesn’t exist).

            You read the piece from Krauss, where you suppose that he tries to defend science. Really? and from whom is Krauss defending science? Who are the supposed enemies of science?

            I remember a few, although is quite mysterious about that, as if there was a hidden terrible conspiracy against science, dark forces that are supposed to be the enemies of science: the conservatives, religion and the intellectuals (from humanities). I ask you are these terrible enemies of science that are supposed to represent a treat that at least is presumed to worth mentioning.

            The conservatives: Really? They have alternated with democrats (in the US) or social democrats (in Europe). If they were a meaningful treat to science we already have realized their evil deeds, curiously they didn’t defund science, while in power, on the contrary their pretty much maintained the status quo.

            Religion: Really? Does religion possesses any power (in the executive of legal systems of democracies)? No. Even if we consider this absurdity reasonable, is religion at large are against science? No.

            Intellectuals: Really? Do the people from humanities have any power to oppose to science? No. In his favor Pinker argues, well they are jealous of the success of science, and of the respect and attention that is given to science. Maybe, in fact maybe they are, but can they do anything else besides complaining about the decrease of students and funding. No.

            Are these treats even worthwhile of consideration? I guess not (but then you may very well not agree with me).

          • David Nickol

            I am well-acquainted with both Pinker and Pigliucci

            Pigliucci is one of my favorite operas, which I have seen some fine productions of, including one with Pavarotti. But I have never even heard of Pinker. Perhaps it is a reference to Pinkerton.

            Vesti la giubba!

  • Octavo

    "In reply, I urge my respondents to read the entire Bible in the light of Christ crucified and risen from the dead."

    How does that expiate the slaughters that Yahweh commanded in Numbers 31, for example?

    ~Jesse Webster

    • Paul Boillot

      Come on Jesse.
      (I'm writing that in Walter White's tone of voice.)

      Yahweh had to command the genocide of the Midianites, the murder of innocents, and child rape en-masse, because it was necessary for the story of the salvation of humanity to progress.

      • Octavo

        That's one of the two defenses I've heard. The other is that when Numbers refers to the distribution of underage women to the conquering soldiers, it wasn't for the purposes of sex. Doesn't make much sense to me, Walter.

        ~Jesse Webster

    • William Ric-Hansen

      Well you are kind of proving the point of the qoute by bringing it up. However, a few points worth noting:
      1. This is a record of events from a completely different age to the one we live in? Violence and conquest was rife. It was a dog eat dog world. Of course this story upsets our modern minds.
      2. The Midianites had betrayed the Isrealites first, and had received numerous warnings about what they were doing. Just so you know their behaviour was appaling, it wasn't like they were telling fibs everynow and then. They were sacrificing people.
      3. The Midianites were engaged in activity that effectively threatened the existence of Isreal. There is alot of political meddling behind the scences and a plot to get the Jews to reject God. Obviously no one knows this because no one bothers to read the full story :) .
      4. The actual amount of people involved is very low (about 20-30k) and not the whole Midianite population as some people believe.
      5. God is portrayed as resorting to violence as a last resort to protect the Isrealites from people that had been actively seeking to get them to reject him.
      6. The whole population was not killed as per popular belief. In fact, other practices and verses show that only boys of a fighting age and above would be killed. Ultimately the Jewish race was small (having just had 24 000 people killed by the lovely Midianites) and therefore they could take about 32 000 people, which according to some scholars is about what would have been left.
      7. Not all theologians are 100% agreed to actually what happened in these stories and which commands were divinely inspired and which were human judgement. For instance Jesus himself denounced certain Jewish laws. The Bible is ultimately a project between man and God. Fully written by man but fully inspired by God therefore the human element of the writing cannot be ignored. This is part of what makes the Bible so special to us. Therefore we are not and can not be 100% certain that God intended this to be a selfish genocidal act of violence.

      Throughout the Bible God only resorted to violence as a means of last resost, he gave people count changes sometimes decades, and in agreed to spare populations if even 1 righteous man existed. The Jewish opponents on the other hands were violent, aggresive and involved in all sorts of horrendous activities (including child sacrifice). If God directly ordered the destruction of those people then we believe that the reasons must have been very strong, and fundamental to the survival of God's people (as many people interpret the situation). No woman were ever taken a sex slaves (and no where in the Bible is this ever presented), God in all instances seeks as many chances of non-violent solutions as possible and throughout the Bible it is evident that God's nature is loving and forgiving.

      Best Regards,

      • Andre Boillot

        "No woman were ever taken a sex slaves (and no where in the Bible is this ever presented)"

        Except, perhaps, in Num 31: 17-18

        "17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
        18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

        -Moses, speaking to the returning army (though I suppose you could say that's on Moses, not the big-guy).

      • Octavo

        "2. The Midianites had betrayed the Isrealites first, and had received numerous warnings about what they were doing. Just so you know their behaviour was appaling, it wasn't like they were telling fibs everynow and then. They were sacrificing people."

        Judging by Numbers 25, their "sin" was not human sacrifice. It was that they had sex with God fearing Israelites and in an earlier incident alluded to, they enticed people to not worship Yawheh.

        As someone who is married to a Christian, I'm going to look askance at anyone who claims this activity is or ever was worthy of death.

        ~Jesse Webster

      • josh

        "Throughout the Bible God only resorted to violence as a means of last resost, ..."

        ...or for a wager. Or if some kids made fun of Elisha's baldness. Or if he was hardening someone's heart. Or if he was hankerin' for an animal sacrifice. Or is someone dared to look back at their home which he had just destroyed...

        Why not spend some time not being 100% certain that there is anything special about the Bible?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Josh, I didn't realize you are a Bible-thumping fundamentalist.

          • Octavo

            I'm sure you can do better than just engage in name calling. If an interpretation is fundamentalist, cite some scholarly perspectives.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm being factious. Or maybe fatuous.

            What I mean is that Josh is reading literalistically what should be read in a different manner. From the Catholic perspective, the Old Testament should be read in light of the New and it can be interpreted in a number of senses.

            From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

          • Octavo

            "From the Catholic perspective, the Old Testament should be read in light of the New and it can be interpreted in a number of senses."

            That is an ahistorical method of reading the bible. Proper exegesis (not something I claim to be good at) involves discovering what the author was saying to his audience at the time of writing. It's not particularly useful to interpret a book in the light of letters and books not yet written for hundreds of years.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Two points, Jesse.

            (1) A literary form can be perfectly understood when it is first employed, forgotten at a later time, and then rediscovered.

            (2) If every book of the Bible has two authors, God and the human author(s), then earlier books *can* be interpreted in light of later ones. For example, Christian writers often see Noah's ark as a symbol of the Church and the flood as a "type" of Baptism.

          • Octavo

            (2) may be your theology, but it is still a fundamentalist and ahistorical method of exegesis. It's one reason Protestants have an unlimited number of interpretations and theologies. Any passage from any biblical book can be examined in the light of another. The only difference with the Catholic perspective that I see is that there is strong institutional control over this process.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We should distinguish between a literal reading and a literalistic reading. The Catholic understanding is that every passage in the Bible should be read literally according to its genre. However, if you read something as history when it is myth, you have made a mistake.

            The Catholic method of reading the Bible is much richer than reading on passage in the light of another.

          • Geena Safire

            It's not just institutional control. Catholics are still actively discouraged from reading the Bible, although the church doesn't burn them at the stake for it any more. (They are not discouraged from reading the specific readings for each day that have been carefully extracted from the Bible by the church fathers.*)

            Catholics are also required to accept the official church interpretation of the scripture and the traditions.

            * Some people think Catholics who go to daily mass will hear almost the whole of the Bible read to them in a three year cycle.

            Actually, the daily attendees would hear only about a quarter of the Bible. And the weekly attendees, only an eighth.

            The three-year cycle of readings, based on Lectionary Statistics from a Catholic Lectionary website, only covers 27.4% of the Catholic Bible (based on their word count.) (13.5% of the Old Testament and 71.5% of the New Testament).

            The comparable numbers for mass readings on just Sundays and Major Feasts are: 12.7% overall, 3.7% of OT (with 0% from 13 books), and 40.8% of NT.

            (And this is much more comprehensive than pre-Vatican II, when it was only 4.7% overall, 1.0% of OT and 16.5% of NT.)

          • Whoa!

            Please cite your sources.

            Citing lectionary stats only implies that Catholics never read outside of Mass.

          • Geena Safire

            Citing lectionary stats only implies that Catholics never read outside of Mass.

            I neither said nor implied that Catholics never read the Bible outside of mass. I stated specifically why I provided the lectionary statistics:   Some people think Catholics who go to daily mass will hear almost the whole of the Bible read to them in a three year cycle.

            With respect to burning at the stake, William Tyndale was the most prominent, via the church and the holy roman emperor. I could dig up some more, if you'll pardon the expression, if I can find the time.

            With regard to Catholics being discouraged from reading the Bible independently:

            From the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: "It is for the Bishops....to instruct the faithful entrusted to them in the correct use of the divine books, especially of the New Testament, and in particular of the Gospels. They do this by giving them translations of the sacred texts which are equipped with necessary and really adequate explanations. Thus the children of the Church can familiarize themselves safely and profitably with the sacred Scriptures, and become steeped in their spirit."

            (This was hugely more liberal than pre-Vatican II, which also allowed mass to be in the language of the people instead of in Latin.)

             

            From the Catholic catechism:

            "III. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE HERITAGE OF FAITH

            The heritage of faith entrusted to the whole of the Church

            84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei),45 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."46

            The Magisterium of the Church

            85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

            86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."48

            87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me",49 the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms."

          • You said that "Catholics are still actively discouraged from reading the Bible" and called it a form of "institutional control." And then mentioned we are not burned at the stake anymore for doing otherwise.

            Right?

            The VII documents are about interpretation.

            Question: Have you ever taken a college course? If so, when the professor gave a lecture and provided instruction, did you take that to mean, "I discourage you from reading."

          • Geena Safire

            I understand that Catholics are required to submit to the authority of the church in all things. Given that one has acquiesced in this, then it might not seem odd to be told that s/he should receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them because the task of interpretation has been given to the bishops and therefore s/he should read the sacred texts which are equipped with necessary and really adequate explanations.

            I had noted above that they are not discouraged from reading from the lectionary or other contexts that guide their reading, but they would be discouraged from reading the Bible from cover to cover without some form of church-approved interpretation.

            Me, I consider that being discouraged from reading.

            And, yeah, I kinda consider that institutional control.

            In your analogy, if my professor said that, on my exam, I was not to write anything about what I learned from reading the textbook itself but rather only to regurgitate my agreement with her interpretations of it, I wouldn't think highly of that professor. Also, I wouldn't be impressed if the professor forbade me from reading any unauthorized outside material related to the topic of the course.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Contrary to what you are saying, Catholics are *encouraged* to read the Bible on their own. However, it is not unreasonable for us to read the Sacred Scriptures with the mind of the Church.

            For example, do you really want people cutting off their hands or plucking out their eyes because they don't understand Christ's use of hyperbola?

          • David Nickol

            Contrary to what you are saying, Catholics are *encouraged* to read the Bible on their own.

            Admittedly, Geena Safire is on the offensive, but it seems to me you and Tracy Trasancos are overly defensive. Here is an interesting article I stumbled on which concludes:

            [T]he leadership of the Church (I mean its bishops and priests) have not stressed the importance of Bible-reading for shaping the Christian mind and heart.
            The leadership of the Church in the United States has been guilty of many failures in recent times — the sex-abuse scandal, a failure to resist the sexual revolution, a failure to mobilize Catholics effectively as an anti-abortion cultural force. Add to these failures the failure to persuade Catholics to become a Bible-reading people.

            You can find authoritative Catholic documents that pay lip service to private reading of the Bible, but as the author of the linked article says, "Of course, there is an old tradition among lay Catholics of not reading the Bible." The history of Bible study among Catholics is not a happy one, and that includes formal biblical scholarship itself. While in my opinion, some of the best biblical scholarship today is done by Catholics, until recently this was not the case. Here is a brief quote from John P. Meier's introduction to Raymond F. Collins's really excellent Introduction to the New Testament:

            [I]t must be admitted that the Catholic biblical scholars of the fifties still worked under the cloud of possible reprisals. Let us not forget that such threats became realities for a short period toward the end of the reign of Pope Pius XII (died 1958) and during the tenure of Pope John XXIII (1958-1963). For all his many fine qualities, John XXIII was not overly fond of critical biblical research. It was only the accession of Pope Paul VI (1963) and the acceptance of the revised schema of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (1965) [aka Dei Verbum] which truly set Catholic biblicists free. Considering the insecure position of the pioneers, we need not be surprised that the Catholic introductions of the fifties now strike us as apologetic or even polemical in tone. There is a great desire to defend traditional attributions of authorship, and a somewhat uncritical appeal to the opinions of the early Fathers of the Church

            What is amusing is that certain "conservative" Catholics will vigorously defend the right and duty of the Church to provide translations of the Bible for the laity that pre-interpret the Bible for them, they also attack the New American Bible (authorized by the Vatican and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) as heretical!!! So while Geena Safire is decrying the constraints placed on the laity who would read the Bible, "conservative" Catholics accuse the American bishops of being so permissive in their approach to the Bible as to be promoting heresy!

            I remember how excited I was in 1966 to get a copy of The Jerusalem Bible. For Catholics, it was basically the only alternative to the Douay-Rheims Version. The Revised Standard Version, now a favorite of "conservative" Catholics was strictly verboten back then, being a Protestant Bible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are all kinds of things Catholics--including the hierarchy in the West--ought to have been doing but were not.

            However, I have been encourage many times by Catholic leadership to read the Bible daily and I've taken that advice--I read it daily, especially the Gospels.

            I would not call it "lip service."

          • David Nickol

            I would not call it "lip service."

            I have never seen a Catholic campaign to urge people to read the Bible daily that compares with the campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage, or abortion, or stem-cell research, or to get people to vote in certain ways regarding those issues.

            If you checked out the article I linked to, you will have seen reported results from a Rasmussen poll that showed:

            According to the poll, 25 percent of Evangelical Protestants read the Bible daily, as do 20 percent of other Protestants, while daily Bible-reading is done by only 7 percent of Catholics. . . . Far more disturbing was the poll result that showed that 44 percent of Catholics “rarely or never” read the Bible, while this is true of only 7 percent of Evangelicals and 13 percent of non-Evangelical Protestants.

            Of course, whatever encouragement the Catholic Church as a whole has given to the faithful to read the Bible for themselves has coincided with a rather seriously diminished willingness among a great many Catholics to pay serious attention to what the Church urges them to do.

            I do think Geena Safire is not far off base in that the Catholic Church is the final arbiter of what the Bible means, sometimes contradicting the apparent meaning (e.g., regarding the brothers and sisters of Jesus) and sometimes coming up with doctrines and dogmas that one might reasonably expect to be biblical but are not (e.g., the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and a great deal of other Marian doctrines). Readers of the Gospels will search in vain for a Gospel account of Christ instituting the sacrament of marriage or what was called, in my day, "Extreme Unction." It is not really so unreasonable for Catholics to leave the reading and interpretation of the Bible to the Church hierarchy in much the same way American citizens leave interpreting the Constitution to the courts.

          • Geena Safire

            If I were to believe that the Bible were the inspired word of God's revelation, I would sympathize more with Augustine when he wrote that, since God inspired the Bible, why would it be surprising that the same passage could be interpreted in different ways -- because it was meant to serve many purposes -- or that it might be interpreted differently in the future than it could be today.

            That is to say, I'm pretty centrally opposed to the idea that anybody on Earth has the truth, no matter how old or big they are. Thus I would be uncomfortable, to say the least, if I imagined myself a Catholic, if I were told that it was my duty to strive mightily adjust my thinking and my conscience to align with the interpretations of the church because those are 'the truth'.

            I think I would prefer to first read a passage by myself, to see first what it says to me. Then I would like to read about different interpretations from different points of view.

            p.s. Your amputation argument is a straw man.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Personally, I would like to understand the New Testament fundamentally in the way that the Apostles and early Church Fathers interpreted it, with legitimate later insights integrated into that understanding.

            It is true that many passages of the Bible can legitimately be interpreted in many different ways. I don't know of *any* passage of the Bible about which the Magisterium has said "this is the one and only meaning you can give it." That said, some passages may not legitimately be interpreted to mean something contrary to a defined Church dogma. For example, if someone were to claim "This is my body" means "This is *not* my body" the Magisterium would condemn that as an error.

            If you use the Scriptures for meditative prayer, it is legitimate to read it yourself and find what it says to you. That is called lectio divina, an ancient method of praying with the Scriptures.

            The dumb thing would be to pick up the Bible with that attitude that I am going to decide what Christianity is all about based on my interpretation alone. It is dumb because it would be bound by my own presuppositions and limited knowledge.

          • Octavo

            I have catholic family members. They sometimes think that their fellows do not read the bible enough, but I don't think it's accurate that Catholics discourage bible reading. It's more that they have a lot of other reading material as well.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Mikegalanx

            On the Pew religious knowledge survey, Catholics scored the lowest in knowledge of the Bibel/Christianity- of course, that was dragged down by the low score of Hispanic Catholics; "White" Catholics scored slightly higher than mainstream Protestants, but well below Mormons, Evangelicals, and atheist/agnostics

            http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            GEENA WRITES:
            Catholics are still actively discouraged from reading the Bible.

            DEI VERBUM REPLIES IN 1965

            22. Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful. That is why the Church from the very beginning accepted as her own that very ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament which is called the septuagint; and she has always given a place of honor to other Eastern translations and Latin ones especially the Latin translation known as the vulgate. But since the word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. And should the opportunity arise and the Church authorities approve, if these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them.

          • Geena Safire

            See my reply to Stacy below (excerpted here):

            Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: "[The Bishops instruct the faithful] by giving them translations of the sacred texts which are equipped with necessary and really adequate explanations. Thus the children of the Church can familiarize themselves safely and profitably with the sacred Scriptures"

            and from the catechism: "[T]he faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them"

          • Geena Safire

            Christian writers often see Noah's ark as a symbol of the Church and the flood as a "type" of Baptism.

            Genocide is redemption. And black is white. And up is down.

            If one reinterprets the Bible beyond all understanding, then it's the same as if one is making everything up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Church Father's interpreted it this way from the beginning. It wasn't invented to account for lack of archeological evidence.

          • josh

            I was hoping you were being facetious. :)
            As Jesse says, I am neither fundamentalist nor Catholic, and it isn't rational to require that the whole Bible be reconciled with either view. (To say nothing of fundamentalist Catholics.) The claim was about the 'Bible God'. I'm pointing out things God does in the Bible.

            Also, the claim of 'profound' concordance is of course something in question, but if we take it as a hypothesis, then the spiritual side must agree with the sentiments of violence and undeserved punishment found in the literal reading. I don't think that Bears really appeared to devour children at the prophet Elisha's command, but the message intended by the author clearly indicates violence for minor offenses and no second chances.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are saying something interesting, Josh, so I hope I have the patience to listen!

            First, though, I think whenever someone reads a text according to what seems "obvious" to him, there is the danger of fundamentalism.

            In the story of Elisha and the two bears, if it didn't really happen, then the story itself is a warning not to disrespect others.

          • Geena Safire

            a warning not to disrespect others

            Seriously? And the law for stoning to death of children who disrespect their parents is just a warning not to disrespect others. And getting killed for saving the Ark of the Covenant from falling is just a warning to obey commandments literally no matter what.....

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Geena,
            I'm not going to justify the OT to you. Catholics don't believe God behaves that way or expects us to. So, if you have a problem with the OT, you can take it up with a Jew or Biblical fundamentalist.

      • felixcox

        Oh dear, you do realize you are actually rationalizing genocide, right? And genocide as a last resort for an all-powerful, benevolent god?? Wrong. This is exactly why some atheists say it takes religion to make a good person to bad. William, you're probably a great guy, but if it weren't for your tribal allegiance to this religion, you'd probably NEVER defend genocide. Christians say the darndest thing!

      • David Nickol

        For instance Jesus himself denounced certain Jewish laws.

        Really? Which ones?

        • felixcox

          Somewhat relatedly, Jesus famously said, "They tell you an eye for an eye..."
          When of course, "they" was Yahweh! Kind of rips to shreds the notion of a united trinity...
          Would have been more helpful to christians if instead he had said, "long ago, I said an eye for an eye, but i've revised my thoughts on this...."

          • David Nickol

            I have always found it strange that Jesus in these instances (e.g., Matthew 5) introduces commandments (including some from the Ten Commandments) with, "You have heard that it was said . . . ." It as if he intends to present them in such a way as to minimize their authority. I have never seen a good explanation of this odd phrasing.

            In any case, in fairness, I do not think this can be taken to be "Jesus denouncing certain Jewish laws." I recall reading a rabbi commenting on these saying and saying that Jesus was taking a very Jewish approach which he called "building a fence around the law." To put it a bit colloquially, Jesus is going beyond saying, "Don't break such-and-such a commandment," to saying, "Don't even think about it!" It is somewhat similar to the Catholic concept not only of avoiding sin, but avoiding the "near occasion of sin." Don't kill, but to stay as far away from killing as possible, take thinks a step beyond that to avoiding anger. Don't commit adultery, but take things a step beyond that by not even allowing yourself to look at a woman and think what it might be like to commit adultery.

      • David Nickol

        The whole population was not killed as per popular belief. In fact, other practices and verses show that only boys of a fighting age and above would be killed.

        As I read the story (Numbers 31), initially they killed all the men "but the Israelites kept the women of the Midianites with their little ones as captives." This infuriated Moses:

        14 Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the clan and company commanders, who were returning from combat. 15 "So you have spared all the women!" he exclaimed. 16"Why, they are the very ones who on Balaam's advice prompted the unfaithfulness of the Israelites toward the LORD in the Peor affair, which began the slaughter of the LORD'S community. 17 Slay, therefore, every male child and every woman who has had intercourse with a man. 18 But you may spare and keep for yourselves all girls who had no intercourse with a man.

        What did they do with the virgins they were allowed to keep for themselves?

        My Jewish Study Bible glosses the phrase slew every male in 31:7 with the following:

        Total annihilation is an expression of victory not to be taken literally. It is a common propagandistic statement in Near Eastern battle accounts.

        It would not trouble me, but some who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God might balk at the idea that an inspired text could contain a "common porpagandistic statement."

      • God is not depicted as using violence as as a last resort. The plagues of Egypt are an easy example. God kills people in the plague of hail before resorting to it with the plague of killing children. All in the context of hardening Pharoah's heart so that he could not be convinced by the earlier plagues.

        Of course there is the flood as well, in which it was the last resort of God to kill not only most of humanity, including those incorrigible babies, but also most of the animals too. What was his first resort then?

        We have the story of the bears ripping apart youths for teasing a man about his baldness, Jeptha, the rules about having rape victims marry their rapists, not suffering witches to live, allowing slavery, allowing the beating of slaves (as long as they don't die in a couple of days). And of course the slaughter of the Amakelites, in which the failure to kill infants is a problem for the pious. It goes on and on. The final solution for evils and sin is not the kind of plan Ghandi or the Dali Lama would pick, but one the prince of peace designed in which he is tortured to death and we honour his memory by eating his body and drinking his blood.

        Can anyone show me the solutions or acts of God in the Bible that involved things like peacekeeping, diplomatic negotiation, truth and reconciliation processes, treaties against war crimes or torture or genocide? To me these seem like the things that God should be trying before resulting to his one state solution in Canaan.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Hey, Jesse.

      The beginning of the answer is that there has to be something wrong with the way your are interpreting Numbers 31. Fr. Barron is saying that atheists and agnostics are interpreting the Scriptures like a Biblical fundamentalist.

      • Andre Boillot

        Kevin,

        Care to inform us of the Church's official ret-conning of Num 31?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think Fr. Barron does a pretty good job outlining such an interpretation from early Church Fathers in the video link above.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm trying real hard to interpret these passages from the standpoint of slain lambs. These don't seem to be in the poetic styling of what's traditionally been presented as metaphor. These are from what were (if I'm not mistaken), at least until recently, considered to be the more historical / literal books of the OT.

            Also, Fr. Barron's interpretation - that Israel stands for love, forgiveness, and compassion - is immediately contradicted by saying that the enemies of Israel need to be fought mercilessly and without any chance for forgiveness.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think by "slain lamb" Barron means Catholics interpret the Old Testament in light of the Gospel.

            If that OT passage is read allegorically, it means we have to fight evil, especially evil in our own hearts and actions.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I think by "slain lamb" Barron means Catholics interpret the Old Testament in light of the Gospel."

            No, no. Far more specific than that. If you interpret any part of the Bible that would contradict the imagery found in one chapter, you did it wrong. All this without much work done to show why that should be the case.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm lost as to what you mean.

          • Andre Boillot

            I was trying to 1) assure you that the lamb/Christ metaphor was not lost on me; 2) correct you on what Fr. Barron suggests: that the Bible as a whole needs to be considered in light of Rev 5, and that any interpretation that would conflict with the imagery of mild and meek found within those passages must necessarily be wrong. A suggestion me makes without explaining why the imagery of Rev 5 should be the lens through which we interpret the entirety of scripture.

            Fr. Barron doesn't suggest such a vague thing as "interpreting the Old Testament in light of the Gospel."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm still not following you, but that won't stop me from commenting (!).

            I think what Fr. Barron means is the "classic" understanding. The person of Jesus Christ is the fullness of or the complete Divine Revelation.

            For this reason, all of Divine Revelation (the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition) must be interpreted in light of Christ.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I'm still not following you, but that won't stop me from commenting (!)."

            You don't get to be #1 without a little effort.

          • felixcox

            Keven, your generous interpretations of the text are exactly what several muslim defenders say to claim that Mohammed was peaceful. Exactly the same technique, just different characters.

      • Octavo

        If you have any links to a scholarly analysis of this that is not intended as an apologetic, I'll happily read it.

        ~Jesse Webster

        • Octavo, I'm reading a book right that I highly recommend. It's by a Bible scholar at the Catholic University of America, and it's titled: Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and St. Thomas Aquinas.

          • Octavo

            I'll see if it's in my local library.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Likely not because it's an academic text--that's what happens when you ask for a "scholarly analysis" :)

            But if you'd like a more popular-level text, I'd recommend (Protestant) Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster?.

          • Octavo

            Hmm, I think my spouse owns the Paul Copan book.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • picklefactory

            I'd recommend Is God a Moral Compromiser?, myself.

          • josh

            Seems to be intended as an apologetic.

      • josh

        Why does their have to be something wrong with Jesse's (or for that matter a fundamentalist's) analysis?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Something wrong from the Catholic perspective. Or something wrong from the standpoint of a proper understanding. For example, if you try to read Beowulf as history, you will probably not get out of it what the author intended.

          • josh

            Since the point is to question the Catholic understanding, we can't start off by assuming that understanding is 'proper'. How is this not obvious? The author wasn't even Catholic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't follow your comment. Do you mean the author of Numbers or do you mean Octavo?

          • josh

            Author of numbers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you have a theory of what the author of Numbers intended?

      • DannyGetchell

        As far as my experience goes:

        Yes, fundamentalists take the whole Bible as literally true.

        Catholics, on the other hand, divide the Bible into "literally true" and "allegorical" categories. And the latter category does seem to have grown over the last few centuries.

        Advantage Catholics - they do not have to look ridiculous by challenging vast swaths of reasonably well-settled scientific theory.

        Advantage fundamentalists - they don't have a track record that encourages the "God of the gaps" idea.

        • "Advantage fundamentalists - they don't have a track record that encourages the "God of the gaps" idea."

          Are you insinuating that Catholics do? If so, how?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That is simplistic.

          The two senses in which the Bible is interpreted from the Catholic perspective are literal and spiritual. The spiritual senses are allegorical, moral, and anagogical.

      • Geena Safire

        If there is anything in the Bible that appears to be different from the teaching of the Catholic church, then there must be something wrong with your interpretation rather than with what it actually says?

        That's circular reasoning.

        "The church understands God to be this way. So if the Bible actually literally represents him to be any other way, then there is something wrong with your interpretation of what it says. Because it can only validly be read to mean that God is the way the church understands God to be."

        And where did the church get that understanding?

        "From the scripture and the traditions, and from on-going revelation to the leadership of the church."

        So what the Bible says doesn't matter?

        "No, of course not! The Bible is at the center of our understanding of God's revelation. And every word of the Bible is true. It just may be 'true' in some other way than what it actually says."

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It is a line, not a circle. The Church produced the New Testament and reinterpreted the OT in that light. The Church decided which books were canonical and which were not. The line goes from Christ, to the Apostles, to their successors.

          Put another way, there is in the Deposit of Faith (def.: the contents of Divine Revelation): (1) Oral Tradition (spoken), the Sacred Scriptures (written), and the Magisterium (interpreted).

    • Funny you should ask, Octavo, because Fr. Barron *just* released a video commentary yesterday answering this very question:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A65Wfr2is0

      • Octavo

        I'll have to watch this when I'm not at work. Thanks, Brandon.

        ~Jesse Webster

      • Andre Boillot

        Too bad about the Jews not having the key to unlocking their scripture all those years, eh?

        I'm no biblical scholar/historian, but it does seem like the real meaning of the word of god seems to have suffered delay upon delay. Fr. Barron is proposing that correct way to interpret the entire bible was proposed by Origen; a man in ~200 AD (again, so many years without the correct interpretation...), a man who was later declared anathema, and who based his idea on the 5th chapter of Revelation - a book which was not considered official cannon until ~400 AD. Again, not a historian and this is just an observation from a quick glance at timelines.

        • Octavo

          You raise a good point. I wonder what Jewish scholarship says about this passage.

          ~Jesse Webster

      • Octavo

        I just watched the video. He speculates that the whole story is a metaphor for God fighting for his people, or for the importance of giving God your all, or the value of absolute obedience.

        From what I understand, the prevailing academic perspective is that the Torah was written by four different sources known as JEDP at different periods in history. Wouldn't it be a better approach to find out which one wrote this passage and then analyze the intent based on the culture and audience of the time?

        I suppose a preliminary question would be what the Catholic Church thinks of the documentary hypothesis?

        ~Jesse Webster

  • David Nickol

    Ecclesial angelism blurs this distinction and allows any fault of church
    people to undermine the church's claim to speak the truth.

    While I would not necessarily make this argument myself, it does not seem unreasonable to me that the Church, which claims divine guidance to the point that it cannot be in error, ought not to have promoted anti-Semitism for almost two millennia or handled the sex-abuse crisis so poorly.

    • ziad

      David,
      The church claims the teaching is divinely guided, but not the "personal" so to speak. The way I think of the church as a "hospital". The clergy are doctors. Just because they know how to heal you, it does not mean they can't get sick themselves.

      • David Nickol

        ziad,

        Perhaps your hospital metaphor is more apt than you realize. Estimates have been that somewhere between 98,000 and 440,000 preventable deaths take place in hospitals each year. I suppose you might try to make a distinction between medical knowledge and medical practice, but exactly what comfort that would be if you were going into the hospital, I fail to see. (And of course medical knowledge isn't "infallible," either.

        As I said, I am not necessarily making the argument that the Catholic Church has no claim to authority because of its errors, but I can certainly see why, say, victims of sex abuse by priests, coverups by the priests' bishops, and then battles with the Church's hired lawyers would say to themselves, "I cannot trust this organization. I no longer believe its claims of divine guidance." I am not saying they would be right, but I certainly would understand and sympathize with anyone who said that.

        And didn't Jesus say, "By your fruits you shall know them"?

  • David Nickol

    I have discerned four basic patterns of opposition that block the reception of the faith.

    Isn't this rather arrogant? The reception of the faith. I suppose from Fr. Barron's point of view, there is something wrong with anybody who doesn't "receive" what he is offering on Youtube. But it is off-putting to see it implied so strongly.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Fr. Barron thinks the Catholic Faith is true. He thinks everyone should receive the truth. Don't you agree that everyone should be receptive to the truth and actually receive it when they are convinced it is true? Whatever it is?

      • David Nickol

        Don't you agree that everyone should be receptive to the truth and
        actually receive it when they are convinced it is true? Whatever it is?

        Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, and since I believe that what I say is the truth, I shall try in some future message to account for the obstacles that stand in the way of people receiving the truth of my comments.

        I think in "dialogue," it is taken for granted that each person believes himself or herself to be right, and to whatever extent others disagree, the must be wrong. However, it is possible to engage in dialogue with a certain measure of openness and humility, and allow for the possibility that no matter how firmly you believe yourself to be right, you approach the persons you are having the dialogue with as thinking individuals who believe themselves to be just as right as you are, and you respect that. You might even allow for the possibility—however slight you think it may be—that you could be wrong about something.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I agree with you (so in this case you right ;)). However, on SN, usually the OP is not an instance of ecumenical dialogue. Its usually an opinion piece Brandon thinks might spur reasonable ecumenical dialogue in the comments.

    • Fr. Barron believes, along with the Church, that faith is a gift--it's something you receive, not something you earn or will.

      • David Nickol

        Fr. Barron believes, along with the Church, that faith is a gift--it's something you receive, not something you earn or will.

        Not to be too hard on Fr. Barron, who comes across mostly as well meaning and amiable, but if faith is a gift, it is given by God, not by Fr. Barron. He is not offering the gift of faith on Youtube. He is making his own case for Catholicism, and rejecting the case he makes is not rejecting the faith or God.

        Also, he assumes the Catholic point of view. For example, he says, "I urge my respondents to read the entire Bible in the light of Christ crucified and risen from the dead." That certainly cannot go over well with Jews! Are they to believe that the Old Testament really does depict God as an amoral monster? And of course it is an uphill battle to get nonbelievers to take the Bible as authoritative at all—why in the world should they?—let alone to take it as an integrated whole (which, in my opinion, it clearly isn't, and violence must be done to the texts to advance that case). The implication is almost that Jews ought not to read Hebrew scripture, because it is misleading and incomplete.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Are [Jews who don't read the OT from the vantage of Christ] to believe that the Old Testament really does depict God as an amoral monster?

          One way Jews today read the OT (or just Bible for them) is to see it as a progressive revelation of the nature of God and morality.

        • Vasco Gama

          David,

          Someone who comments on “Strange Notions”, and apparently reads some of the posts, should by now have realized that the notion of “God as an amoral monster” is completely irrational (I know that this notion is popular among some people), it is just not reasonable that someone holds that conception, surely is not the predominant conception (it can’t be) in the three Abrahamic religions (I am remotely conceding the possibility of the existence of lunatics).

          If you find that that conception is reasonable (even if only remotely), may be it would be wiser to keep it for yourself.

          • Andre Boillot

            Vasco,

            "should by now have realized that the notion of “God as an amoral monster” is completely irrational"

            Here, you're making the mistake of presuming that the posts were convincing to non-believers.

            "it is just not reasonable that someone holds that conception, surely is not the predominant conception (it can’t be) in the three Abrahamic religions"

            Reasonable is measure by popularity, is it? Odd that I found no mention of such here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reasonable

          • Vasco Gama

            Andre,

            The point here is the reasonability of considering others irrational to point of accepting such an absurdity. I consider that other people that do not share my faith are (just) mistaken, I don’t find reasonable to consider them to be irrational (or even more or less rational than me in any extent). You can doubt this, as it just me saying, and you can believe that this is not the case, I am not asking you to believe that I am a good person (you couldn’t possibly confirm of reject it, it would be subjective to you and to the way you tend to see other people).

            In this sense when a person says that someone else believes in God (in the way of “God as an amoral monster”) in reality this person is insulting those that are supposed to believe that such a thing is remotely reasonable. It would be a matter of education to avoid expressing this opinion, even if one would find it remotely possible.

            For me “reasonable” is within reason, at least that is what I mean. In fact my English is not perfect, but I guess it is not so bad after all (I am an optimist I guess).

          • Andre Boillot

            Vasco,

            "In this sense when a person says that someone else believes in God (in the way of “God as an amoral monster”) in reality this person is insulting those that are supposed to believe that such a thing is remotely reasonable."

            I'll let David speak for himself, but I think his point was that Fr. Barron admits that, if the OT is taken literally, the god of the OT comes across as a not-so-great type of guy at times. In response, he offers only the Catholic view of how scripture should be interpreted. I'm not blaming Fr. Barron for not explaining how other traditions have dealt with the problem, but his lack of alternative explanations led to David's question (not accusation): "Are they to believe that the Old Testament really does depict God as an amoral monster?"

          • Vasco Gama

            Andre,

            My point is just that it is not acceptable to think that other people can (even remotely possible) to worship a God (as previously defined).

            I am sure that they read their sacred books and must be able to interpret them their own way, and they can realize various conceptions of God, however I am sure that the proposed conception is an absurd (even if one can conceive a literal
            understanding of the text that would leave little margin to interpretation). If you say that that is merely a question, but I find it odd, as there seems to be just one answer (then there is really no question).

            But you got me wrong if you think the point is the lack of respect (an rudeness) that such a view reveals. The problem is the lack of rationality it implies.

          • David Nickol

            If you find that that conception is reasonable (even if only remotely), may be it would be wiser to keep it for yourself.

            It is glaringly evident that the God of the Old Testament, in at least some instances, is reported to do or say things that decent people today find at best puzzling and at worst abhorrent. There is nothing to be gained by sweeping this under the rug. I would say it is the job of apologetics to try to explain away this fact, and the book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God is one attempt to do so.

            The arguments are important not only to "defend" God from the charges, but also for an understanding of concepts of good and evil. If—because God commands it—the killing of every man, woman, and child (not to mention all the cattle) is acceptable when conquering an enemy, then that means that genocide and child murder is not intrinsically wrong, but only wrong because (or when) God says so.

            No one, I think, argues that God is a moral monster. The argument is that God as depicted in the Old Testament sometimes appears to be a moral monster. We are all in deep, deep trouble if God really is a moral monster. So the correct question is, I think, how are we to interpret some of the actions attributed to God in the Old Testament? It is a valid and important question, which I—and I hope everyone here—will discuss freely when it is raised.

          • Vasco Gama

            David,

            I agree with you, apparently I misunderstood entirely what you said.

            Sorry.

  • Horatio

    Though many of my YouTube interlocutorscan speak rather ably of physics or chemistry or astronomy, they are at a loss when the mode of analysis turns philosophical or metaphysical.

    An apt distillation. I think Fr Barron is so impressive when he's "on."

    In my experience, people who I feel really understand science (how it is done, how it works in practice, and how it doesn't), don't argue aggressively about matters theological on the basis of their scientific bona fides. It's not their forte, and it not the kind of thing that interests them. Those of us who are primarily interested in science can play at its boundary with metaphysics in a discussion, but as soon as we cross that boundary we become beached whales.

    • josh

      The thing is, Fr. Barron is far less qualified to speak on 'metaphysics' than any number of scientists. I'm afraid you have a very naive picture of the science/philosophy relationship.

      • Horatio

        I'm afraid you have a very naive picture of the science/philosophy relationship.

        I didn't really delineate where I think the boundaries lie, but please expand.

        • josh

          The naivety is in the concept that there is a hard boundary. "...as soon as we cross that boundary we become as beached whales..."
          Speak for yourself. Historically, science and philosophy were not distinct. In modern times, philosophy has basically evolved to be 'philosophy with minimal contributions from science' and science has become 'philosophy with a great deal of specialization and emphasis on empirical tests'. But it is an artificial distinction to think that 'now I'm doing philosophy therefore not science' or vice versa.

          • "But it is an artificial distinction to think that 'now I'm doing philosophy therefore not science' or vice versa."

            So when demanding scientific evidence for God, would you accept a philosophical argument?

          • josh

            If the argument is good enough, yes. Bearing in mind that I don't like the hard philosophical/scientific distinction, and that a good enough argument will typically require elements of scientific practice to pass muster.

          • DannyGetchell

            I'm far from the first to say it, but I'm quite willing to accept the existence of non-material concepts and entities which remain non-material, based solely upon philosophical argument and subjective experience.

            However, when it's claimed that the non-material intrudes upon the material universe, then material evidence is called for in support.

            "Love" is a non-material thing. I can't weigh it, calculate its temperature, or store it in a retort. But when I lovingly present my wife with an unexpected bouquet of wildflowers, there are snipped-off stems in the garden which can be measured to a nicety.

          • Horatio

            The naivety is in the concept that there is a hard boundary.

            But I don't believe it's a hard boundary. It's fuzzy.
            It's as fuzzy as the distinction between yellow and green on a spectrum. Sure, there's yellow-green, but there's clear yellow and clear green.

          • josh

            This is much better. So it's a continuum. We might say there is a 'more philosophical' direction and a 'more scientific' direction. That's still not perfect but it's much closer to an agreement between us. But then there is no boundary which 'as soon as we cross we become inept', and no argument that science can never impact a philosophical conclusion.

          • Horatio

            'as soon as we cross we become inept', and no argument that science can never impact a philosophical conclusion.

            Knowledge has become so granular and specialized that it is impossible to be an expert in multiple fields, and a pipe dream to imagine that they all mesh comfortably in AD 2013. If we consider Natural Science versus Philosophy as wholes, I hope we can agree that the difference between them is at least as different as the difference between --for the sake of example-- biochemistry and ecology. An expert in biochemistry could not use his or her strictly biochemical methodology to overturn an ecological premise; he must instead know some ecology and have familiarity with its particular methodologies to support or discard hypotheses at that level of organization. (This is the problem with the propositions in Darwin's Black Box, and in my estimation the author is indeed ecologically inept)The levels at which they operate are distinct, even though there are shades of grey and some overlap. As a practical matter in academics, this constitutes a real boundary. Just so between Natural Science and Philosophy.

          • josh

            Of course no one is an expert in everything, but there isn't a strictly biochemical method and a strictly ecological method. If a biochemist said 'there is just no way that bio-reaction X' can produce oxygen then that would have a huge impact on ecological theory Y that relies on certain organisms flooding the world with oxygen and changing their environment. If an ecologist claims that life violates conservation of energy, or the 2nd law of thermodynamics, a physicist would rightly say no. And when there are disagreements then you have to knock down that artificial academic barrier in order to resolve them.

            'Pure' philosophy has an extra problem though, in that it's practicioners aren't experts in the most relevant sense. They can be experts in the jargon of the field, or in knowing what papers have been written. But it doesn't follow that they have specialized knowledge in the sense that there is an agreed upon body of discovery. I trust Fr. Barron to tell me about one particular sect of Catholic thought, but that's not knowledge that Catholic thought is true on any given topic.

            So let's evaluate the arguments, rather than the empty boast that only Fr. Barron is qualified to make the arguments in the first place.

          • Horatio

            Of course no one is an expert in everything, but there isn't a strictly biochemical method and a strictly ecological method.

            The methodologies they most often employ --while not owned by them-- are indeed distinct. In practice, they collect different kinds of data and interpret them using a different suite of statistical tools.

            In your first example, your biochemist doesn't venture to make an ecological claim. It's the ecologist who must then evaluate the relevance and impact of that biochemical observation on his field. To be sure, the biochemist and the ecologist can be the same person, if that person has the requisite knowledge of both fields. If not, the biochemist risks making incorrect assumptions about the impact of her discovery on the other field. In your relatively simple example, this is trivial for the biochemist to do, but when adding on layers of complexity you can see how this could result in incorrectness.

            In your second example, it is the ecologist making a claim about bioenergetics in a living system that the physicist must then evaluate ecologically to refute. Without using ecology to evaluate the ecologist's data, she can't simply say: "That is bad ecology."
            She can only say "my data say that is impossible."
            This discordance requires both parties to reevaluate their conclusions and to look for methodological errors.

            I realize this is unpalatable, because we think that the sciences should all agree (and they should ultimately), but that's not always how they work in practice, because of the high degree of specialization in academics. The boundaries arise from lack of knowledge on our part, not from a lack of continuity in reality.

            I believe analagous dynamics are at work between philosophy and science, because we don't know enough yet to totally blend and reconcile them. I think this is why some scientists and some philosophers get into trouble when leaving their own magisteria.

            So let's evaluate the arguments, rather than the empty boast that only Fr. Barron is qualified to make the arguments in the first place.

            Instead of this, what I think is that Fr Barron's training in scholastic philosophy does not render him less equipped to discuss and debate metaphysics than a scientist who has no such background in academic philosophy, which is the argument you presented initially:

            [Fr Barron] is far less qualified to speak on 'metaphysics' than any number of scientists.

          • josh

            You can't have it both ways. If they overlap, if the boundary is fuzzy, then they aren't distinct. For certain purposes you can do work in one without worrying about the details of the other, but you can't draw a line between them to keep one 'magisterium' separate from the other.

            The biochemist in my example knows the claim from another 'field' and uses their own expertise to evaluate it. If you want to argue that they are now simultaneously doing biochemistry and ecology, that's fine but it has no impact on my point. The biochemist's finding doesn't become less valid because 'that's just not how we do things in ecology'. Similarly, the physicist only needs to know physics to refute the ecologist's hypothetical claim, she doesn't switch to ecology, evaluate the claim in that paradigm and then ignore the conclusions from physics. Like I said, if there is a discrepancy then one tries to figure out where the breakdown occurs by examining the 'boundary' and figuring out who is wrong. Of course, sometimes it could just be a difference in terminology, but that is a resolution, not a declaration that only one field is qualified to make conclusions. (Who gets to divvy up which conclusions belong to which fields anyway?) A mistake made by an ecologist isn't something only another ecologist can evaluate (and mutatis mutandis for physics, etc.)

            You didn't directly address the second part of my comment though. 'Scholastic philosophy' isn't even a going concern in philosophical circles, what makes Fr. Barron so qualified to pontificate on metaphysics? What method is he using that people like Stephen Hawking and Steven Weinberg just aren't smart enough to evaluate? Notice I didn't say 'any given scientist', I said 'any number of'. I'm sure there are some scientists who would make arguments as bad as Barron's, I'm sure there are some who wouldn't bother to look closely at his terms. But Barron doesn't even understand the deep physics he is presuming to use or refute in his arguments, nor for that matter is he a qualified historian, or neuroscientist, or sociologist.

            What knowledge of factual metaphysics does Barron have that only years of training could impart? None. He has opinions on the subject, same as anybody else who cares to comment on it. So, again, why not let's look to actual arguments and ignore the story about this one time he totally pwned someone on Youtube.

          • Horatio

            Again John, you are essentially arguing how science should work in an ideal world in which he had perfect knowledge, but in 2013 AD knowledge is so granular that "bridging the knowledge gap" is either not possible, not feasible, or else hasn't been done. I reiterate that the boundaries are of knowledge and not from a lack of continuity in our reality. That's "what's up" with the dichotomy between philosophy and natural science, and between many subdisciplines in natural science (for example, particle physics and engineering physics). As far as overlap not having boundaries, consider a Venn Diagram relating psychology and neuroscience. I mean, at a purely practical level (the level I have been at since the beginning of this discussion) you wouldn't confuse academicians in two fields to be working in the same field. I would trust a person with 10 years of philosophical background on philosophy more than a scientist with 10 years of background in a hard science, and Fr Barron has that kind of philosophical background. Some great mathematicians and scientists did, in their day, but I struggle to think of any contemporary such people.

          • josh

            Horatio,

            Mostly, I'm arguing against the idealized notion of philosophy that you apparently endorse, the idea that Barron is some kind of expert we should defer to and scientists just aren't qualified to see the problems with his arguments.

            There are two points here. One is the broad question of divisions between 'fields'. We agree that there are practical differences in areas of specialization. If one has to blindly choose between a chemist and a biologist on a question labelled 'chemistry', go with the chemist. But we don't have to do everything so blindly and one can cross boundaries. Interdisciplinary fields are becoming important in many areas: biophysics, particle-cosmology, mathematics-sociology-economics, etc. So I am very much against attempts to dismiss a critique just because it comes from someone allegedly outside the 'field' at hand. There are times to do that for practical reasons, but it's a dangerous and anti-intellectual place to start.

            The second issue has to do with philosophy in particular and Fr. Barron himself. Above I am thinking about scientific and knowledge-based fields of expertise. Generally, you go to a podiatrist for foot problems and a ophthalmologist for eyes. But philosophy, as a distinct 'area', can't claim that kind of real knowledge. Familiarity with the jargon? Yes. Relation to reality? Not a given. There's just no general case that a professional philosopher is giving you a better opinion than an interested scientist. In fact, since philosophy so often touches on the subjects of science it is often the latter who have a better idea about what's going on. There's a good case to make that philosophy has problems as a field of expertise. But moreover, Fr. Barron is a professional apologist, and I see no reason to take his views as definitive on anything. I would take one person with the critical mind of a scientist over someone with 10 years of indoctrination in the Catholic Church (or any other).

          • Horatio

            So I am very much against attempts to dismiss a critique just because it comes from someone allegedly outside the 'field' at hand.

            And rightly so! But of late, the philosophy coming from scientists hasn't been more impressive than the science coming from philosophers (e.g., not very compelling --especially from the internet). I am reminded of the philosopher Thomas Nagel's support of the notions from some ID theorists. Equally sophomoric to me are the promulgations of scientists who use their stature as scientists to claim things like: "There is no God and theists are delusional."

            The "problem" (if it is a problem) with disciplines whose names that sound a lot like crossovers (e.g. biophysics) is that in practice they are really just sub-subspecializations, with their own peculiar jargon, working models, and granularity.

            I'm not prepared to debate the legitimacy of philosophy as a field of study. I'm sure you'd get a more deft and spirited defense from others who know more about it than I do.

      • "The thing is, Fr. Barron is far less qualified to speak on 'metaphysics' than any number of scientists."

        Metaphysics is a philosophical sub-discipline, not a natural science. And since Fr. Barron is an accomplished philosopher, especially in the realm of metaphysics, I'm not sure why you believe he's less qualified than scientists to speak about metaphysics. Perhaps you can defend that assertion?

        • josh

          I've read Fr. Barron's contributions to this site. He doesn't reveal any particularly deep grasp of the issues, he's just a run of the mill apologist. Watch him contradict himself in one sentence: "When I counter that the big bang is itself the clearest indication that
          the entire universe—including matter and energy—is radically contingent
          and in need of a cause extrinsic to itself, they say that I am speaking
          nonsense, that science gives no evidence of God's existence. I agree, ..."

          Studying 'natural' science doesn't preclude one from having an interest in or an intelligent view on issues you would dub 'metaphysical'. This is just a typical ploy to disqualify arguments against ones views because of the source. Not all scientists take an interest in the broad/philosophical questions of course, but many do and they tend to have a much better idea of what they are talking about because they actually know the details of the world that metaphysicians are trying to analyze.

          • What's the contradiction?

          • josh

            "What's the contradiction?"
            He says science can give no evidence of God, immediately after claiming that the big bang, a scientific theory derived from evidence, is the clearest indication that our universe is contingent and in need of a God.

          • josh, I'm afraid you've confused his point. Fr. Barron is right that science itself cannot prove or disprove God, but that's different than claiming science can prove a premise in a philosophical argument (like the contingency argument) whose deductive conclusion leads, necessarily, to God. There is no contradiction in believing both are true.

            Also, your flippant dismissal of Fr. Barron as a "run of the mill apologist" reveals more about your unfamiliarity with his scholarly work than anything else.

          • josh

            Read the quote. If science can give evidence for a premise in an argument, and that argument is being used as evidence for God, then science is being used to give evidence for God. Which Barron then says it can't do.

            Is it your contention that he makes good arguments in his academic work but not here? Otherwise, I'm going to go by his standard apologetic tactics and poor arguments on display.

          • Randy Gritter

            The point is that the principle of contingency is recognized by science. If it was not then science would have no reason to talk about a big bang. But that does not prove a big banger. You need to make a philosophical jump to go there.

          • josh

            Randy, can you point me to where in a science textbook the 'principle of contingency' is defined? Maybe an appendix or something? Science talks about the big bang because that is where the evidence seems to point: 13.some odd billion years ago, the observable universe was apparently in a much denser, much hotter state. Multiple times on this website, we have seen people argue that this empirical conclusion should be used to support the idea that a)the universe had a beginning and/or b) the universe is contingent. Now I'll agree that even if either of those premises were true it would be a completely unfounded leap to conclude 'god did it'. But people are trying to establish those premises with scientific evidence, for the purposes of supporting an argument for God, contra Barron's later assertion.

          • Barron non-scientific philosophical argument that anything with a beginning is contingent, and anything contingent needs an explanation outside itself. Barron puts forward that argument, but agrees with his interlocutors that there's no scientific evidence for God. There's this somewhat compelling metaphysical argument instead.

            I don't agree with him, but I don't see a self-contradiction in that. At least, not the way I understand it.

          • josh

            But to establish that the universe is such a thing with a beginning and therefore (he thinks) contingent he relies on scientific evidence. After all, the argument that cufflinks are contingent, therefore God, isn't going to fool most people. But apologists unwisely tend to think that if they can take it up to the level of 'the universe' then only God is left to pop into that gap.

          • He's saying there's lots of scientific evidence for a big bang, no scientific evidence for God. He's right.

            [The] argument that cufflinks are contingent, therefore God, isn't going to fool most people. But apologists unwisely tend to think that if they can take it up to the level of 'the universe' then only God is left to pop into that gap.

            I agree with your point here.

      • Vasco Gama

        Josh,

        "The thing is, Fr. Barron is far less qualified to speak on 'metaphysics' than any number of scientists. I'm afraid you have a very naive picture of the science/philosophy relationship."

        Really? This is a complete nonsense, and you just accomplished the task of elevating the preposterous into a new level (and apparently there is no way you are capable of grasping it).

        Then it may well be that also that Mozart was far less qualified to compose a symphony than any number of scientists, our luck is that he completely failed to realize the obvious.

  • vito

    Well if a book that pretends to be some divine word and teaching contains at least some disgusting behaviour/commands etc. on behalf of the alleged divine character, the rest of the book, good as it may be, loses its credibility completely. There is a saying where I live that A Spoonful of Tar Spoils a Barrel of Honey. It's not the other way around. You cannot make tar taste good with some honey. The idea that we should look at all the atrocities in the Bible "in the light of Christ" did not convince me much even when I wanted to be believe it. It is vacuous phrase. It's still the same God, in the Old and New Testaments. And he still did what he did and said what he said. Jesus did not repeal the Old Testament or its God.

    • Lionel Nunez

      If you would please indulge me for a moment; what exactly requires you, or anyone for that matter, to interpret the bible literally in every part? And if you only do that for certain parts then what criterion do you use to determine what should and shouldn't be interpreted literally?

      • Mikegalanx

        As far as I can see, the answer is "whatever fits into our modern sensibility"- and yes, that extends back to some of the early Church Fathers, educated men who were embarrassed by these Bronze Age tales of savagery and superstition,, just as Plato was by the stories of the Olympians

        • Mikegalanx

          The historian Leopold von Ranke said "To history has been assigned the office of judging the past, of
          instructing the present for the benefit of future ages. To such high
          offices this work does not aspire: It wants only to show what actually
          happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen)"

          So we seem to have the unusual split between "literally" and "literalistically", which is apparently confined to Christians; all the dictionaries I've seen give the two words the same meaning.

          The definition of "literally"being used here appears to be "something that didn't actually happen,but is in the Bible so we have to interpret it to give it some kind of acceptable meaning".

          How do you tell what in the Bible is "literal" and "what is "literalistic" -or both; or neither ( the"begats"?}

          In the spirit of von Ranke, which of these 'actually happened' and which are a) just stories with a moral or b)explanatory myths

          1)Adam and Eve- first man and woman

          2)Eve created from Adam's rib
          3)The snake, the fruit and the Fall
          4)Cain and Abel- first murder
          5) Tower of Babel
          6)The Flood
          7) Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
          8)Lot's wife and the Pillar of Salt
          9) God dropping in for coffee with Abraham

          10) The Plagues if Egypt
          11) The parting of the Red Sea
          12) God dictating the Ten Commandments to Moses
          13) God giving the Land of Canaan to Israel
          14) God ordering the various massacres that followed
          15)Samson
          16) Daniel in the lion's den, the fiery pit, the prophecies.
          16) The virgin birth

          18) The miracles of Jesus
          19) The Resurrection
          20) The sun being darkened for several hours
          21) The dead coming back to life and walking the streets of Jerusalem,being recognised by old friends.

          What are the criteria for dividing the events into the different categories?

          • felixcox

            I'm also extremely interested in the answers to these questions. I doubt any will be forthcoming, however. I think it's easy for apologists to respond to specific citations of god's apparently awful behavior with a general defense of the bible relying on the distinction between metaphor and literalism. But it's quite another to put your cards on the table and reveal specifically which supernatural events you believe.

            I think it interesting how many christians today profess that Jesus was a perfect person without sin. Since Jesus himself said that sin can be simply a matter of thought crime (e.g., lust in the heart), there's absolutely no possible way ANYONE could verify that Jesus was indeed flawless from birth to his ascendancy into outer space. Yet such is a good example of belief without evidence; which of course is nothing compared to belief in the supernatural events that are reported. While the latter could at least be witnessed and attested to, their physical impossibility requires a standard of evidence that history hasn't bequeathed.

          • Lionel Nunez

            Just to be clear how do you read the bible? And to give you an answer to the second part of your question; there's plenty of evidence, just none from science, so are you saying that it doesn't hold value unless it is scientific, or whatever method for understanding the world you find to be is the only one(s) to be valid?

          • felixcox

            Lionel, I read the bible as i would any other ancient religious text.
            Actually, you didn't answer any question. You just said "there's plenty of evidence, just none from science..."
            That's not offering evidence. That's simply stating that you believe it's there. Like devout mormons, hindus, and muslims, you claim you have evidence for your beliefs. That you couldn't be bothered to state it suggests something else.

            How do you explain the supernatural claims in Islam or in India? Devout people believe it; there are ancient traditions bolstering the testimony. Is that sufficient? Not for me. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. The miracles of christianity rely on hearsay- we have thousands of hindus TODAY in india who claim to have witnesses miracles. Are they all liars? If not, then you are actually beginning to understand how comparable extraordinary claims could have been made two thousand years ago, even if no such miracles occurred.

            You asked how I evaluate historical claims; I evaluate all claims the same way. Christians correctly disbelieve competing religions' claims of supernaturalism; they unfortunately are blind to the fact that their beliefs require them to suspend their skepticism. It's special pleading and not persuasive.

          • Lionel Nunez

            How do you read any other religious text then? And I gave an answer; it simply wasn't a fleshed out one. I trust you know there's historical support for Jesus as a historical figure and at least some support for the consistency of his church since his time. And you were correct in assuming I alluded to personal experiences as a source of evidence; but you don't find them valuable. So why expend the effort on arguing that point? And to give you the benefit of the doubt that you may not be familiar with any historical evidence; simply look at various historians of that time period with respect to the places Christianity was prevalent then. For information in how to interpret it, you should find a historian for I am not one. And in addressing your other point on miracles; I sincerely doubt that Hindus, Catholics, and atheists have the same criteria for what qualifies as a miracle and unless we go through specific examples, the different claims made by Hindus or other religions on alleged miracles accomplished by virtue of their religion have no bearing on the validity of Catholicism. And criterion do you have for the validity of historical claims? And in what way do you claim Christian's beliefs cause them to suspend their skepticism? And what is your criterion for a Christian?

          • felixcox

            You said: "And you were correct in assuming I alluded to personal experiences as a source of evidence; but you don't find them valuable. So why expend the effort on arguing that point?"

            I ask that last question to you. You are the one arguing from a place of personal experiene. Why expend the effort?

            I have looked to historians, and none, zero, of historians alive at the time of Jesus mention him or the incredible miracles. It is indeed interesting to note the sudden spread of some religions. That does not constitute beyond-doubt evidence for wildly impossible acts of magic.

          • Lionel Nunez

            Let me be clear; personal experience as valid interpretive lens to view the world, not 'my' personal experience. Just to be clear, by your standards do culture-specific labels not count? Or even pronouns? And you didn't answer any of my questions; do you need me to elucidate on them?

          • felixcox

            You asked many questions. Nor did you respond to many of my points. C'est la vie. But I'll try to answer some now. How do I evaluate historical claims? Depends on the claim. If it's claims of suspensions of laws of nature, like the immaculate conception, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, walking on water, that's simple. I simply ask for evidence that outweighs the ordinary explanations. I cannot say I have a single-sentence summary of my method of validating historical claims. I guess I just try to be rational about it and ask first what is possible, then examine the likelihood of the claims in light of all that I have learned in life. Is it fool-proof? no way, I'm human.
            For the purposes of this discussion I'll define christian as one who believes in the divinity of jesus, that he was dead and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Pretty Nicene-creedy.
            I say christians suspend their skepticism with christianity precisely because there is nothing but ancient hearsay to justify those beliefs. Yes, tradition, but all of it rooted in ancient hearsay. If you accept personal revelation as proof, then you must accept it for those of other religions.

            As for defining miracles, I use it to denote acts that are ordinarily impossible, like levitating up into outer space, as jesus and mohammed are still claimed to have done. If someone's cancer goes away following intense prayer, I won't count that as a miracle, since there are other ordinary explanations. Improbable is NOT the same as impossible. But even if you insist that the possible can still be miraculous because of the odds, such still are light years away from magical, supernatural, physically impossible claims, such as men flying thousands of years before the airplane was invented.

            Which miracles in the NT do you believe are literally true? And what evidence can you muster beyond ancient hearsay? Why do you discount miracles of all other religions, such as mohammed riding to space on a flying horse?

          • Lionel Nunez

            Thank you for a response to my questions it clarifies your position a lot. Sadly there isn't much to say though when they're answered out of the context of when they were asked. And I'm sorry for not answering your questions as thoroughly as you would've of liked but that's because there's a big problem with focusing on the supernatural claims of a religion; it operates under the assumption that a religion is false because it makes supernatural claims that cannot be proved definitively. The reality however, is that whether or not a religion makes these claims is irrelevant, rather what is important is whether or not the religion itself is true; because then by extension the supernatural claims must be true. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. can make any claim they want but unless the basic teaching regarding humanity's place in the world are true; miracles are irrelevant. If how they tell you to live isn't the ideal, timeless, method for human happiness and achievement then would it really matter if some Hindu girl born with 8 legs is the 'incarnation' of a god? Even if Hindu gods were real, in this example, wouldn't it be better to move past these gods towards our zenith? Let me answer your questions now; I hold that all the miracles in the NT are true that the Catholic Church definitively teaches are true, I can offer you better evidence than hearsay and that is that the RCC, the only church that teaches people the only ideal and timeless lifestyle for human happiness, holds it to be true. That is why the first apostles went out to spread the good news that Jesus Christ, God incarnate, loved us so much that he became man and died on the cross for our sins and came back from the dead. They did it so as to say, more colloquially, that the being(or 'force' if 'being' offends your atheist sensibilities) who created the universe(an by extension us) wants what is best for us so much that he became a human like us to show us how to live an ideal life and he went father than that and died a horrible death so every time we strayed from that ideal we would be able to 'undo' our mistakes and return towards that ideal. To answer your final question; it's not that I discount those 'miracles' it's simply that they are literally beyond my concern. A man with a full belly doesn't go out looking for more food now does he?

          • felixcox

            I appreciate your honest response. I want to clarify- I did not say your religion is false. That is beyond my knowledge. I simply said it's supernatural claims (without which you would not have the RCC) are not proved beyond reasonable. You say focusing on the miraculous misses the point, and I repeat that the RCC would never have come into being without the miraculous claims. That's pretty fundamentL to me. As to the effects of religion, I have no doubt that you believe RCC to true because it makes you feel content, bliss, happiness, fullfilled. That's great. However, I've read far too much about other religions and devout worshippers of other religions (including personal conversation with very satisfied non-christians) to use personal fulfillment as proof to outsiders. There are millions and millions of non-christians who feel every bit as satisfied spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, as you do. So from my perspective, such claims do nothing to address the objective truth of the various religions. They all have devoted satisfied followers.
            If if could be shown that today some guru in India, for example, was enacting beyond-doubt miracles such as flying without machines, or making the dead rise up from their graves, that would certainly give me reason to ponder the veracity of their claims. It would be the first time that I would be confronted with beyond-doubt evidence. It would make me reassess my belief in the supernatural, which would make belief in god/s far more reasonable. I'm not talking about a deformed girl with birth defects; I'm talking impossible things that have no explanation beyond magic.
            btw, since you say you believe all NT miracles are true, that makes you a fundamentalist, albeit a selective one (since you also use non-literal ways of interpreting other parts of the bible). I would be careful about calling others fundamentalist when you yourself are just as literal-minded. It's a difference of degree, not kind.

          • Lionel Nunez

            Your welcome, but I don't think you have quite understood my position. I didn't say what I said believing you thought my position to be false; I said it to make the point that if it's true where it counts, how you live your life, then it shouldn't matter that there isn't extraordinary proof for an extraordinary claim. It could be simply taken on authority ,that, because you can trust an institution with your life and how you live it; it follows that you can trust it when it states definitively that the Eucharist, several hundred years, manifested literally as the body and blood of Christ

          • Lionel Nunez

            I accidentally hit enter before I finished so if you only saw part of my message then I edited it now so it is complete*

          • Lionel Nunez

            And thank you for the more meaningful response.

          • Lionel Nunez

            You're asking the same question as my but as a reply to me.

          • Mikegalanx

            Yes- I have to put it as a reply or Disqus will dump it at the end of the queue,since it doesn't offer nested threads. But yes, it's the same-you have the priority!

          • Lionel Nunez

            I just think it's a little confusing; not that you're diminishing me or my question.

        • Lionel Nunez

          This doesn't answer my question at all.

    • Quanah

      Vito,

      There are certainly some very hard things in the Old Testament, but just because they are gruesome and difficult for us to understand doesn't mean they are necessarily a spoonful of tar (great saying by the way,I hadn't heard it). God is not only Creator; He is also Judge. We are not innocent and it is proper for Him to make and carry out judgment. For instance, the Israelites before conquering the Promised Land we told to kill every inhabitant of that land. The inhabitants of that land were practitioners of human sacrifice. Sacrificing their children on hilltops was rampant among those people. They as a people were guilty and God properly acted as Judge. It's an extremely hard thing to stomach though. The Israelites weren't able to carry out the command. They couldn't stomach it. Eventually they too, influenced by these people, fell into worshipping gods that consisted in sacrificing their children. Because as you said, "a spoonful of tar spoils a barrel of honey."

      In addition to God being Judge there is another very important part of Christian doctrine to remember. This life is not the only one. There judgment here does not necessarily mean they were eternally condemned.

  • Alden Smith

    You made a choice now don't start complaining about the choice you made.

  • Great Silence

    My favorite SN article title yet, by far. Preferably delivered in a deep, booming voice.

  • Howard

    "... so many moral outrages against the human race: the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, support of slavery and the clerical sex abuse scandal...."

    A one-size-fits-all explanation for all those, as you give in your summary, simply won't do. It is nonsense to accept the Crusades per se as morally equivalent to the clerical sex abuse scandal, for example. You may respond that if you address these issues carefully and in detail, you will "lose your audience" --- that is no doubt true, but it only means your correspondent never had any intention for a serious discussion in the first place. If they are not willing to listen to arguments why having a police force is a good thing even though the Amadou Diallo shooting was a bad thing, or why the Center for Disease Control is a good thing even though the Tuskegee experiment was a bad thing, they cannot be won over by reason.

    As a convert to the Catholic Church, let me add that there are those for whom it is a bigger scandal to apologize for the Crusades than the Crusades themselves ever could be. What, I'm supposed to feel kinship with other Americans in New York City on 9/11, but Christians in Europe were supposed to feel no kinship with other Christians in the Holy Land? Or am I supposed to accept that wars may only be fought for really important things, like cheap bananas and cheap oil? If no Catholic princes had ever risked life and limb for the Faith, it would argued that there was never enough there to get really excited about, or for which to take real risks.

    • Andre Boillot

      Howard (kettle),

      I (pot) keep thinking of cliched responses to your criticisms of one-size-fits-all explanations you decry.

      "Or am I supposed to accept that wars may only be fought for really important things, like cheap bananas and cheap oil?"

      Two wrongs...

      "If no Catholic princes had ever risked life and limb for the Faith, it would argued that there was never enough there to get really excited about, or for which to take real risks."

      Can't make an omelet...

      • Howard

        No, two wrongs do not make a right. But where I live, there is too quick an assumption that the only things worth fighting for can be valued in dollars, euros, or yen. If you don't believe in fighting for anything, that comment is not for you.

        I'm sorry about your difficulties with cooking. My advice is to reduce the heat. If the heat is too high, you will either burn the eggs or have to scramble them.

        • Howard

          Maybe I was not sufficiently clear about what I mean regarding "one size fits all". What I mean is this: Explaining the Crusades is hard enough as it is. There were the real and official Crusades, and there were weird aberrations like the "Children's Crusade". Justifications for the First Crusade will necessarily be different than those for the crusade against the Albigensians. Then there is the distinction between the goals of the crusades as such and the behaviors of the various crusaders. If the question was serious, it deserves a serious answer.

          The issue of slavery and the Church is also complicated. It makes a difference we are talking about slavery in the ancient world before Constantine, slavery between Constantine and the fall of Rome, serfs in the Middle Ages, or slavery during and after the Renaissance. Again it requires a serious, detailed answer, and it will be a different answer than the one about the Crusades.

          It is ridiculous to think that a satisfactory explanation of any of these topics will fit on a bumper sticker, much less that the same bumper sticker would explain them all.

          • Andre Boillot

            "It is ridiculous to think that a satisfactory explanation of any of these topics will fit on a bumper sticker, much less that the same bumper sticker would explain them all."

            With this, I agree.

        • Andre Boillot

          "If you don't believe in fighting for anything, that comment is not for you."

          Who do you imagine your audience to be, that the only two possible reasons to go to war are either religious or economic? Or that either of those reasons are good reasons to go to war?

          "I'm sorry about your difficulties with cooking." [Whether or not this was in jest, it earns you an upvote]

          After re-reading your comment, I'm not sure that you got my point. You seem to view the excesses of zealots as a necessary evil where religion is concerned. 'Sure, it's a bummer that people raped and pillaged in the name of Christ, but at least everyone will know this is serious business...'

          Surely the message of the Gospels stands in stark contrast to the actions undertaken in the Crusades, and I struggle to think how you would extract any good from them.

          • Howard

            Well, some people go to war over race or ethnicity. I don't know why you would want me to bring that up, though.

            No, I do not consider the excesses of zealots to be OK. My example of Amadou Diallo should have made that clear. The abuse of a thing does not negate its proper use. If it did, we would not be able to do anything, because absolutely every human activity has been abused. Cooks have poisoned meals. Doctors have murdered patients. Science has been used to justify torture.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Well, some people go to war over race or ethnicity. I don't know why you would want me to bring that up, though."

            I get that your point is that "the abuse of a thing does not negate its proper use", my point is that you can stop using examples of terrible reasons to go to war as if anyone here was likely to list those as legitimate reasons, as opposed to religious ones.

            "No, I do not consider the excesses of zealots to be OK. My example of Amadou Diallo should have made that clear."

            Howard, my good man, you've just previously written:

            If no Catholic princes had ever risked life and limb for the Faith, it would argued that there was never enough there to get really excited about, or for which to take real risks.

            As if the silver lining of the Crusades was that it would at least ensure that nobody would make the mistake of thinking Christians were flaky.

          • Howard

            So, your idea of a "good reason" would be ...? Maybe the defense of those who cannot defend themselves? Maybe you think the best example would be the UK going to war over the German invasion of Poland, or the NATO bombing of Serbia?

            Has it occurred to you to ask if that same reason might possibly pertain to the First Crusade?

            As for the second bit, you need to understand two points. (1) If someone with a notoriously short temper never loses his temper over a particular subject, it's a fair bet he doesn't regard that subject as serious. (2) When I say "risk life and limb", I mean their own lives and their own limbs. Some were good; some were bad; but at least they shared in the very real hardships and very real dangers. That gives them some claim to respect, and it tends to make lesser motives more obviously lesser to the decision-makers themselves.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Maybe you think the best example would be the UK going to war over the German invasion of Poland, or the NATO bombing of Serbia?"

            In general, I would agree that those are examples of good reasons to use military force.

            "Has it occurred to you to ask if that same reason might possibly pertain to the First Crusade?"

            I don't consider myself an expert in European/Middle Eastern history. However, this seem to be what a Catholic Pope commanded:

            "all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it is meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it"

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Urban_II

            I'm not sure if I would draw moral parallels between ordering the wholesale slaughter of those who inhabited lands thousands of miles away, which were taken from Christians 400 years prior, with military actions undertaken to prevent foreign invasion and stop genocides. Moreover, I'm fairly confident that Christ would have commanded no such thing, and - were it not for our dangerous habit of investing too much power in our fellow mammals - I'm quite surprised that any Christians would have believed such a thing to begin with.

            "As for the second bit, you need to understand two points. (1) If someone with a notoriously short temper never loses his temper over a particular subject, it's a fair bet he doesn't regard that subject as serious. (2) When I say "risk life and limb", I mean their own lives and their own limbs."

            I'm not sure how to engage with these assertions as reasoned points for how the Crusades lent Christianity credibility. (1) If the core message of ones faith is love, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness, going and doing the exact opposite would seem to ruin your point. (2) Again, that they're wholly committed in their misinterpreting of the core message of their beliefs isn't something I'd put in the plus column.

            "That gives them some claim to respect, and it tends to make lesser motives more obviously lesser to the decision-makers themselves."

            In the case of the crusades, it makes them opportunistic charlatans - who twisted the message of the gospels, and got a lot of people (Christian, Muslim, and Jew) killed as a result.

          • Howard

            "In general, I would agree that those are examples of good reasons to use military force."

            I thought you might. I'm not at all convinced that either of these had anything to do with human sympathy, but you seem willing to consider such arguments --- in selected cases, anyhow.

            Look a bit closer in time to the First Crusade. Wikipedia might not be your best source.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Look a bit closer in time to the First Crusade. Wikipedia might not be your best source."

            Howard,

            Forgive me but, for a lack of a better term, this is 'weak sauce'.

            The only thing upon which I've relied on wikipedia for, in my previous statement, was the quote attributed to Pope Urban II while launching the crusades. If there is an issue with that, I'm all ears. If there are issues with the rest of my statement, again - all ears - but please do me the courtesy of not merely dismissing the latter because I happened to cite wikipedia for the former.

            PS. The others in this forum that have gone the 'go read and come back to me' route have at least bothered with the courtesy of listing the text they believe will remedy the ignorance they believe is on display.

          • Howard

            First of all, the 400 years were never a time of peace. They alternated between hot war and cold war. The immediate provocations were an increase of attacks on pilgrims to the Holy Land, but a long litany of earlier events were not forgotten.

            If you want to know the Catholic side of a subject which I have already told you is long and complex topic, you have to read a book written by a Catholic who is willing to defend the Crusades. It's the same with any topic. If I want to really understand what the Greeks thought about the war with Persia, you should read Herodotus, not what an American or British or German historian writes about it today. When I want to understand Roman history, I read someone like Livy, because I want to understand not just what the Romans did, but how they thought about what they did -- what THEY saw as their great accomplishments and great failures. When I want to understand the Japanese view of medieval history, I read Heike Monogatari.

            There are several decent books that have been written along those lines. I think Hilaire Belloc overstates the prospects for long-term success that the First Crusade would have had if they had only taken Damascus, but at least his book THE CRUSADES does give an unabashedly Catholic view of the war. There are others out there; pretty much any Catholic book on the subject more than 50 years old will do, as well as a few written much more recently. It's been about a decade since I read a book dedicated to the topic, so I'll avoid recommending books I have not read recently.

            Frankly, Fr. Barron could recommend a half-dozen books to you. My original comment had to do with him and the casual way in which he seems to lump together a standard assembly of topics and dismiss them by implying that no medieval Pope was as holy as John Paul II and that we contemporary Catholics should be ashamed of them, their followers, and pretty much everything they did -- with the exception, I guess, of St. Francis. Fr. Barron knows better than that. He knows that Christianity is not just about satisfying this generation's ideas about what is "nice". He seems to imply an approach that is neither good apologetics nor even entirely truthful.

            If you want to see the Catholic defense of the Crusades, it's out there, written in much more detail and greater eloquence than I can muster.

  • Dan Almeida

    It all sounds fine and well, though he banned me from arguing with him on his You Tube rants, by blocking me. This seems typical of Conservative Catholicism.

    • Dan, thanks for stopping by. Please read our Commenting Policy before your next comment. Our goal here is respectful and fruitful dialogue which isn't helped by generalized smears like "This seems typical of Conservative Catholicism."

    • Timothy Reid

      If he did ban you, then that is not very friendly or Christian. We are free to block people and should block them if the comments coming from them have left the intellectually persuasive and have strayed into the abusive and derisive. I have not read any of your comments, Dan. I just know that I think blocking people on the internet is legitimate in some instances.

  • Timothy Reid

    It's a brand new world out there and the part that I agree with the most is that many people who disagree with faith and Christianity and the Bible are themselves biblical fundamentalists. They're expecting the Bible to make sense in a fundamentalist way and when it doesn't they can easily dismiss it. AND rightly so, if it were meant to be read that way, but it's not.
    I prefer the agnostics/atheists and non-religious people who are more open and tolerant towards people of faith. I try to be the book end to that. I hope that I represent a person of faith who's belief does not make me regard a non-believer as a demonic heretic, but merely a person who I should engage and dialogue with. That's what community is about. We should each get our opportunities to intelligently debate the issues like on this blog (which I very much enjoy by the way.)
    Like it or not, atheists and believers, we live together in this world and we have to learn to tolerate each other while being respectful. Some of us may come to your way of thinking, some of you may come to our way of thinking.........but NONE of us should belittle and brow-beat the other into submission.
    There's a difference between winning an argument and destroying the other person.

  • Mark

    Thank you Father Barron for this excellent article.

  • Maria

    Thank you Father Barron for all that you do in being patient with people desiring to know more and taking the good with the bad. God bless you!

  • Jacqueleen

    My God is a "MERCIFUL" God if we ask for His Mercy, but less we forget, my God is also a God.of "JUSTICE." His ways are not our ways...Period!

  • Robert A Rowland

    How can it have any salutary impact on religion?

  • somnipod

    Father Barron made it on The Vortex (church militant tv) for suggesting there may not be people in hell. Is this true?

  • mriehm

    I respond by insisting that the existence of bad Catholics does not in itself demonstrate that Catholicism is a bad thing. A rare ally on a YouTube forum observed that the use of Einsteinian physics in the production of the nuclear weapons that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents does not amount to an argument against Einstein. As the old dictum has it, bad practice does not preclude good practice.

    The Crusades were official Catholic policy, promulgated by Pope after Pope after Pope, over almost 200 years. it was church doctrine that people could be absolved of their sins by participating in these foreign massacres,

    These were not the acts of a few rogue men.

    Where was God if he did not step in to guide His church from the wrong beliefs that led to these malicious acts?

    And your analogy with Einstein is invalid. There was no single institution that can be traced from Einstein's theory of relativity to the bombs being dropped on Japan. While in the case of the church, it has been one institution all along.

  • cminca

    Fr. Barron---
    I'd suggest you review your tapes--specifically the ones where you talk about intolerance.
    Make a list of some of the adverbs and adjectives you use to describe the people YOU are calling intolerant.
    You might be surprised at your language.

  • Rick

    Thank you for this article, Father. I have noticed that Youtube seems to be filled with fanatical atheists and anti-Catholics with serious axes to grind. In my opinion, while there are certainly a number of people with these views in the "real world" and general population, I believe that at least some posters on Youtube are shills and paid posters, working on what some call "social engineering" projects using social media. The idea is to influence the public by creating the appearance of consensus on certain issues. Attacking the Catholic Church, Christianity, and religious faith in general is an important agenda for certain groups. Some believe the intelligence agencies of some countries even have whole departments for such projects. So while certainly not everyone who critiques Catholicism or religion, among the millions of commenters on YT, is a shill, I do think they are out there, and that one should be aware of this because such individuals are not commenting and exchanging ideas in good faith. They will ignore, distort, &/or attack even the best presentations of truth in order to further their own agendas.

  • AFS1970

    Excellent article Fr, Barron. I was directed to it from a link posted on an Anglican site. Very well worded, and oddly enough your point is best illustrated by the very comments on this blog.