Steve Greydanus, Eparch of Filmic Awesometivity…

counsels a copious intake of chill pills on the upcoming Noah flick.  He’s perfectly right, of course.  It’s just movie.

I’ll go see it, partly out of professional interest and partly because I want to see the spectacle of a global flood done right, even if the theology is as deep as a mud puddle.

Poor Steve, however, is now going to have to cope with the Attack of the Fundamentalists who insist the Faith teaches the earth is six thousand years old and who are convinced that somewhere along the line the Church defined the dogma of the absolute scientific accuracy and newspaper-like historicity of the Noah account.  Suggesting that Noah is theologized myth and that the Church allows for this view is, to these people, like trampling on the Eucharist.  They know perfectly well that the Magisterium needs their help to smoke out evil monsters like Steve and purge them–and almost everybody else–from the Church.

It’s one of the reasons evangelism is so loathed by the Pure.  Bring in *more* people?  There are too many in the Church already!  No more converts till we’ve kicked out most of the members we have, hit the reset button, and then begun to *very carefully* admit newbies once they have passed the thicket of shibboleths, ideological purity tests, and secret handshakes necessary to show one is a True Catholic[TM].  With this piece, Greydanus exiles himself from elite ranks of the Real Catholics[TM] for many of the St. Blog’s Combox Orthodoxy Cops–along with such threats to the Faith as Pope Francis and Fr. Robert Barron.

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  • B

    There is a type of purity test when you enter the Church as an adult. You take an oath and state you believe “all of the teachings of the Catholic Church” (paraphrasing a bit…been a while since I said it).

    Anyway, I think most the people you rip on simply want converts that enter or get confirmed in the Church as an adult to take that oath seriously. Is anyone (minus a few loons) asking for people to go beyond that oath?

    Also, do you believe people should be able to enter the Church if they do “not” believe all the teachings of the Catholic Church? It seems that the RCC at least would say “no”, else they wouldn’t make people say the oath at their confirmation.
    PS: Technically, I know one enters the Church through baptism and no need for an oath. But the oath seems standard practice for Easter confirmation services (where people are both baptized, if needed, and confirmed).
    PS2: Not trying to pick a fight…just honest statements/questions.

    • chezami

      “. Is anyone (minus a few loons) asking for people to go beyond that oath?”

      Yes. Constantly. And it’s not a few loons. I have been condemned “not a real Catholic” hundreds and hundreds of times for failure to used the right code words, for not voting for Romney, for being content with the Novus Ordo, for holding private opinions about matters which the Church says I am free to hold, for my entertainment choices, my salty vocabulary when confronted with bullshit, and for dozen of other trivialities. Yet never ever ever have I rejected a syllable of my baptismal oath.

    • Yes, but it’s not so simple to agree on what “the teachings of the Catholic Church” comprises, once we go further from the Apostles’ Creed.

      A few examples:
      – The Vulgata is the official/inenarrable Bible translation
      – The Pentateuch was written (mostly) by Moses
      – Usury is a sin
      – Death penalty (and torture) by the State is acceptable.
      – Separation of State and Church is bad. So is freedom of the Press.
      – Adam and Eve were real individual persons, the first two humans, from which all other humans descend.
      – At the moment of conception (sperm cell penetrates a female egg) God creates a human soul, and the world has a new human person.
      – All sayings and acts of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, are historically exact.
      – Masturbation is a mortal sin.
      – A divorced catholic who remarries commits a mortal sin.
      – A man who dies in mortal sin goes to hell.
      – There are (or there will be) at least N humans in hell (with some N greater than zero)
      – The fourth gospel was written by John, son of Zebedee, who was also the “beloved disciple”, and who also wrote Revelation.
      – The “brothers of Jesus” were actually cousins.
      – Sodom and Gomorrah episode proves that homosexuality is a grave sin.
      – Gregorian chant is the official and proper sacred music.
      – A castrated (or physically impotent) male cannot marry.
      – A catholic priest must be celibate.
      – A catholic priest must be male.
      – Any page of the Denzinger.

      • Guest

        I don’t get your point. If it’s in the Catechism, it’s a teaching of the Church. If what you believe runs counter to the Catechism, then you might want to rethink it if you want to still consider yourself Catholic.

        • So protestants believe in Sola Scriptura, catholics believe in Solo Catechism? Since when? You speak of “the Catechism” as if the current one (JP2) were not a quite new (and by no means necessary) thing. I highly appreciate the new Catechism, but I emphatically reject that idolization that so many catholics (in US especially) profess towards it, as it were our Creed. It’s not. It’s a (sure and important) referece for catechesis. It’s wholly impertinent to place it as a golden rule for a faith, and I consider your “advice” mildly insulting.

          Furthermore, I’ve provided a long list (and I could easily double it) of assertions about which catholics disagree – not only whether they are true or not, but whether they are part of a binding teaching of the Church. And -sorry- the Catechism does not answer that.

          The teaching of the Church is a living thing. The Catechism -and the formulistic catholicism defended by many catholic apologetics- is not, it’s an frozen abstraction.

          • UAWildcatx2

            Hypothetically, if one professes that they believe the teachings of the faith, yet are at odds with the Magisterium on issues of faith and morals, then why stay Catholic? Wouldn’t it be more intellectually honest for that person to find a place that better matches their values?

      • UAWildcatx2

        The teachings of the Catholic Church are contained in the Catechism. It’s pretty easy to understand what constitutes official Catholic dogma. I don’t quite understand your list – are you saying that there’s no agreement that these are Catholic teachings? Or are you saying that they are teachings, but not understood?

        • “The teachings of the Catholic Church are contained in the Catechism.” Who says that? I don’t agree.

          “I don’t quite understand your list – are you saying that there’s no agreement that these are Catholic teachings?”

          Basically yes. You can verify that there is no agreement by asking in any catholic forum if these are catholic teaching. Or asking here 🙂

          • UAWildcatx2

            I state that teachings of the Church are contained within the Catechism, but I don’t state that the whole of Catholic truth is in the Catechism. That’s why the CCC cites numerous Papal documents/bulls/etc. The CCC provides a nice, concise location for a faithful Catholic to find answers to questions. Whether you disagree or not doesn’t really matter. It’s the same as the list you “cited.” Just because people don’t like what the Church teaches doesn’t make it any less true. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it, and error is error even if every everyone believes it.” An example: The fact that a Catholic who divorces and remarries without an annulment has always been taught as being a mortal sin. That person is committing adultery against their spouse. The Catholic teaching (as it has always been) is that marriage is permanent. You can’t quit because it gets tough. There are situations where the Church says that people shouldn’t stay together (e.g., abuse), but, if you were validly married in the Church, you made a vow to God. This is Catholic teaching. If you see Art. 7, Sec. 1061 of the CCC, you will see that the permanence of marriage is cited in Canon law. This is fact, and it is true. It is incorrect to say that Church teaching can change. It is more correct to say that interpretation of teaching can change (e.g. married priests), but the male priesthood is a teaching of the Church that cannot change, as set down in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

            I guess my main point is that Catholic teaching is not determined by popular opinion, or misunderstanding. The teaching of the Church is passed down through the Magisterium and the Pope, sitting ex cathedra, which are both protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Nobody can *make* you believe this. But that’s what free will is for, right?

  • SDG


    • said she

      Rightly earned, this time.

  • > Suggesting that Noah is theologized myth and that the Church allows for this view is, to these people, like trampling on the Eucharist.

    Well said. Sadly, most catholic apologetics of the last (say) hundred years have considered that the danger came only from the “other people”, and perhaps “these people” are the result (as also some other people who were turned away because they were told that if they didn’t believe that a whale had swallowed Jonah they were lacking in faith). I’m thinking also of good apologetics, who spent practically all their energies and brains to fight against the modern errors. Read Chesterton about the flood, for example; he rightly mocks the progressive mockers, those who assumed that the recent discoveries and the modern mindset (which we all share) discredited christianity and the Bible; but, at the same time, he’s too quick to dismiss all “those” arguments as trivial, as if the only message for us catholics were: “nothing to see here carry on”. He seems to minimize, too often, the relevance that all that modern mindset and discoveries have for our christian understanding, of the Bible among other important things, and the urgent need that we have to adjust to it. Regarding, for example, the discoveries of the Sumerian myths that include flood stories very similar to the jewish one, he does not seem willing to admit that that must somehow lead us catholics to rethink the historicity of the biblical narration; on the contrary, he borders the buffoonery arguing that if other people remember “the fact” (a great flood), then it’s more probable that it happened. The catholic reader can enjoy and applaud this (myself included), but this is not intelligent, and this easy self-sufficiency has not helped us.

    Does the catholic church allows the view that “Noah is theologized myth”? Yes. Could we catholics say that such a thing a century ago? No, we couldn’t. That notion was utterly rejected, especially in catholic apologetics. If this is so, -and unless fundamentalists are right- then we have learned (painfully) something, and that learning is also our task.

    • Paul

      “he borders the buffoonery arguing that if other people remember “the fact” (a great flood), then it’s more probable that it happened.”
      I am honestly confused. Are you suggesting that the more sources an event in history has the less likely it is to be true?

      • Oh my… When “the same” story is told in different cultures, it’s a sign… that it’s a good story.
        But, I know, it’s useless. I give up. I can only suggest the reading of chapter X of “Three men in a boat” by Jerome K Jerome.
        It won’t probably convince you of anything, you’ll still consider that “to tell the same story” amounts “to remembering the same thing”, and that the finding of the flood story on a sumerian myth does not affect our understanding of how to read the Genesis, that everything that happens in human history fits and supports our previous convictions (“we knew that”, “see? we were right”). It won’t you alter your convictions, but at least you might enjoy some nice literature.

        • Imrahil

          Frankly, let leave out here the question how much credit is here due to the Bible for being the Word of God.

          In that case, we have a historical account of a Great Flood in the Bible.

          Does this prove that a Great Flood happened? No.
          Does it prove that no Great Flood happened? No.
          Which of the “no”s is the louder one? The second.

          Then we find another text that also speaks of a great flood.
          Do the two together prove that a Great Flood happened? No.
          Does the second text add, or reduce probability that a Great Flood happened? Why *certainly* it adds.

          So that *if* the Sumerian myth affects our understanding, it would certainly affect it in this direction.

    • Imrahil

      Only that on that specific point, Chesterton is just quite logically right.

      That a different culture seems to remember the same thing makes it more and not less probably that it happened (in some way). Chesterton was not, I guess, here arguing about the flood but strictly about inconsistencies of the opponents of Christianity. And he won his argument.

      That said, I have at home a booklet for young people which was printed in the 1st decade of the 20th century. It says (no literal quote, but I think I get the idea):
      Objection: The Bible tells us that there was a Great Flood that covered all the Earth, and science does not report it.

      Answer: We do not know that it did not happen, and besides, the expression in Hebrew can also mean “all the country”.

      Just as an example which kind of things actually were possible to say in the Catholic Church.

      • > Chesterton is just quite logically right.

        No, he’s right on lots of things, on that he is a sophist.

        > That a different culture seems to remember the same thing makes it more and not less probably that it happened (in some way).

        No. You only need to read that “same thing” in its context (the mythical Gilgamesh saga), have a minimum of knowledge of culture (literature, mythology, history… physics), to realize that the coincidence has nothing to do with the “objective” telling of a same historical event by two different sources (dependent or not), as two newspapers reporting the 11S attacks. In that sense, in the naive historicist perspective (that of the modern mentality), that which assumes that the events narrated in Genesis are told as objective historical events (besides: with a special divine intervention, and presumably known or trasmited by some that sobrenatural inspiration), in that perspective, the “coincidence” is not a confirmation but rather a refutation (not definitive; but neither the only one). To stoutly deny this (and many similar things), to refuse to recognize humbly that much of our convictions are provisional, that we also need to learn, is an intellectual tragedy for catholicism, and plants the seed for dumb fundamentalists on one side and dumb atheists a-la Dawikins on the other.

        • Imrahil

          Only I never said the Gilgamesch myth was anything but a myth – nor that it added definitive proof to the Bible.

          I do, however, hold the contrary on
          >>the “coincidence” is not a confirmation but rather a refutation.

          And forgive me, I was not particularly trying to plant seeds of any sort, but simply to be logically consistent myself.

          I suspect that this “rather refuting” is rather in the mind of the reader, who (rightly) knows that myths are largely untrue. As for the actual facts, though, I cannot see how inclusion of topoi in myths can possible be anything else than “no refutation but rather”, note rather, “a confirmation” that a thing of the sort once actually happened.

          Coming to think of it, no, the Sumerian myth does not change our perception. Why not? Simply because we all knew of Deukalion and Pyrrha all along, from our own mythology.

          • >Simply because we all knew of Deukalion and Pyrrha all along, from our own mythology.

            But that’s the point! To recognize, by drawing parallels and deepening our understanding of human things, that “ours” is also a “mythology”, at least in some sense -but an important sense, that which prevents the possibility of extracting factual scientific/historic data from it. How can you say that that doesn’t “change our perception”?

            > who (rightly) knows that myths are largely untrue.

            Myths are untrue if we read them in the modern perspective, if we attempt to extract objective historical facts from them. But they don’t intend to do that.

            Today Mark can say that Noah is (perhaps) a “theologized myth”. 150 years ago that would be heresy.
            Even the Catholic Encyclopedia (1914), aware of the progresses in biblical criticism and modern science, felt compelled to affirm the historicity of the biblical account (“The few stray discordant voices belonging to the last fifteen or twenty years are simply drowned in this unanimous chorus of Christian tradition”).
            A few year earlier, Rome had decreed that the Moses was still to be regarded as the main author of the Pentateuch. Both things were -I presume- “catholic teaching”, and both were proved from the New Testament and from the Tradition.
            A century later, no serious theologian (nor the Magisterium) would affirm that. What has changed in the meantime?

            • Imrahil

              By “ours” I meant not the Christian one but the Greek one, which culturally (in Europe) very much does figure as our mythology. Don’t know how that is in America though.

              So, if you think that it changes my perception on Genesis that a somewhat similar myth has been found in Mesopotamia… no it doesn’t. For the plain and simple reason that another similar myth was all along known as part of Greek mythology and to every educated European. Hence no change.

              Which was all I said on that point.

              150 years ago, that would not have been heresy, because there would not have been a dogma against it. You might have met people think it heretical, which is a totally different thing.

              And still, whatever the Bible actually does oblige us to believe – I believe, but set that aside – the probability of a thing having actually happened when it does also figure in a myth is thereby if anything not decreased, but increased. I cannot see how it can be possibly otherwise if not, in a speech, by appealing to emotions (such as “ah look that’s so mythical, see here, it’s in that myth too, but do we believe in myths?”).

  • Catholic Fast Food Worker

    Mark, lol, you really outdid yourself today. Did you not get the memo? Both Pope Francis & Fr. Barron will be promptly Excommunicated next Tuesday; they’ve failed the purity tests. St. Blog, patron of combox blogger fighters, pray for our cybertronic souls. Mark, literally, Rofl.