Conversation with a Fundamentalist

Conversation with a Fundamentalist January 3, 2013

I’m not sure if this particular Fundamentalist is a Catholic or not, but he makes very clear that he reads the Bible through Fundamentalist lenses and not through those offered by the Church and the best in orthodox Catholic Scripture scholarship. It’s a common problem here in post-Protestant America where a lot of Catholic laity are formed by a) Protestant understandings of revelation and b) the conviction that Catholic Scripture Scholarship is equal to and co-terminous with Pointy-Headed Intellectuals who are bent on undermining their faith. It’s true that there is no dearth of theologians who hold the Faith and the Magisterium in contempt and wish to appoint themselves as a pseudo-magisterium. It is not the case, however, that rejecting their machinations involves the embrace of a flat-footed fundamentalist reading of Scripture. Hopefully, this conversation, taken from my comboxes, will help illustrate why fundamentalism is a danger when reading scripture.

we are to read the bible literally unless there is a reason not to.

We are to read for the literal sense (and the other senses).  We are not always to read literalistically.  So Jesus is not literally a grape plant when he says he is the vine.  Nor are we bound to believe in six 24 hour days of creation 6000 (or 10,000) years ago.

I see no reason not to.

Then you are ignorant of what the sciences are discovering about the age and evolution of the universe.

How do you “know” what the author of Genesis intended to say?

Because I am familiar with the information revealed both by the teaching of the Church and relevant work from Scripture scholars, as well as the relevant physical sciences documenting, for instance, that the universe is about 13.5 billion years old and the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.  Since scripture is inerrant, it therefore cannot be that the author means to be making a scientific claim about the age of the universe.  Nor has the Church ever bound us to say he is.  That said, I don’t claim to “know” in fullness what the sacred author means to say since it is the work of the Church over the ages to fully comprehend the meaning of revelation.

Perhaps he intended to say the universe was created in six literal days. How can you say that the flood was “local?”. Peter didn’t think so.

Note that you leap from saying we can’t know what the author of Genesis thought to saying you are certain what he thought, based on a false certitude about what Peter thought.  Meanwhile, the Church commits us to neither proposition.

He says that the world was deluged with water and perished and compares that with the end of the world which obviously won’t be “local. ”

Jesus compares the destruction of the Temple to the end of the world too.  Both he and Peter understand what “types” are.

Jesus compares his second coming with the days of Noah where He says the flood “swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Jesus’ second coming won’t be local.

See above.  You are committing yourself to a fundamentalist reading of Scripture re: the Flood that the Church does not require and the sciences do not support.  I’ve watch Christians  go down this rabbit hole before, trying to figure out ways to magic up a volume of water sufficient to  drown Mt. Everest (it ain’t there even if you melt the polar caps).  Eventually, one woman was reduced to saying that the Flood was accomplished with “spiritual water”.  I think it’s a lot more sensible to not bind myself to things the Church never required in the first place.

Yes the Catechism says that figurative language is used in Genesis 3 but it doesn’t say what that figurative language is. Could it be that God “walked” in the garden? Does a spirit actually walk? Is Genesis 3:15 figurative? I hope you don’t think so.

I’m not sure what you are getting at.  But absolutely Genesis 3:15 is figurative.  The Woman and her seed are figures of Mary and Christ and the serpent is a figure of Satan.  Revelation 12 says as much.  I get the sense you don’t understand what “figurative” means.  A thing can be real (like, say, the ark of the covenant) and a figure (as the ark of the covenant is a figure of Mary).  In the case of Genesis 3, we are not bound to believe that Satan is literally a talking snake.  Rather, the serpent is a figure of the spiritual being “who is called the devil and Satan”.  We are not bound by the faith to believe that a literal dragon or snake will literally have Mary or Christ literally stomp on its literal physical head.  This is fundamentalism, not Catholic faith.

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