instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Same old story

It's a failure on my part -- of imagination if nothing else -- but I simply do not get it when adult Catholics say things like this:
At Christmas Eve Mass in my parish every year I hear the proclamation of the genealogy of Jesus, Christianity's central figure, stating that all of creation is only a few thousand years old. I wince when I hear it because of the update we got that is the cosmological story science has been telling us for the last hundred years.
Is "The Gospels are not scientific treatises" really such a difficult concept to grasp? Can anyone pay enough attention to wince without bothering to look into the matter enough to discover that the Gospel genealogies, if read literally, contradict each other and the Old Testament, so maybe they shouldn't be read literally enough to wince over them?

The curiosity of specifying which Jesus has His genealogy proclaimed at Christmas Eve Mass every year -- "Jesus, Christianity's central figure," not Jesus Gonzales the boxer -- might tip you off that this is an excerpt from the National Catholic Reporter. Specifically, it's the opening of an interview with Fr. Richard Rohr on "the eternal christ in the cosmic story."

Rather than responding with a terse, "What are you, seven?," Fr. Rohr answers in part:
Christian scripture, in fact, gives us Jesus' place in that history counted in billions of years if you look for it -- in the prologue to John's Gospel, for example, or in the Pauline hymns of the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians, or in the opening of John's first letter. All speak of Christ existing from all eternity. We just don't see those references. They've never been unpacked for the majority of Christians, and we don't have theology to know how to see it.
There's so much that is so foreign to me here, I'm not sure I even understand what he's saying. The majority of Christians don't know that Christ is eternal? We don't have... theology...?

Granted, "Chalcedon" may not be an everyday word among most Christians. But criminy, Catholics have been saying the Creed in the vernacular for a while now. Doesn't anyone ever hear themselves say "eternally begotten of the Father"?

I'd say a major problem with this whole "new universe story" nonsense is the pretense that it's new. If it didn't have to be new, if it weren't being sold as an improvement over that cramped embarrassment known as pre-the-century-of-your-birth Christianity, then purveyors like Fr. Rohr could spare us the bad history and insults to the benighted fools who lived before our day.

They might also be less likely to try to stuff Christ into last Tuesday's cosmology, while thinking they were giving Him more room. "'From the beginning' means from the time of the Big Bang 14 billion to 15 billion years ago" is bad doctrine, both theologically and scientifically.

Sure, we'd still be left with a dodgy pre-Chalcedonian Christology:
The Gospels are about the historical Jesus. Paul, however, whose writings make up a third of the New Testament, never talks about that Jesus. He is talking about the Christ. Jesus is the microcosm; Christ is the macrocosm....

Jesus died, Christ arose.
But at least the ensuing argument would be about the Faith, not about potted history or anecdotal sociology.

We might even, occasionally, find interesting things to say to each other:
The real trump card of Christianity is not just that we believe in God. The mystery we are about is much more than that: It's that the material and the spiritual coexist. It's the mystery of the Incarnation...

Incarnation is already redemption. Bethlehem was more important than Calvary.
It is, after all, in resistance to a contradiction, not in merely contradicting, that true and false will be revealed and uncovered.