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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Catholic Church and Darwinism:Church no longer swears by Bible?

A new low was reached with the recent Times story, "The Catholic Church no longer swears by the truth of the Bible", in which we are
informed that
The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect "total accuracy" from the Bible.

"We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision," they say in The Gift of Scripture.

Just about everything in the article is misleading, especially the implication that the Catholic Church has been a champion of the literal reading of Scripture as a matter of principle, and has now abandoned that position - and hence is now slowly backing away from the position that the Bible is even "true."

Nonsense. The traditional Christian interpreted the Bible for centuries on many levels, depending on what levels were thought to shed the most light. A four-level system was very popular: literal, allegorical, anagogical, and tropological.* Other schemes must certainly exist. The Bible was and is considered to be true, which is not the same thing as saying that it is always to be interpreted literally.

As I pointed out in By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg 2004), back in the Renaissance era, the Bible was interpreted literally sometimes merely as a default. Even (probable) atheist Sir Walter Raleigh started his history of the world with the Biblical narrative because, prior to the rise of geology, no other history was even available. (Yes, there was Greece and Rome, but they come later.)

Literal interpretation as the only way of understanding the Bible seems to have arisen from conflicts and problems within American fundamentalism, which was itself an unacknowledged (on both sides) child of modernism. All this relates to the intelligent design controversy only insofar as the people who think that the Catholic Church has dumped the Bible - and will now go on to embrace Darwinism - should check out some of those Nigerian generals' widows with Internet investment schemes, but only if they have no money to lose.

* literal - can you recount the story you just heard? allegorical - where does this story fit in the global scheme? analogical - how will this story help you understand the spiritual life? tropological - how will this story make you a better person today?
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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