Friday, October 07, 2005

What will the Pope say about this, I wonder?

I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due and, in this particular instance, credit is due to the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland. Times Online has the following news:

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

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.

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church has been moving away from Bible literalism for quite a while – very few Catholics would have a problem with what Galileo and Copernicus claimed, even if it disagrees with the Bible. But, it is still very good to hear this said by Church authorities. The bishops go on to say the following about fundamentalism:

Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.

Well, I could not help but think of the following in this context:

I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did.

Yes, that’s the head Chimp, himself, speaking to Palestinian representatives (from BBC World). Wonder if the British bishops were thinking of Dubya and his poodle when they wrote their document.

Of course, the bishops do not think that everything in the Bible is just a myth. For example, they do take the virgin birth to be a real event. They have to draw some line, otherwise they end up not being Catholics but being naturalists. But, where is this line to be drawn? I can not help that reasonable Catholics such as the British bishops are caught in a bind. On the one hand they are modern enough to realise that much in the Bible is, I might say, apocryphal but on the other hand, they are still religious enough to think that much isn’t. Those two positions aren’t compatible in the long term as a rational, historically-informed attitude to the contents of the Bible dissolves whatever dogmas it comes into contact with. The literalist have, in a sense, a much easier time – they simply have to completely forego rational thought in one area of their lives.


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