Thursday, May 24, 2012

Refuting What I Deem As Silliness Part 1

I know, it's another one of THOSE posts. I'll try at least to be brief, but the general lack of "mind" the post-modern (or modern, depending on whom you speak with) displays is astounding. I saw this today:

This sort of thing makes me, sometimes, irrationally angry (to borrow a term from a friend) because it recognizes no nuance and clearly doesn't understand what the Church teaches. I mean the Catholic Church (which is more than just the Latin Rite by the by), because Protestants are more scrambled and less unified, so their answers reflect this. All of these points made by whomever wrote this are, in fact, refutable. They are VERY refutable. So, I will just go through each one and attempt to do just that.

1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teaching.
First of all, this is actually a fairly silly way to look at religious teaching in general. Lots of specific cases are not mentioned, because it is already hard enough reading Leviticus as it is (or any deep holy book, really). Can you imagine if the Bible had actually come down from the sky in fullness with a full summary of everything mankind would have to deal with past, present, and future? That would be a book big enough for me to climb and far too large for me to make out the words but from space. It would be as insane to conceive of as my hyperbolic description of it was. I, honestly, have no idea where that came from.

Christians, specifically Catholics and Orthodox, do not believe that about the Bible in the least. The idea is that the books of the Bible were written by authors inspired by God who used them as a vessel to communicate with people through words. These books were then gathered and compiled by equally inspired people who put them in a certain order after lots of thought, prayer, and discussion. Remember, Tradition predates the Scriptures. Scripture is necessarily the product of Tradition, the people would still have believed as they did, even if no one thought of writing anything down. This is true of both the Old and New Testaments. Also, please note that, just because they were not as scientifically or medically advanced as we are, doesn't mean that they are ignorant nor stupid. Acting as though the compilation of the Bible was done haphazardly done by idiot ancients is a slap in the face of history and pays little respect to the people who got us to where we are now. No one would be here without the ancients, so it is about time we showed a little respect and decorum.

So, since the Bible is not a book that was written covering every possible scenario (as it did not fall from the sky in a perfect form) we have to use what we learn from the Bible and Tradition to figure out how to approach various problems that arise in different epochs. The issue that this picture is talking about is Gay Marriage, because that is one of the hot button issues of the day, but thinking that no direct mentioning of homosexuality or various other sins means it isn't essential to his teaching is silly.

Remember, when Christ was on Earth, his first mission was to those who would already understand what he was talking about. If he showed up in Greece or Meso-America, the concepts of sin and repentance would have needed explanation. I don't mean that these people did not right from wrong, they did mostly, but the Jewish understanding of such things was actually rather revolutionary as most ancient religions just said that the world was simply the way it was. Jews and later Christians actually placed blame somewhere other than chance or the gods. Humanity was at fault for our current state of affairs and it was due to our ancestors committing foolish acts that brought sin into the world. Back then, that was entirely revolutionary.

People have trouble thinking in those terms, because they have heard or, rather more often, misheard what sin and redemption are in Christian terms. The Western World is a product of the Christian beliefs that their ancestors accepted and developed. What we have now, that other countries are just getting to, are a result of that background.

Anyway, Jewish theology and religion, as it developed, looked less and less like the religions that it had sprung up around. There was something quite odd happening with those people and Christ came to the people who would better understand and receive his message first. It is hard for him to dialogue with people who have different definitions for different terms.

So, the next question was what was Christ's message? Well, it appears that his focus was on repentance, learning to love God with everything, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is, arguably, one of the reasons he hung around the "sinners" of his contemporary Jewish society. Those were the people who really needed his message. He himself says this a few times. He came for the lost, not those who had an okay grip on things.

If those things were his focus, and we can admit that not every possible problem that will arise would necessarily be addressed, then we have to realize that, in calling for repentance, Christ was telling people to "Sin no more." His people, the Jews, had a true concept of this, one that the rest of the world was soon to receive. They had many laws that had been passed down way before Christ was born, and he would (besides the fact that he was God) have known about these laws. He tells people that he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Does that sound like someone who is going to encourage people to do something believed to be a sin?

Now, about Leviticus (and Deuteronomy). I want to reiterate that the Bible was not compiled as books just popped out there. There was discussion, argument, etc. Just because people more often held mystical beliefs back then does not mean they were meatheads, though some SURELY were. The books (remember the Bible isn't just ONE BOOK, it is many) were written and placed in a certain order with a purpose. The Bible is also filled to the brim with many a literary genre. Not understanding this fact will not let you understand what the Scriptures are, nor what it took to compile it. The entire Bible is not meant to be taken literally, that is a fallacy that many Christians early on and many Protestant ones have fallen into (though it is worth nothing that their usage of literalism is selective).

Leviticus is a book of Law for the Hebrews as God's first people. It drags along with various stipulations, many of which are repeated and elaborated on in Deuteronomy. There were many specific rules that were all a part of helping the Jews be set apart. A notion Christians would later take as being a City on the Hill.

However, there are also many laws that were in Leviticus that were not simply laws for the Jews, they were natural laws, such as those involving sex being both procreative and unifying, something naturally lacking in homosexual relationships throughout all ages. Current homosexual erotic relationships have to have some money to conceive a child in unconventional ways or adopt in order to do something that will usually happen naturally in an heterosexual union (preferably in a marriage). Before we go on, let's note here and now that I am not saying that homosexual erotic love is not a reality or that what the people feel isn't real. That isn't even what the discussion is about. We feel lots of things, but that does not mean that we have to act on said feelings or, even more, that these feelings are what define us as human persons made in the image of God. The fact simply is, naturally speaking, homosexual couples cannot have children. (notice I don't blanket it on all those with SSA because some get into heterosexual marriages and conceive children that way)

That fact is a natural one and irrefutable. The reason why the Church still follows the Ten Commandments, but not all of the laws of Leviticus, is not because they just wanted to pick and choose like many people have desired to do through all ages, but rather because they are rooted in reason. Natural Law is all that we can deduce about proper conduct just from using our reason. Thus, murder etc. are wrong. So, in the Church's eyes, homosexuality is disordered because it takes the good of sexual desire and misaligns it. Everyone is aware that people can become infatuated or fall in love with things that it would be inordinate to be in love with. This is further tied to the fact that sexual congress is, on even an evolutionary level, used for the production of children. Other uses for sex evolved, but the core of it is still in passing on genes to a new generation and raising them up. That is the first and most important aspect. Homosexual congress clearly does not line up with this, and so must be disordered in some way. (Christians go further in the discussion of Chastity, but that is for another blog)

For a really good succinct explanation of why Catholics don't follow EVERY law in Leviticus go here:

A final note in this line of thought, Christ came to enhance our understanding of the law and often did things that the strict Pharisees disagreed with but, because of who He was, he was able to better define the law into the spirit behind these laws. (also, some of those laws were matters of discipline more than matters of sin. Is everything that is against any set of laws necessarily a sin? No.)

Now, my final point is this: the Bible, as I have shown, was not dropped in a complete form upon the heads of unwitting Jews. The same thing is true of the New Testament. The writers of the Gospels, which chronicle important aspects of Jesus' life in a condensed fashion, did not write those full accounts down until they were fairly old. It was done to combat heresy a lot of the time. Read the beginning of Luke to see this (he tells the dude he is writing that these are the really big points that happened so he knows the truth of the eyewitnesses).

Also, note that the Gospels were not biographies in the sense that we think of them now. They reported the facts, but focused more on a person's essence than reporting everything in supreme detail. The disciples likely took notes while Jesus was their rabbi, but it is obvious enough to know that those notes would be different, because different people remember and focus on different things. The points where they agreed on were probably the most essential, and one of the most essential parts of Christ's ministry was telling people to turn away from their sins. He told the woman at the well, who had been treating marriage like a hobby (joking), to go and sin no more. Turn away from that life.

So, what does that mean? Well, it means that every single, word-for-word, instance of Christ teaching or rebuking something is not going to be recorded and the goal of the Gospels was not to uncover every single stone. It was, instead done to show what was witnessed and done in a more condensed fashion than some of the biographies we read today. That said, what biography is going to be word-for-word, action-for-action, complete? People are going to remember different things, forget things, etc. Expecting ALL what Christ said and is foolish. A couple of the Gospels even have verses where they claim that Christ did this and many other wonders. They clearly saw more, but did not want to write for that long. They didn't have computers then, you guys!

Now, to wrap this up, here are the major points:

1. The Bible is not believed to have suddenly appeared in perfection with all questions answered. That is simply an improper way to view scripture.

2. You need to properly understand (though I am not perfect at this myself) what Christ's message was and take into account that the first people he brought it to were people with concepts that they could readily attach to what he was saying (though, again, done imperfectly. The disciples were often like WTF, Jesus?) Christ message wasn't simply a lazy "love" that accepts everything people do as okay, but rather a turning a way from such thinkings and learning to truly love. Abandoning sin and learning to live as we should. It is a message of the complete alteration of the self into what it is suppose to be. If you think Jesus was just like, be nice and "love" everyone, you have not read the right scriptures.

3. Understanding how the Bible was compiled, respecting the ancient compilers, and learning to distinguish between laws that really had to do with a man's soul and those of discipline are essentially to understand any of the Church's view on things. Christ did things that were "anti-Sabbath" but simply redefined them to help the people understand more. We know that fish does not ruin your soul, and neither do your clothes. In fact, in the words of 'Ye, "the prettiest people do the ugliest things." Many of those laws were not essential to the salvation of the soul. So, the Church had to form a new understanding with the advent of the Holy Spirit. (see: the Circumcision issue in the NT)

4. Natural law is often used by the Church to determine what is ethically acceptable or what is in proper order to its purpose etc.

5. Expecting every single word of a two year period to be exactly written down shows a misunderstanding of what Scripture is and a misunderstanding of what it is to be human. The Church wasn't expecting every single thing to be written down, but instead used what had been traditionally taught to see what Scriptures were inspired or not. Every single thing he addressed is not likely to make it into the writings, but a lot of really big important stuff is.

That's all I have for now! This is gonna be a multi-parter!


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