Thursday, October 30, 2014

Science, evolution and God is not a being, in other words, standard theology from pope Francis

A translation from Francis speech, from a comment on here, in a discussion of science, evolution and God is not a being.

You are dealing with the highly complex theme of the
evolution of the concept of nature. I certainly won’t get into it – you know it
well – into the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question.
I only want to highlight that God and Christ journey with us and are present
even in nature, as the Apostle Paul affirmed in his speech at the Areopagus:
“for ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17.28) When we read
in Genesis the creation account we run the risk of imagining that God is a
magician with a magic wand allowing him to do all kinds of things. But this is
not how it is. He created the beings and he let them develop according to the
internal laws which he gave each of them so that they would develop and come to
their proper fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the
same time in which he guaranteed their continuing presence, giving being to
every reality. This is how creation has gone on for centuries and centuries,
millennia upon millennia, until it became what we know today. This is precisely
because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to
everything that is. The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos which
must have its origin elsewhere, but it derives directly from a supreme
Principle which creates through love. The Big Bang, which today is posited
as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine creating action but
requires it. Evolution in nature is not at odds with the notion of creation
because evolution presupposes the creation of the beings that are evolving.

As regards man, on the other hand, there is both change and
newness. When, on the sixth day of the Genesis account, the creation of man
happens, God gives the human being a different autonomy, an autonomy different
from that of nature. This is freedom. And he tells man to name everything and
to move forward throughout the course of history. He makes man responsible for
creation, even to subdue creation, so that he might develop it until the end of
time. Therefore, to the scientist, and above all to the Christian scientist,
corresponds the attitude of questioning about the future of humanity on the
earth, and as a free and responsible being, contributing to it, preparing it,
and eliminating from it environmental risks, both natural and human. But, at
the same time, the scientist must be moved by the fidelity that nature hides in
her evolutionary mechanisms, by the ability of intelligence and freedom to
discover and actuate, to come to the development that is in the Creator’s
design. So, although limited, human action participates in God’s power and is
capable of building a world adapted to human life, which is both spiritual and corporeal.
This human action is capable of building a human world for all human beings and
not for one group or privileged class. This hope and trust in God, Author of
nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit, are able to give the
researcher a new energy and a deep serenity. But it is also true that human
action, when his freedom becomes autonomy – which is not freedom, but autonomy
– destroys creation, and man take the place of the Creator. And this is the
grave sin against God the Creator.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Migrant Jesus, at the border

Kim Fabricus has composed the following hymn, which we could start using at church. 
Migrant Jesus, at the border,
refugee of fear and hate,
you’re a threat to law and order,
     nightmare of the nation-state.

Child of Israel, fleeing soldiers,
     from the Jordan to the Nile,
were your parents passport-holders,
     were you welcomed with a smile?

Home from Egypt, Spirit-breathing,
     in the towns of Galilee,
how you had the people seething
     when you preached the Jubilee.
Ease our fears, forgive our hatred
     of the other and the odd;
help us see the single-sacred:   
     face of stranger – face of God.
See the full hymn here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Was Jesus Married? Discussion point by point

Unexpectedly, some weeks ago I entered into a discussion about whether Jesus was married or not, and if so, could it have been with Mary of Magdala?

I am convinced that the traditional understanding that Jesus was single is very correct. Yet, for the sake of the discussion, and edification of others, I post here, in a nutshell, what I found to be the main related arguments of this topic (as I understand them), and my answers (in scare quotes).

Point 1:
Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and as such it would have been very unexpected that he would not have married. He was expected to marry.  All the rabbinic literature endorses marriages and indeed the Torah command it (Gn 1:22, be fruitful and multiply).
Actually, during the time of Jesus, it was not that uncommon for a Jew to be unmarried. For instance, Paul himself was unmarried (1 Co 7:7). And there is also the group of the Essenes, who were known for their emphasis on celibacy (Josephus, Antiquities; Jewish War; Philo, Hypothetica 11.14-18). [cited here ] Basically, although most Jews were married, some were not. It is possible that Jesus saw his celibacy as a dedication to announce the Kingdom of God.

Point 2:
The wedding at Cana is in fact the wedding of Jesus and Mary of Magdala. At Jesus time the broom was expected to provide the wine and this is what Jesus did at Cana. 
This is a quite extravagant reading of John 2;1-11. The plain reading is clear: Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were invited into a wedding party that runs out of wine. Prompted by his mother, Jesus tansformed water into wine, providing the first sign of who he was. This was done discretely, not in front of everybody. Because of this miracle the disciples believed in him. As for Mary of Magdala, she is not even mentioned in this passage, as she will only encounter Jesus later in the gospel.

Clearly, this story is not evidence for Jesus marrying Mary of Magdala. If you want to read Jesus wedding into this text, well, that is your call, but you have to force this interpretation into into the text. 

Point 3:
The gospel of Philip have a passage where Jesus kisses Mary of Magdala. And there is also the gospel of Jesus' wife.
The gospel of Philip would have been written more than two hundred years after the death of Jesus. In comparison the canonical gospels written only a few decades after Jesus' death.  It is easy then to realise which ones are more reliable. The particular passage in Philip's gospel, even if unreliable as historical witness, could just read that Jesus have kissed Mary's hand and the disciples got upset by that (see wikipedia). Finally, as for the gospel of Jesus wife, which is not really a gospel, but more like a paragraph, it seems it is a forgery. The reason is that the document have been provided by an "anonymous" person, who moreover had also been demonstrated to provide other forgeries. That the person cannot be traced back, and that other material he or she provided is demonstrably forged makes the case very suspicious. Weight the evidence against the whole of the canonical gospels and there is no case.
Point 4:
The disciples didn't want the people to know that Jews was married, but there are hints here and there. You don't want to see them because you are a doubting Thomas.
It seems to me that the only way to criticise the solid evidence of of Jesus being single, is by buying into the conspirational theory. This is to claim that the disciples knew the truth, but didn't want people to know. This is much more than to say that the disciples might have been mistaken about such and such particular issue, but is to say that they were dishonest. That they sold a lie. At this point I start to wonder if some people are not deceiving themselves here, that there is something more here than trying to study and learn from history.