Tuesday, October 28, 2003

A man in our Bible study, an engineer at Lucent in Holmdel (therefore, a sympathic character to me!) asked whether he could make a presentation on what's called Young Earth Creationism during our discussion on Job.

His claim is that the creatures Behemoth and Leviathan are really dinosaurs.

The study leader asked my opinion of opening up discussion on this topic.

Here's my reply to him:

It’s your gig, so talk about “young earth” creationism if you wish. However, most people are bored by a scientific discussion in which they are unprepared to participate, especially if they do not themselves ponder the earth’s age and do not doubt the authenticity, trustworthiness or integrity of Scripture. The discussion may quickly evolve into a monologue or worse.

Certainly, the footnotes in NIV / NAB Study Bibles do not suggest dinosaur but rather hippopotamus or elephant for behemoth and crocodile for leviathan. The NKJV footnote reads honestly “a large animal, exact identity unknown.”

Myself, I would decline also on the grounds that the Book of Job, as wisdom literature, does not purport to convey data about the origin of human life. Asserting that the Book of Job records facts about creation is analogous to claiming information about the Boston Tea Party in Chapter VII of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Not only are the references to God’s creation in Job 40 & 41 tangential, but also a creationism digression detracts from the theological import of Job.

If a discussion of “young earth” creationism leads to a consideration of Scriptural authority, inerrancy, etc., I would offer these four quotations:
  • Humani Generis, paragraph 38 reads in part:

  • the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking are not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people.
In the above quotation, the understanding of the word “popular” may provide the solution. I think that a Literalistic understanding of Genesis is permitted but not mandated.
  • Dei Verbum, paragraph 11 reads as follows:

  • Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.
In this quotation, “for the sake of salvation” is usually cited by those with a more nuanced understanding of inspiration and inerrancy as some kind of intellectualism loophole.
  • In the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, we read the following (the italics are mine, my own clarifications appear within brackets):

  • Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details.

    As the 20th century comes to an end, this kind of interpretation [i.e., fundamentalist] is winning more and more adherents, in religious groups and sects, as also among Catholics.

    It [the fundamentalist approach] refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language and that this word has been expressed, under divine inspiration, by human authors possessed of limited capacities and resources. For this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit.

    Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning.

    It [fundamentalism] accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible
There is here no “slippery slope."
  • From C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, page 184:

  • Perhaps a modern man can understand the Christian idea [of sanctification] best if he takes it in connection with Evolution. Everyone now knows about Evolution (though, of course, some educated people disbelieve it): everyone has been told that man has evolved from lower types of life. Consequently, people often wonder "What is the next step? When is the thing beyond man going to appear?"
Lewis goes on to state that the Christian is the next step in human evolution.

Paragraph 289 in the Catechism is vague but may list the sort of theological truth that we may hope to glean from the first three chapters in Genesis: creation’s origin and end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and the drama of sin and the hope of salvation.

Ken Ham’s ministry on Christian radio advocates the idea that dinosaurs co-existed with humankind and are mentioned in the Bible. My three-year old is going to be a dragon / dinosaur for Halloween. Shall I bring him on Thursday evening in his costume to spark the conversation?!

I hope that you find something of value in the above thoughts.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

MA Theology coursework - Georgian Court College, Lakewood
  • TH500 Research and Methodology in Theology - Dr. Louis McNeil, Fall 1997
  • TH531 Christology - Dr. Louis McNeil, Spring 1998
  • TH624 Letters of Paul - Dr. Judith Schubert, RSM, Fall 1998
  • TH535 History of Christianity - Fr. Robert Stefanotti, O.Carm., Spring 1999
Israel trip
  • TH628 Book of Revelation - Dr. Jim Bridges, Summer 1999
  • TH560 Spirituality - Sr. Janice Edwards, RSM, Fall 1999
  • TH532 God, the Trinity - Dr. Louis McNeil, Spring 2000
Kenny born
  • TH533 Christian Community - Fr. Norman Demeck, O.P., requiem in pace, Spring 2001
  • TH613 Gospel of John - Dr. Judith Schubert, RSM, Fall 2001
  • TH554 Evangelization - Dr. Louis McNeil, Spring 2002
  • TH521 Psalms - Dr. Jim Bridges, Summer 2002
  • CL351 Greek New Testament - Danny Jackson, Summer 2002
Timmy born
  • TH627 Topics in the New Testament - Dr. Jim Bridges, Summer 2003 (audit)

Friday, May 23, 2003

Commencement is on Friday afternoon. A couple of ceremonies precede it: an awards program last night and a Hooding tonight. I attended the awards alone because the babysitter was a no-show. The program was held in "The Mansion" on campus, a former summer retreat of George Jay Gould in Lakewood. Even arriving 20 minutes early left me few seating options; the mansions foyer was full. I found an unoccupied folding chair next to a large marble column, behind another marble column.

The atmosphere was festive, if a little self-congratulatory. Sr. Irene played Sinatra and Andrew Lloyd on the baby grand. The MC was the gentle Sr. Dorothy who moved things along. The presenters were rarely amusing but never stuffy. Naturally, my turn came towards the end. Dr. Schubert called forth Sr. Natalie and myself to receive the Whos Who for her department. I was dressed in black and the Franciscan wore pale purple. Casual observers might have confused us. I asked a stranger in the audience to snap my photo as I accepted the award. Looking at the digital display later, I discovered a lovely picture of the wall under the main staircase with only a small section of Dr. Schubert's shoulder visible. The shy Dr. Schubert would never allow a second one be taken.

We were free to tour the mansion's downstairs afterwards. Built in the late gilded age, in Georgian style, and donated in 1924, the sisters have made minor but significant changes. The solarium has been converted into a chapel and the bare-breasted French beauties in the music room's murals have been artfully draped in not-so-sheer, fluttering fabric. Listed as a historic building, the college is obliged to maintain the house. Locating artists appropriately skilled for touch-ups is becoming difficult. Ten years ago, specialists traveled from France to remove soot from wood carvings in the library. Much of the furniture is original. On display is a book that was found recently at Sotheby's with photographs taken when the Goulds were in residence. A mural based on The Canterbury Tales spans three walls in the rear entranceway, one of only three such murals in the nation. Five years I'm at this school, and last night was my first visit to the mansion. I wish my husband had been there.

The Mansion

Friday, April 11, 2003

Thursday afternoon was spent at the auto service center in Red Bank, NJ, located an hour from home. We were two hours late for the appointment and arrived at noon, just as the crew was leaving for lunch. Turning over the keys, I was told that the 60,000 mile service is *very extensive*, taking 3 - 4 hours at least.

I routinely choose to wait for my car rather than transferring two child car seats to a loaner. The usual wait time is 1 - 2 hours and, given our home's distance from the shop, this stay-at-home mom with nothing better to do can pass the time with a book. Most other folks are too busy or important to wait for their car, opting for the luxury of a free loaner, so we usually have the waiting area to ourselves. Curiously, my kids behave better in public than at home, so managing them is easier.

This occasion would be different.

For starters, it was the kids' naptime. Bracing myself for a trying afternoon at the Volvo garage, I ensured that diapers were clean and tummies were full. Kenny wasted no time moving to the carpeted, kids' "play zone" in the waiting area stocked with toys that were new to him. In his young life, he has already spent many hours here. Kenny occupied himself very well while I tended to the baby. Always prepared for the worst, I had plenty of drinks, snacks and diapers on hand.

At 1:15, we walked to the train tracks at the intersection of routes 520 and 35. I know that two NJ transit commuter trains pass by, one in each direction, on every hour. It took only 15 minutes to walk the 300 yards from the dealership to the corner, faster than I estimated. How to kill a half hour? We took in a couple of doughnuts at the corner Dunkin' Donuts shop. Just as we finished, the first train went by. We stepped outside in time to experience the sights and sounds of the second train moments afterward. Kenny was thrilled. We returned to the dealership and checked out the showroom. Boy, the XC90 is a slick SUV - drool, drool. I tried to access my email from the dealership's complimentary computer cluster but the online email site is unrated so the filtering software blocked it. Naturally, the service staff had been looking for me during our brief excursion because I needed to approve their recommendation to replace a worn, original tire. Their quoted price matched what I'd pay back home in Freehold, and the other three tires were fairly new, so ok. With the cost of a new tire thrown in, the total expense of the service was mighty hefty on the pocketbook, on my nerves and, especially, on the kids because they skipped their regular naps and snacked all afternoon.

Our itinerary for the day had been set well in advance: repair shop, train station, beach, just like some litany out of Dora the Explorer. However, leaving the garage at 3:30 left little time for the next two attractions. I drove us to the Red Bank train station and had the pleasure of watching my sons' hyper-exuberant reactions, on the station platform, as two north-bound trains, minutes apart, pulled in and out. Gosh, how I miss hopping a train to NYC for an occasional show. Fond memories of my BC, "before children", days flooded in. Then, as we drove past the station on our way out of town, two more trains, one in each direction, passed through, the express train didn't even stop. The kids were exhausted, and I knew they would fall asleep shortly. As promised, however, I drove to Seven Presidents Beach, a state park, in Long Branch, just the same. They were asleep and I was unable to rouse them. Just as well, because the air temperature did not live up to its balmy forecast, never climbing out of the low 50's all day. It wasn't a good beach day. How many April days above the Mason-Dixon line are?

We drove home and I mustered the energy to attend an evening appointment while the kids terrorized the babysitter. I was happy to have Jeff, my husband, arrive home on Friday afternoon from a week-long professional conference on the West Coast. Next weekend, an annual retreat takes me out of town, so we'll see how Jeff manages!