Sunday, January 13, 2008

How can you talk to these people?

In another group, I have encountered the first of their kind for me, personally. Oh, I knew they existed, and I've seen and read their absurdities in the press. But even after 40+ years of involvement in organized religion, I have never personally encountered a young earth creationist.

He is a decent fellow, college-educated and a retired commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, and yet--the earth is 6,000 years old and Noah's flood carved the Grand Canyon. Now this issue becomes more important with a GOP caucus-winner who thinks Jesus rode dinosaurs, but on a personal level, how do you deal with these people?

I am just amazed that some people could walk into a natural history museum in 2008 and look up at the dinosaurs and say, "Timmy, ignore what the exhibit signs said about all those millions of years. We know that the Lord God made them on the third day of creation, about 2:00 on the afternoon. Praise the Lord."

I grew up in the Methodist church, and my Sunday School teacher was also my 1st grade teacher. She recognized early on that I was an odd child, as I would ask in Sunday School (6 years old) how big a boat Noah would have needed for two of everything, and what if one of the two died on the boat? I still hear dear Mrs. Morse telling me, "it wasn't a real boat. It is an ancient story about a time when floods in the river valleys were very common and dangerous in that part of the world, and how God loves us."

Pretty damn good explanation.

I still see no conflict whatsoever between science, history and faith. Jesus told us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Today, I think he would expand his list to include geologists, physicists and archeologists as well as Caesar. Even Paul (who had his own issues) recognized that the Old Testament stories were allegorical. Science and history cannot challenge faith (if I happen to believe that "John's" words in 3:16, usually seen behind goalposts are true, that cannot be rationally challenged. Middle eastern mythology CAN however, be challenged by science and history, and it gets CREAMED.)

I won't even bother discussing how ridiculous the "science" of a young earth is. But even from a theological standpoint, there are just way too many conflicts to confound even the most since literalist.

There is a difference between Pauline theology (Paul knew none of the "Gospel stories," was unfamiliar with any claims of virgin birth, and in many ways portrayed Jesus as an object acted upon by God) and Gospel Christianity. From there you can even drill down and find differences between the Synoptic Gospels (M, M and L) and the Johanine version.

Another problem for Biblical literalists is that they treat as revealed texts things which either 1) weren't texts or 2) weren't viewed by the authors as revelations. The Old Testament was reduced to writing centuries after the origin of these tales, particularly the historical narratives of the Pentateuch, and the anonymous writers did not claim to be expressing revealed truth (as compared to the Quaran, for example.).

The creation story in Genesis is profoundly important because it allegorically disposes of polytheistic faiths. It is significant that the one god creates earth, sky, water, flora and fauna, rather than a multitude of deities identified with the various aspects of life in other faiths. By clinging to literacy, they miss the point.

In NT terms, Jesus of course wrote nothing, and nothing was written about him contemporaneously (the "gospels" were recorded between 30 and 70 years after his death.) [note there is also the problem of the non-canonical gospels, most notably Peter and Thomas, and the Gospel of James, which was a fictional effort to discredit non-Roman claims to primacy). The epistles were generally correspondence filled with theological interpretations, social mores and practical problems (most of what Paul wrote about the strictures of Mosaic law came from one basic question--was Christianity a sub-sect of Judaism? Jesus preached only to the Jews, but Paul carried the message beyond. There were several aspects of Judaism which were unpalatable to Hellenistic Gentiles. While quite willing to absorb other faiths, they, for some reason were not fond of ritual sacrifices, stoning, and for the men, one unpleasant practice on adults w/o anesthesia.) Not even Paul claimed that he was writing revealed truth.

In other words, they don't need to claim literal truth to proclaim their faith. Doing so, in my view, shows irrational thought, a lack of intellectual honesty and intellectual laziness. I repeat the question at the beginning?

How can one deal with these people?

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