Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"the first author of beauty made all these things"

from the introduction of The Navarre Bible: Gospel of St Mark:
"In Holy Scripture there can be no errors whatsoever because, since all of it is inspired, God himself is the author of all its parts.

In the things of nature, proper to the physical sciences, God has not wished to make any supernatural revelation about the inner constitution of the visible world; hence neither have the sacred authors revealed anything on this matter. What they do teach, however, are the truths necessary for salvation: the creation of the world and of man by God, the providence and government of the world by God and his freedom and omnipotence to perform miracles.

It is normal to quote two reasons of convenience that help us to understand why God has not revealed the inner constitution of the visible world: firstly, the knowledge of these things does not affect directly the doctrine of salvation; and secondly, God has leeft precisely these matters to the free investigation of human science. And so the hagiographers allude to the events of nature using the expressions and concepts of their own time and cultural surroundings.

Because they were writing in a period long before the development of the natural sciences, the sacred authors speak about things in the manner in which they are immediately apprehended by the senses and according to the common descriptions of all ages: the sun rises, the moon sets, etc. The attitude of those writers, especially in the last century, who felt that the sacred authors ought to have spoken about the most up-to-date scientific theories(often abandoned later) is superficial and unreasonable. We should thank God that the sacred writers have spoken in simple language so that anyone can understand them by applying a little common sense."

from St Augustine, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis:

"It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation"

Some books and articles I've read on the subject of the natural and theological sciences, recently


Stephanie said...

Willa, I know this is a maddening ignoring of the point (sorry - I hate it when people do that to me - lol!) but where did you get your Navarre Bible?

Willa said...

:D -- I didn't really have a point per se -- just consolidating a few things as I prepare for middle school next year.

Anyway, this is the version we have.

They are single books, and we only have the Gospels.

Stephanie said...

thanks! Now I just need to find a pile of money somewhere so I can buy these for my husband without his knowing about it! ;-)

momof3feistykids said...

What did you think of the Francis Collins book? I've always been interested in reading some of his stuff (he's from my neck of the woods, actually) Does it offer weighty ideas? Is the science reasonably easy to understand?

Faith said...

I listened to most of Francis Collins book on audio while decorating for Christmas last year. I thought it was fabulous! I want to relisten though because I wasn't listening very critically. It was however, a lovely way to spend the day and it put me in a Christmasy mood! He reads the book himself and it has kind of a folksy voice. The science was not too difficult for my weak brain. In fact there is little science that I recall. It is mostly about his journey to belief and how he reconciles his scientific career with his belief in God.

Willa said...

Stephanie, I realized later in the car that I didn't really answer your question. My husband got them so long ago that I don't remember the specific supply company....sorry.

They are very good; I wish we had the whole set. Best wishes on accumulating them for your husband ;-).

Willa said...

Steph (Mom of 3)

I had hoped to blog about Language of God in more detail but I had to give the book back to the library.

The Language of God was a very interesting read. For one thing, Collins was homeschooled (perhaps you knew). He grew up in one of those early liberal, homesteading families like the Colfaxes, I guess -- ranching professors.

Secondly, he has a clear and very good-natured style. I thought I could easily give the book to a smart 14 year old to read. He discusses all the different "types" of scientific/religious correlations -- from atheist to intelligent design to his own type of "theistic evolution". He himself moved from atheism to Christianity so the book is partly about his journey to faith through his discoveries in science (he founded the Human Genome Project)

He quotes a lot of St Augustine and CS Lewis about the reasonability o f faith. As Faith said, he brings in science but not technically -- he sort of summarizes some of the going theories about the origin of life and the universe, but doesn't get a whole lot into the nitty-gritty. That's another reason I thought it might make a good introduction to the "big questions" of science for a teenager.

If someone was a convinced Young Earth Creationist, the book would not be support for their position. He isn't even convinced by the Intelligent Design type science where God is seen in the "gaps" -- that is, things we don't yet know are seen as demonstrations that God was involved. He thinks that position tends to get squeezed into a smaller and smaller space as more becomes known (and makes the Christian look ridiculous to a non-believer -- see the Augustine quote in the post).

His own position tries to avoid pinning belief in God to the unexplainable. On the other hand, he tries to avoid the "compartmentalization" of faith and science into two airtight compartments that don't speak to each other, as well.

Long enough to be a post of its own ; -). Anyway, I did really enjoy the book. You don't have to have a background in science to read it (trust me ;-)) and it was very fair-minded. Plus, I thought it was an inspiring testimony to homeschooling, too, and to you it might have cultural interest since he does describe a bit of his life growing up in your area (which sounded perfectly beautiful).

Stephanie said...

Willa, I can't figure out how to email you off the blog ... so I'll do it this way. I have a Latin question. Could you come over to my blog and see what you think? I'd appreciate it ever so. (in case that long form won't fit here)

Beate said...

Hi Willa - I'm late commenting on this, but I finished Collin's book last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then, at Mass yesterday, a visiting priest mentioned it in his homily. Small world, eh?