Image of word, Darwin, inside ix(th)ys
There are a lot of Christians who believe many things which are not required (or even recommended) to be believed within the Christian faith.
Don’t get me wrong, I make something of a hobby out of speculative theology— wondering about the “what ifs” of the Christian faith; but as intriguing as some speculation is, it remains speculation.
One example of speculative theology is symbolized by its opponents in the image above, the ancient symbol of the Church, a stylized fish, but footed (amphibious) and with the word, “Darwin” within it.
Before I speak to that image (which is a symbol for what I intend to discuss, here) I need to address an issue which is a foundation for what will follow.
The Church has known since the very beginning that some of Her* members are not given to teach on behalf of the other members of the Body of Christ. "Not be given to" speak on behalf of the Church usually translates as to “ought not” speak on Her behalf.
There are some obvious reasons we in the Church and of the Church can attach to why some are not called by God to teach matters pertaining to the faith. For example, becoming a member of the Church does not make one suddenly brilliant, kind, wise, or even likable. If someone enters the Church without an ability to reason out complex matters, that is not likely to change. Saint Paul writes about such things. He writes about that only some are called to certain abilities. He also writes of how some of our members are not the part of our body we would wish to be seen. We can call them "armpits" to use one euphemism, or to refer to more intimate parts, the biblical standard euphemism is "feet."
To put it bluntly and in the vernacular, there are, in fact, stupid Christians. Some have not been taught, and are ignorant due to no fault of their own, but some are stupid. The Church may well be culpable in many such circumstances, but certainly it is not the error of the person for not knowing what they have not been taught. Some are simple-minded, and are helpless to do anymore than believe without any significant theological understanding. Ignorant and simple-minded believers need to be protected by the less challenged members. No one ought to need protecting, but the fact is that there are those who would take advantage of the ignorant and the simpleminded— inside and outside of the Church.
It is not my intent to debate the “creationism” verses “Darwinsim.” It is a silly debate to begin with, but I will set it up as something of a straw man so that I can push it over. Once pushed over, perhaps, then, I can point to something of value.
Here is more than you need to know as far as this article is concerned:
An Anglican (meaning, of the Church of England) Archbishop by the name of Uusher used the known dates of historical occurrences mentioned and the Bible and used them to come up with approximate dates for other events. So-and-so reigned for umpteen years, and so-and-so lived for such and such years when he begat a son who lived until the whatever year of the reign of whoever. It was tedious, but seemed like it may be a fruitful undertaking. Early English Language Bibles began printing his calculated dates in the margins. Archbishop Uusher was a scholar and did not believe that the Creation began in the year 4,004 BCE, but that is what the calculations suggested.
Rather than taking the dates at face value, Uusher was much more inclined to speculate, “I wonder if these numbers mean something?” He worked with other faithful scholars in that regard— trying to discover meaning. The more contemporary dates he calculated were helpful to historians, but the most ancient dates were held to have some mysterious (symbolic) meaning if they were to have any meaning at all.
Question: “How did it become a tenant of the faith-- a requirement for Christians-- to believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth in the year 4,004, BCE?--
Answer: It did not.
It has never been a teaching of the Church, much less a requirement of belief. That is not to say that there are not members who teach it without the authority to do so, or who teach it because they believe it is a requirement. It may very well be that for such persons to seek to find a mystical understanding of the dates is simply too much to ask of them. The Church seeks to protect, not reject, the innocent and simple among us. At the same time a gentle and private, “Hush!” is in order.
But that become difficult when some outside of the Church wish to exploit the ignorant and simple-minded for their own purposes. As an example of the sort of person who would exploit the simple-minded, I have in mind a person who has placed a Darwin amphibious fish made of a Christian symbol on his car.
I was working out this blog entry in my head while steering my German-built land yacht through some of the narrower streets of Austin when I came up behind a man with one of those "Darwin" emblems on his vehicle. When the left turn arrow turned green and I followed him into the intersection, I pressed down on the peddle more than usual to pass him on the outside of the turn. He glanced over at me as I filled up the right and lane and he took the left. Our windows were down and I shrugged and answered his curious look by saying, "Blame Darwin. I'm fitter."The fact is, I was teasing a village idiot and I knew it. Yet, here I am writing about it being unfair tease the idiots who live in the village known as the Church. Shame on me and mea culpa.
The Ever-Elusive Point:
Most theologians recognize that the Bible, the canon of Scripture is mystically true, but not necessarily usefully true in temporal terms.
Starting with the premise which I believe: "The spiritual world is more real than the temporal world," it is not the same as the trite phrasing goes, "The Bible is not a science textbook." No, the Bible is scientifically accurate through spiritual eyes and ears. The soul knows that the teaching of creation is true, but that the truth contained in it cannot be accurately stated in temporal terms.
For those persons (Christian, atheist, or anything else) who do not recognize that their own souls exists and moreover, that their own souls are capable of knowing things that the temporal self cannot know-- for such persons, the Bible is going to be of greatly limited value in terms of instructing the soul.
I am not an evengelist-- one who seeks to bring the faith to those who have never heard it.
I am not a practicing apologist-- one who seeks to defend the faith by reason. (I am really good at that, but am sick to death of doing it because it is work always aimed at the lowest common denominator, and I haven't the patience to do that forever).
I am a Christian believer-- who happens to be a contemplative. Defining contemplative is much more difficult and my next blog entry will speak to mystical terminology and why it is so difficult to find the right words.
See: I Have an Agenda!
* the Church is classically regarded as female (not merely, “feminine”), thus the gender of the pronoun.