Body and soul

The Church teaches that our best understanding is that we are all descended from Adam, and from him inherit original sin. This is easily inferred from Scripture, but is less easily demonstrated from inheritance. This second method requires tracing back the lineage of the Y (male) chromosome. And so we reach our last common male ancestor who lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago. We can’t safely call him Adam because he may, in turn, descend from the first human being – who alone merits that name.

However we might modify our conclusion because in fact the late Albert Perry, who lived and recently died in South Carolina, who it turns out had a Y chromosome ancestor who lived over 300,000 years ago (New Scientist March 16, 2013). About 1,500 American men  have the same genetic history. Since the first fossils of homo sapiens date from around 195,000 years ago it is assumed that his ancestor must have interbred with a non-human “cousin: species. This of course is not unknown: DNA analysis shows that our species interbred successfully with Neanderthals and Denisovans – and a small portion of their genes remain with us today.

Quite where this leaves Adam is not clear. Interestingly, an article in the Clergy Review many years ago (I forget the author) suggested that the problems of incest arising among Adam’s children might well have been avoided by mating with “cousin” species. That now looks like a good guess. Presumably the proportion of truly human children would have followed the Mendelian distribution.

It is not easy to spot the moment when an ancestor species turned into homo sapiens. I use the word “moment” by virtue of the fact that the spiritual aspects of the soul are either present or absent. It is easy to detect the genetic changes which have occurred in the six million years since we last shared an ancestor with the apes. The changes are small, but small genetic mutations can play out as major changes in their effects. At what point in this development did our ancestors acquire a soul?

We need to consider the question raised by the Neanderthals. They broke away from the line before homo sapiens appeared. But they have the same brain capacity as us, they certainly made tools, and they had the crucial “speech” gene which at least suggests that they might have mastered speech. Indeed, even in our direct line, previous species of homo had developed different forms of tool. Did they have immortal souls and, if so, were they subject to original sin?

 If we look to Genesis in order to solve this problem, we have to be careful. What Genesis gives is a true picture of the underlying reality framed within the knowledge available to the writer. So we learn that our first parents had freewill from the beginning but they did not yet “know” good and evil. But this was knowledge in the semitic sense – not a matter of information but a matter of experience. Taking the fruit of the tree in defiance of God’s command was the first, but sadly not the last, experience of evil by the human race. And the second, as we might have expected, was the realisation through shame at their nakedness of the dangers involved in our sexual instincts. 

Here Freud’s concept of the id as the source of instinctual desires, and working on the pleasure principle, is relevant. Essentially a human being is a single entity but with two aspects. The first is the biological aspect which acts, as all the non-human animals do, in response to pleasure and pain, the second is the infused spirit whose aspiration is love. The metaphor of a ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ nature is instructive, for our lower nature, like gravity, is the default from which we can only rise by turning to the good which our higher nature presents.

If this is so, then the potential injustice of our inheritance of original sin ceases to be an issue. What we inherit is the whole of human nature with its inbuilt tension between animal appetite and aspiration. We cannot complain about this, because that is our identity. In the story, Adam and Eve actualise lower nature through their choice of disobedience, just as we actualise it in turn.

I write here as if turning to the good were a function of our native power. But, without attempting to develop the concept here, I note that it is the free use of the grace earned by the Redemption which is needed. That is a huge matter.

So, although we can only infer at what point in the development of homo the human soul was infused, we do know that it must have been the point at which our first ancestor recognised right and wrong and was free to choose the good and to reject the evil. Although the record is partial it is possible to suggest dates when skills of various kinds were achieved. They range from the development of tools to the development of speech, symbolism and religious awareness. In a future column I will look at some of the landmark skills the anthropologists have detected.

I have of course omitted reference to “mitochondrial Eve” – the mother of all the living. She has been traced and dated by a similar method since mitochondria is passed (relatively) intact from mother to child; it is racial DNA rather than personal. But, as far as Genesis is concerned, the omission is not of consequence since, being made from Adam, she inherited his DNA except for the substitution of one chromosome.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Catholic Herald columns, evolution, Neuroscience, Scripture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Body and soul

  1. Horace says:

    I am interested in Quentin’s quote from the Clergy Review:-
    ” . . the problems of incest arising among Adam’s children might well have been avoided by mating with “cousin” species. . . . Presumably the proportion of truly human children would have followed the Mendelian distribution. ”

    I have always thought that Genesis 6:2 and 6:4 imply just this –
    Genesis
    6:2 videntes filii Dei filias eorum quod essent pulchrae acceperunt uxores sibi ex omnibus quas elegerant
    [The sons of God seeing the daughters of men, that they were fair, took to themselves wives of all which they chose.]
    6:4 . . postquam enim ingressi sunt filii Dei ad filias hominum illaeque genuerunt isti sunt potentes a saeculo viri famosi
    [ . . For after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, and they brought forth children, these are the mighty men of old, men of renown.]

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Horace, I’ve always thought the same …though I do wonder how ‘alike’ the species must have been for us to mate succesfully-and I have often wondered about the etiquette of being chatted up by a sexy and intelligent young primate, or even a nephilim…what would they have looked like do you think?

  2. Vincent says:

    I think that this posting poses a problem. Many of us have been so clearly taught the story of Adam and Eve as if it were literally true that accepting that it is a myth pointing to the truth is really quite a jump (which many will not be able to make).

    I wonder if we were better off when we believed these stories, along with the six days of creation, and all the rest. There are times when I envy those of ‘simple faith’, when I could just get on with my prayers and try to be good.

    Is there anyone else to whom this thought occurs?

    • Singalong says:

      Yes indeed, Vincent. It is getting to the stage where it is hard to see what are the truths being illustrated. Was there ever a Paradise with everything in the right balance, from which we have deviated? One part of the Genesis story after another seems to be demolished by all the discoveries about our development.

      • Rahner says:

        Was there ever a Paradise with everything in the right balance, from which we have deviated?
        No.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Singalong.
        That is why God sent His only Son to teach us the Way the Truth and the Life.
        He who ‘believes’ in Me will Live.He who lives in Me will never die!’.
        I Am Who Am -the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.!
        That is what I believe, everything else is a bonus,like the apparitions of the Saints and the Eucharist Miracles.over 200 of those. The Apostle Thomas had to see before he believed, but we have so much more now.

  3. Mike Horsnall says:

    No I don’t envy ‘simple faith’ As an ‘evangelical charismatic’ christian in my early years of faith I believed Genesis pretty literally for years. ‘Simple’ faith seems to easily inspire devotion and action it is true and it was evangelical fundamentalist fervour which set me off on the road of Missions. But I think it was St Paul who differentiated between the faith of a child and the faith of an adult. It makes no sense for me to try and believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis as ‘literal’ because they are not literal and were never intended to be so. Evolution and development have little to do with it as far as I can see-form criticism is to blame for our awakening. But it is probably the case that ever since Tyndale translated the bible, sane and rational people have understood that trying to believe ‘a thousand impossible things before breakfast’ is infantile…all the more so as the age advances. No there wasnt a ‘paradise’ in the literal storying sense-its all hints and conjectures-a mixture of insight and fantasy, of hope and expectations and dreams-again as Paul the apostle said -now we see as through a glass darkly….the stupendous reality of God we can barely attain to but that doesn’t mean we cannot try to interpret things according to our own age.
    Does all this affect the majesty,beauty and mysterious wonder that lies at the heart of Catholic faith? not a bit of it! Does an adult understanding have the potential to lead us into a sense of the awesome presence of the living God unchanged from age to age-absolutely it does! Lumen Gentium 10 describes the church as ‘pilgrim’ and that we are-literalism is for children but we grow up, our needs change, we need to walk as adults in the cool of the morning not as children needing stories. The genesis myth is beautifullly laden with salvic truth- as a tree heavy with fruit-but it is a myth, from a different age at that.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike your interpretation of your thoughts as you say ‘No there wasn’t a ‘paradise’ in the literal storying sense-its all hints and conjectures-a mixture of insight and fantasy,of hope and expectations and dreams’ it would be the same as an atheist perhaps describing our beliefs on when we die and go to Heaven.! Unbelievable!

  4. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    Far be it from me to offer anyone on this blog advice – it just annoys you because you’re afraid it’s true. But the fact of the matter is that as soon as you begin to bring rationality and questions of evidence in you’re on a downward path.

    Why do you think that the modern part of your church is in a state of collapse? It ‘s because people have started to ask questions. No thinking person can believe in a god who makes everyone a sinner because of a remote ancestor. It’s piffling superstition. I bet Quentin knows this, and so do most of you.

    No sane person can claim that interposing a bit of rubber between the sexual organs for the prudent control of a family can send one to eternal punishment by coals of fire. Give me a break!

    Of course you’re all horrified by dictatorships from Hitler and Mussolini to that man in Syria. And when you’ve fumed about that you turn straight back to applaud a religion with a system of dictatorship which makes Hitler look simply incompetent.

    I could go on. But it’s late. Just grasp the fact that your religion only convinces the backward and the uneducated. Why do you think it’s still working in some primitive countries while it’s finished in modern civilisations? I’d like to advise you to go back a few hundred years and bring back the superstitions, but it’s too late – the cat’s out of the bag.

    • tim says:

      As Groucho Marx said “I heard different!”. AD is no doubt of at least average intelligence, but many people much cleverer than him (or her?) accept the Christian worldview. That’s not to say there aren’t real – even important – difficulties here. Christ is a figure in history – Adam is a figure in myth. Does the authority of the Bible assert the actual existence of Adam and Eve? No doubt St Paul thought so – must we? I am theologically ignorant, not to say naive, and understand the doctrine of original sin only in the most superficial sense. That we are ‘fallen’ is only too evident – but how this came about is another matter. As they said to St Paul in Ephesus “We would like to hear you discuss this further”.

      • Rahner says:

        For what its worth, the CCC seems to be fairly clear in asserting the existence of Adam and Eve, including their existence in a pre-fallen state free from suffering and death, in a non-mythical sense. See also the position defended by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909…..

    • AD, we shouldn’t patronise one another. Contributors to this blog believe in reason, though we make all kinds of mistakes, including logical ones. Don’t attempt to browbeat us with an alleged consensus of superior minds. The appeal to authority is a second-order argument, whose power (when it has any) depends strongly on the status that one accords to the source.

    • pnyikos says:

      Advocatus Diaboli, if you are going to be pragmatic, you might as well go the whole hog and look upon “original sin” as like a coin-flip to God. The alternatives were us as we are, with all our faults and sufferings and no clear sign of God being there, and a kind of existence that is supposed to be more like what saints experience in heaven.

      God simply let the behavior of some remote ancestors of ours make the decision for Him, according to the pragmatic view of the Genesis account. Other creatures on other planets might have had the “coin flip” go the other way. This is in fact C.S. Lewis’s thesis in his space trilogy, with its unfallen Malacandrans and Perelandrans.

  5. St.Joseph says:

    Mike Horsnall.
    See what I mean!!

  6. Nektarios says:

    It never fails to amaze me, that so many are so ignorant of the many layers of meaning within Holy Scriptures. The depths of it, the height of it, the width of it, the language of it, and of course the spirituality of it – which alone makes us wise and leads us to Salvation.
    For example, the argument seems to run that it either has to be a simplistic literalist view of Genesis, or the modern scientific view, and as they, modern unbelieving man would have it, are so illuminated today, but it strikes me many are more in the dark than ever our forbears were and somewhat more afraid.
    Kiddology is a great plaything of opinions. An element of truth and the rest being cleverly constructed opinons.Truth is not opinion. One may have opinions about the Truth, ut that does not change the Truth. Opinions change all the time, the Truth does not.
    Also it does not take much to see, even so far on this topic, the arrogant puffing up by some with their meagre bit of knowledge which they think is so absolute and shoul be accepted without question.
    I agree with some that there is a lot of sillyness written and preached and held as dogma and Church doctrine today and in the past too.
    The Fall of Adam and Eve was cataclysmic for humanity.
    What fell, was their Nature, from a heavenly state, to an earthly one. This affected everything physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically.
    In suggesting on the blog and to the world out there reading this, the bible is outdated and because of scientific understanding, disproved- If that is what you really believe; if this is what you want readers of this blog who do not contribute to this blog to believe, then I for one would have to think very seriously whether I could remain contributing to this blog?
    I respect so much of good science and the contributions it has made to our lives, bless them for that in so many disciplines, but their work is but a fragmentory part in the history of making things and medicine and so on. That is not the Truth, the Truth is timeless, without beginning or end.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      ” then I for one would have to think very seriously whether I could remain contributing to this blog?..”
      Hmmm, you said that some time ago…. in capital letters as I remember.

      One of the interesting things about this discussion is how inflamed it becomes. Yet really there is almost no discussion to be had. The bible is chiefly to be interpreted against itself. Holy book that it is and Living word of God that it is. So if we read Isiaih telling us that Gods thoughts are not our thoughts and the apostle Paul telling us that we see through a glass but darkly and we read Ezekiel and the Apostle John telling us about their dreams and visions-then we know that the book of books is no ordinary thing. We also know that the literalism of Genesis has been discussed by theologians since the middle ages at least. As far as I am aware it is not a crime currently to wonder about the story of Adam and Eve-probably everyone does from about the age of six upwards. The point of the the thing is that it makes us consider the nature of man and the nature of God..this is probably the reason why the most popular figures inthe bible are probably Peter and Thomas-each denied the truth in their own way…were they stoned for their lack of convition? did Jesus turn them into frogs or cast them to the wilderness?
      When you get right down to it no one reading this post can say for certain pretty much anything bar the fact that they sit there at the computer breathing in and out-even that Rahner might take issue with…..The same really for evolutionary theory I’m afraid. Certainly we have glimpses and ideas, things we think we have proved…but plenty of scientists concede the ground of doubt as to cetainty of the events now so lost in the ‘past’.
      As to the apoplexy regarding the mythical base of doctrine might I add that I only state that which is now the formal teaching of the Catholic church, chapters 1-11 in Genesis are currently to be understood as mythological texts…sorry and all that. Finally, yes St Joseph we don’t know much about heaven either and, to put the things finally to the square test-no one can prove the real presence either..but as you know we are not to put the Lord our God to the test …..its time to grow up!!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Mike Horsnall.
        There is a lot of difference in comparing our belief in Adam and Eve.and the Real Presence
        That is growing up in the Spiritual sense. Hopefully we as Christians have done so!

      • Vincent says:

        “We also know that the literalism of Genesis has been discussed by theologians since the middle ages at least.” Yes “at least”. it certainly goes back as far as St Augustine in 4th century. His description of the literalists is brief but scathing. You’ll find it at
        http://www.pibburns.com/augustin.htm.

      • Singalong says:

        Yes, Mike, but what basic message does the Genesis myth/story convey? It is the inspired word of God, and I think it must be telling us something a little more specific than to “consider the nature of man and the nature of God.”

      • tim says:

        Well said, Mike!

      • Nektarios says:

        Mike Horsnall,
        Yes I did spell it out in capitial letters, but that was not because of any argument or discussion, but the unchistian and uncharitable way things were descending into.Ovbiously it left a good impression on you.

        I have little argument with what you say above, but all contributing to the blog know somethings both spiritual and scientific. Mixing it up makes faith just a matter of thought,
        when it is, it is not faith, just our chattering minds trying to make sense of it all.
        Walking and living by faith tests one, and in a sense destroys what at centre we in outr thoughts have built up.
        This is where this discussion is at the moment.

  7. Rahner says:

    ““We also know that the literalism of Genesis has been discussed by theologians since the middle ages at least.” Yes “at least”. it certainly goes back as far as St Augustine in 4th century”
    Augustine did propose a non-literal reading for some aspects of Genesis but overall he was committed to a literal reading. In the City of God, for example, he defends a young earth geology. Aquinas is also committed to a largely literal reading of Genesis.

    • tim says:

      Probably safer, in the light of the then current state of reliable scientific knowledge…

    • Vincent says:

      Yes indeed, Rahner. His immediate concern was to avoid the scandal of maintaining an interpretation which was contradicted by the visible facts. Nothing in the knowledge of Augustine or Aquinas, at the time that they wrote, was contrary to observed facts. Today we seek, on this blog anyhow, an understanding of Adam and Eve which is consistent with our best current knowledge.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        Have we not found not only on this blog an understanding of Adam & Eve which is consistent with our knowledge in the New Testament. And why God sent His only Son.
        What else is there to know?

  8. tim says:

    Maybe there are parallels between Christianity and Darwinism. Both are systems of enormous scope and immense explanatory power. Both have areas of real intellectual difficulty (see, for example, Darwin’s doubts about how the eye could possibly have evolved – Hoyle’s comparison of the evolution of life with a pile of scrap metal assembling itself into a 747). In either case, faith in the essential soundness of the system enables the believer to put the difficulty on one side, confident that, even if real, it is resolvable. The sceptic will say that the difference is that the Christian’s faith is irrational, the Darwinist’s rational – not good enough.

    • Nektarios says:

      Tim
      Christianity is not a `system’, but the power of God unto Salvation. Man has turned Christianity into a system(s).I will need to attend to this later – things to do.

      • tim says:

        Nektarios, it’s a system in the sense that I was using the word. You are free to use the word in a different sense, if you wish, and I look forward to your explanation of why it might be inadequate for certain purposes, but it suited what I wished to say.

      • Nektarios says:

        Tim
        To continue.
        I wonder what your understanding of faith is? Discusssions intellectual, scientific or philosophical are rationalisations on the observable. Faith on the otherhand apprehends that which cannot be seen. The mechanics of that are in the gift of faith
        Faith is a gift of God that has many functions the exercise of which leads one to God and to Salvation.
        Discussing Science and its theories and advancements within the known and visible world does not have Salvation or things of the Spirit at its heart, or even interest. Where it did mix it up in the past with the spiritual life, they got all involed with Psychical Reasearch and various other useless silly mind games and delusions.
        I accept both Faith and Science are necessary, but one has its origins in Man, the other does not. One pleases God, and I am not convinced so much of the other does.

        While it is true that Faith and Science co-exist in our thoughts. This is part of the trouble,
        you see, Science is a product of thought, but faith, that gift of God is not of thought, it operates at a different and if I may say so higher level.
        We live on the peripheral, the surficial, the mundane level of our lives, so much so, we have made faith, merely a matter of thought.
        In doing so, one is weakening faith one has or even actively destroying it, albeit
        in ignorance not fully comprhending the nature of faith, or indeed the nature of Thought
        or the apprehension of one Nature.
        What has been said earlier of mixing it up with other species, akin to man but not the same at all informs me that some have not understood the Nature that gives rise to Mankind.

  9. tim says:

    Thank you, Nektarios. I think I follow some of that, and don’t necessarily disagree.
    My earlier post was talking about faith with a small f, meaning something like steadfastness or conviction. I suppose there is a religious virtue of Faith, with a capital F, which is a gift (of grace) which can properly be distinguished from the mere unwillingness to give up a well-loved and hitherto useful theory. If I’m talking nonsense, please excuse and ignore it.
    No doubt Faith (in the sense above) is more pleasing to God than Science. However, I think Science (which, after all, is just the Latin for ‘knowledge’) is intrinsically good and worthwhile for its own sake (regardless of the goods and evils that may come as a consequence). And I do not think that scientists are better or worse than other men: though they may have different opportunities and temptations.

    • Nektarios says:

      Tim
      I don’t quite understand what you mean by `religious virtue?’ While virtue certainly exists among religious people, that of itself is not Virtue.
      Your view of faith with a small `f’ is not clear to me. While faith with a small `f ‘ may include steadfastness and conviction, that is not in itself faith. One can be steadfast and full of conviction about all sorts of things, but are we going to call it faith in the political Party; faith in the company; faith in my pension and so on – surely not? No, not even faith with a small`f ‘ if it simply means a outward dull, outward religious conformity, for that is not faith, but conditioning by others.

      Faith with a capital `F’ is the whole message of the Gospel, the whole counsel of God
      that has been handed down to us by the Jesus Christ and His Holy Apostles. Faith therefore is the transmission of that Gospel.
      Your later point, `that scientists are no better or worse than other men’ I can, with some reservations agree with.

      • tim says:

        When I said ‘religious virtue’ I should have said ‘theological virtue’ “these three – Faith, Hope and Charity”. That is orthodox, if not necessarily helpful.

        I was a little shocked by your reservations about scientists being no better or worse than other men (it struck me as like what might have been said fiflty years ago about differences between races) – but on reflection maybe you have a point. If I were to concede it, I’d have to broaden it out – in the sense that all professions have their own special temptations: doctors, lawyers, journalists, priests, bankers…?

  10. Mike Horsnall says:

    May I just offer a formal welcome to our new Blog Monitor!!

  11. Mike Horsnall says:

    “No doubt Faith (in the sense above) is more pleasing to God than Science.”

    There are great dangers with using the word ‘Faith’ as a noun signifying a discrete thing. Personally I tend to substitute the word ‘trust’ so that I do not begin to fall into the trap of expectiing ‘faith’ to descend on me like the cloud in the temple. Instead, by the aboove substitution I may learn that ‘faith’ is a very small thing with a quiet voice such as that which spoke from out of the storm. Faith undrstood as ‘trust’ is simply the application of a human attribute to a particular end. This may sound a bit nit picking but it is one of the most important lessons I have learned in my entire life -trust cannot become presumptuous but ‘Faith’ easily can. As to which pleases God the most-I’m not sure the division makes any sense unless you mean ‘trust in God’ as opposed to ‘trust only in science’….of course no one does the latter anyway, though they may plead the case.

    • Quentin says:

      Got you, Mike. makes complete sense to me. ‘Trust’ also seems to lean more clearly in the direction of hope. What do you think?

      • Nektarios says:

        Quentin,
        I am not sure if you want MH to reply to this or posted to all of us.
        Trust! It is clear from the way that society operates today, there is very little `trust’ in Government, in muti-nationals, in banks, in the workplace, or indeed the Church institutions and their representitives.
        There is a lot of sentiment about `trust’ and my feel is what we spoke about in a previous topic,
        that of influencing others, so getting others to trust them is a selfish cynical activity.

        I trust my teacher, my mother and father, my brother and sister, now note this, such trust lies at the discretion or lack of it with the individual and can fall apart at the least little upset to them.

        One cannot trust what one does not know. The same applies to God, one cannot trust God whom one does not know. So it is not a matter of `trust’ but of relationship.
        Without relationship nothing works, not even the concept of trust.
        The psuedo `trust’ going on today generally does not lead to hope as you assert, but has its roots in fear. Where there is fear there can be no relationship and no trust.
        I am not being deliberately negative, it is simply so.

      • Quentin says:

        There is always an unknown factor in trust because it requires an assumption that the other may be relied upon – the evidence of things not seen. This assumption is a positive act of will which in a religious context involves a trust in God. Remember Peter’s words: “To whom shall we go Lord, thou hast the words of eternal life.” Here the Gospel indicates that Peter has made his act of will – but that inspiration came to him from the Father.

        By suggesting that ‘trust’ leans towards hope I was suggesting that our hope in God is founded in our trust. Of course relationship is of the essence here – what else?

  12. ionzone says:

    “But the fact of the matter is that as soon as you begin to bring rationality and questions of evidence in you’re on a downward path. Why do you think that the modern part of your church is in a state of collapse? It ‘s because people have started to ask questions. ”

    Did you know that most of the ‘constants’ that science takes for granted actually have no evidence behind them? For example, the idea that all matter and energy remain the same began as a theological theory. And lets not forget that the Catholic Church was neutral on evolution until it accepted the theory in 1942 or thereabouts. In fact, here’s a wakeup – big bang theory was widely rejected by science for decades because it sounded too religious. The fact that it was thought up by a priest and that the Vatican accepted the theory a full fifteen years before it became mainstream science didn’t help its credibility.

    Incidentally, here is a short incomplete list of catholic priests who were also noteworthy scientists. I realise this is wikipedia but you can verify these all quite easily:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

    “No sane person can claim that interposing a bit of rubber between the sexual organs for the prudent control of a family can send one to eternal punishment by coals of fire. Give me a break!”

    Is a sane person suggesting that? Or one you regard as insane? The church may regard it as morally wrong for a married couple to use a condom but I doubt they think you’d go to hell even if you used them every day.

    “Of course you’re all horrified by dictatorships from Hitler and Mussolini…..you turn straight back to applaud a religion with a system of dictatorship which makes Hitler look simply incompetent.”

    Which religion is that? It’s not ours. You can’t compare us to Hitler, or better yet all those inconvenient atheist regimes. Christianity has had one or two people go off the rails, you guys have about one a week.

    “Just grasp the fact that your religion only convinces the backward and the uneducated. Why do you think it’s still working in some primitive countries while it’s finished in modern civilisations?”

    Oh yes, uneducated men. Like the father of genetics, who was a monk. or any of the others in that list above. The frank and honest truth is that absolute materialism is one of those backwards pseudo-sciences that we are all going to look back on in a few years and laugh. It’s entirely based on assumptions and beliefs.

    • Nektarios says:

      ionzone
      Well said, and accurate too.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Ion Zone-thanks for the link its really good.
      Mike

    • RAHNER says:

      It is of course possible to accept the central claims of Darwinism and not be an absolute materialist …..whatever “absolute materialism” might mean.
      And any suggestion that evolutionary biology is in the same epistemological boat as religious faith as regards evidence and confirmation etc is obviously absurd.

      • Nektarios says:

        Rahner,
        Do you think any intellectual approach leads to the wornder and truth that is wonderful you? If I may suggest, you are looking in the wrong place. What adequately describes
        one who is made in the image of God?

      • tim says:

        Rahner, ‘epistomological boat’ is a great phrase, but I’m not quite sure what it means. As a minimum, I maintain that there are clear analogies between the positions of the believer in Christianity and the believer in Darwinism (not disjunctive classes, of course).

  13. Mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin,
    Yes thats it, Faith is, of course, the certainty of that which we hope for. Technically I guess we should substitute ‘certitude’ rather than ‘certainty’ but that would be nit picking.In essence our faith is simply the expression of our personal level of hope and trust in the God we have already met to some level of encounter or another. This encounter is different for everyone naturally but, as I grow older, I am beginning also to trust that my tiny little resevoir of faith is the same as someone elses boundless ocean-because its all my borders can hold at any one time! Its probably the case that as God grows within us so our trust grows apace-but we do not have control over this process because it is always God who comes to us. God drills the well and God fills it-we drink there. I don’t much like the fact that my borders are mean and hold so little faith-but all I can do is ask God to strengthen and deepen my well!

    • Quentin says:

      Do you remember this from Julian of Norwich?

      Synne is behovabil, But al shal be wel And al shal be wel and al manere of thyng shal be wele

      (‘behovabil’ , I read, means ‘plays a needful part’)

  14. Mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin,
    Yes as it happens I do remember it-enormously popular in books on prayer/spirituality. Isn’t one of the most comforting things you ever read? Heres another which says pretty much the same thing but less succinctly.
    …….”And so, my brethren, we ought all to rejoice on this holy day. No one should seperate himself from the general rejoicing because he has sins on his conscience; no one should refuse to take part in the public worship because of the burden of his misdeeds. However great a sinner he may be, on this day he should not despair of pardon, for the priveleges granted by this day are great. If a thief was thought worthy of paradise, why should not a Christian be thought worthy of forgiveness?”
    St Maximus of Turin p581 in the Divine office

    It does seem to me that the theme of Julian you quote is so enormously important for us.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Have I misunderstood the quotes above, as surely if one has sins on their consciencthey will do as Jesus said ,’If your brother has something against you or if you have sinned against your brother, go straight away and make it right’, He also said ‘Go tell your sins to a priest’, These may not be the exact words ,however the meaning is the same .
      Surely if one is conscience of the sin, one will do their best to sort it out before going to the Altar of the Lord to worship.Even though we are all worthy of Paradise. Hence the need for Purgatory.
      Also the thief was thought worthy but he had to recognize his sin and humble himself before God to took him into Paradise..

      • St.Joseph says:

        PS sorry about the errors, my computer is suiting itself, also its all green, but getting a new one soon.

  15. Iona says:

    St. Joseph – I think maybe both Julian of Norwich and St. Maximus, in the passages quoted by Quentin and Mike, were wanting to convey that all sins can be forgiven, and that no-one should feel that they have made themselves terminally unacceptable to God. St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy devotion has the same theme. As you say (or at least imply), confession and reconciliation are essential, but if someone feels they have put themselves completely beyond God’s mercy they won’t even get as far as the confessional.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona.

      A Christian now a days is never going to be in such a state of despair.!
      I don’t mean presumptuous either.
      If one has ever known God enough know that He is hurt by their actions-then he will know that God is forgiving .How many Catholics don’t know about the Sacrament of Confession?
      All the more reason to promote The Divine Mercy Sunday.
      What a job it was to find a priest willing to do it this year. Thank God we found one

      • St.Joseph says:

        Of course the thought has struck me, and that is if a child abuser especially a priest, would maybe despair-as so many condemn them.

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