Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Newsweek's Nativity Nonsense

I think the Newsweek article on the Birth of Jesus is a lot of hokum, psuedointellectual heresy from someone who obviously is not a believer in any sense of having faith.

But I clearly recognize where editor Jon Meacham is coming from. Sad to say, it is a well-respected--though unrespectable--tradition in American scholarship to treat all histories as "narratives" or "texts" or "fictions" which should be read as an explanation of the author and audience, as much as an account of actual events.

This has a grain of value. Our accounts of the drafting of the Constitution do not relate anything of the influence of the wives of the Founding Fathers--except for Dolly Madison, who was clearly no airhead. Is it possible that she, alone, argued thoroughly with her husband about politics and society during the Convention? Our accounts are silent.

And you can certainly make judgements about historians by their acceptance--or rejection-- of the Marxist narratives.

But the postmodernists take this to ridiculous extremes. What does it say about 18th century America, that it needed to invent the narrative that Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence? What does it say about 21st century America that we accept this narrative?

A very young child, given a 2x4x4, will play games with reality, imagining his simple block to be a rocketship, an aircraft carrier, a castle, a robot. To me, postmodernist history has descended to this juvenile sophistry, adding only a university vocabulary. Let's pretend Jesus Christ never existed, okay? So then how would you explain the Gospels?

I think Jon Meacham does not fully respect the Christian faith; I think he is trying to win scholarly respect by adopting the postmodernist conceit towards religion; I think Newsweek ran the article because they are conceited fools as a rule and love to show it with topical stories.

For every 100 people who read Newsweek for the first time this week and walked away disgusted, there may be 1 person who says: This is a sassy, smart, and daring magazine. I will certainly buy it from now on to show that I'm hip. The first 100 weren't subscribers anyhow.

I also think that any Christian prompted into a crisis of faith by a bad Newsweek article has larger issues to deal with, and should chat with the pastor for a few hours.

Christ Himself had to personally answer the doubting Apostle Thomas, whose faith was renewed to the degree that he achieved martyrdom as a missionary in Asia.

If you meet Christians in doubt because of this article, withhold your exasperation at the author; it would be misunderstood as hostility. Explain the errors calmly, and refer curious to the many good posts at Vox Blogoli VI.

As a side note, regarding Catholic doctrine about the truth of Scripture:

Certain passages of the Bible describe events in specific terms. For example, the Israelites are said to have wandered 40 years in the desert, and the Flood has been said to have lasted 40 days and 40 nights.

Christian exgesis has made much of the relationships of such measures, in part because the ancients were deeply impressed with the universal nature of mathematics.

The 40 days of the Flood and the 40 years of the Exodus were compared to the 40 days between Christ's entry into Jerusalem and his Resurrection. All were periods of trial for the faithful, followed by a miracle forging deeper bonds between humanity and God. The trials of the Old Testament were interpreted as anticipating the Incarnation and Salvation.

The Church stresses that all of this is true, whether or not Christ spent exactly 960 hours in Jerusalem, or if the Flood lasted 960 hours, or if the wandering in Sinai lasted exactly 480 months.

To Catholics, suggesting that Christ's divinity is dubious if you can prove Jesus walked into Jerusalem, is deeply disrespectful and spiritually perilous.

We do not suggest that Christ's divinity or commands may be considered apocryphal yet wholesome, as some fringe preachers are doing.

I understand some Protestant denominations resolve the issue by teaching the Bible as literal truth in every aspect. That is certainly conducive to a moral life, but faithful Christians with a certain inherent inquisitiveness are going to note discrepancies and contradictions.

The Pope's statements about the accuracy of Scripture are better understood as addressed to those amateur and professional scholars of the Bible, seeking to resolve minor issues of time, place, and numbers.

1 comment:

Chlora said...

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