Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nothing is Better than Augustine in the Morning

I took a Biology course this semester on pre-historic life and evolution. My professor was actually a cool guy. He studies prehistoric clams for a living, so the class usually consisted of me waking up at the end when everyone stood to leave. And then there was the drool...I hated the drool...But, other than that, not a bad class.

Well, the last couple of weeks of the class we talked about creationism. And, on the last day of the semester we were thrilled and delighted to listen the Reverend Susan teach us about the Unity ecclesial community's view on creationism.

I sat in the back of this 200 person class so I could roll my eyes. And I did from the first sentence she said - "We all create our own truth."

As I pondered why I came to class that day, I realized I should at least listen to what she had to say. To be honest, it wasn't half bad. She was hammering home Platonic concepts, though she gave no mention of him. Her metaphysics principles were sound, and 80% of what she said was compatible with Catholic belief.

The one thing that shocked me more than discovering that most Chinese food isn't really chicken were the questions the students presented. It made me lament all Christian education. Of the 180 so people in this class, the majority seemed to be hearing for the first time that science and Christianity are harmonious. I think they place all of us in the school of strict, literal, seven day creationism and a 6000 year old earth.

Well, I have a message for all of my fellow students. It comes from a very great man. One who I consider wiser than everyone in that room combined. It may appear long, but give it a read. It may change your viewpoint.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

- Saint Augustine in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim).

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