Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’

English: Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Au...

Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, when all is lost – as it surely is for Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party – all artifice gets stripped away, and people speak with simple passion.

It is often seen when someone loses an election. Shorn of any need to obfuscate, they speak simply, from the heart, from their deepest convictions, and they move their audience much more than is common in today’s days of stage-managed soundbites and staying ruthlessly “on message”.

For that reason, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kevin Rudd’s best speech ever is his concession speech this Saturday evening. Certainly better than his speech on taking power in 07, which was woeful.

Last night on ABC TV Kevin Rudd spoke from the heart on the issue of gay marriage.

It cannot have been easy for Rudd to change his point of view on this topic, as he did some five months ago. He is a regular Churchgoer in the most 1950s state in the Western world. Parts of Queensland make the Deep South of America’s Bible Belt look like a well-considered debating arena.

Nothing seems to obsess the Christian fundamentalist lobby like the issue of homosexuality, and, for that matter, sex generally. For all that pastors fulminate about sexual matters, they are hardly mentioned in the Bible at all, which is essentially either an historical record of the Jewish people, (the Old Testament) or the culmination of Messianic prophesy and the creation of a new covenant between Humanity and God (the New Testament). In reality, sex really hardly features at all. And homosexuality, as I explain in this article, may not even be mentioned in the Bible whatsoever.

The Bible, certainly the New Testament, is all about inclusivity, being slow to judgement and quick to love, and about caring for the marginalised in society. Faced with the staring-eyed intensity of a fundamentalist Christian last night, Rudd rose to the occasion rather splendidly.

If Rudd had found his “inner Rudd” weeks ago, even years ago, he might now be heading for an election victory. After all, the Australian economy is the envy of the developed world.

Sure, the man has huge character flaws, and simply doesn’t get on with people, as we have enunciated before. And the Government he led, followed by the one Gillard led, was unquestionably dysfunctional as a result, and he carries his own substantial share of the responsibility for that.

The result of that dysfunction – essentially, the inability to work together as a team, and to project the Government’s considerable achievements to the public in a manner that the public can consume – is about to deliver Australia holus bolus into the clutches of the most right wing front bench any Parliament in this country has seen since Federation. The cabal surrounding Abbott is ruthlessly hard-right economically and (though they seek to hide it) socially very conservative too.

Unless Abbott reinvents himself and his colleagues (and I will not be holding my breath) the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be substantial. Indeed, the rending of the Australian political character could well be as severe as that in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, but this time for no good reason other than the centre-left’s comprehensive loss of principle and direction. There is no rampant union movement in Australia, holding back productivity progress – very much the opposite in fact. Our industries have been ripened in the hot gale of worldwide competition since Keating and Hawke. Our public service is hardly bloated by international standards.

Anyway, we will put a prediction of the election result up before Saturday* to see if we can not only continue our much-vaunted tradition of calling every election in America, the UK and Australia correctly since 1978, but this time, as the consensus is that Abbott cannot lose, we will try to get the actual seat count right (as we got the electoral college vote right in the first Obama election, much to our pocket’s pleasure – and there are no bets being taken on Abbott’s victory any more, so maybe you can make a quid or two predicting the final seat count).

What is certain is Rudd will lose. He was always, probably, on a hiding to nothing. What is at least possible is that if he had more performances in this election like that in the video above, he might have had a chance. The history of Kevin Rudd, in many ways, will surely always be that of lost opportunity.

*The complete imponderable is which minor parties or independents will win seats in the Senate election. I won’t even begin to make a guess there, as divining the preference flow from the multiplicity of candidates is well nigh impossible. Anything could happen – the ballot paper in Victoria is over a metre wide!

Adam and Eve debate the finer points of theology. By Rubens. Except they never did. No, the serpent never beguiled Eve, nor was Adam ashamed of his nakedness. Whatever next?

I have decided to republish this post for a couple of reasons.

  • It was very popular last time.
  • A Catholic Bishop in America says voting for Barack Obama will imperil your immortal soul. (But he isn’t telling his parishoners how to vote, mind you, despite the fact that this presumably only leaves them the option of supporting a billionaire cult member who thinks when he dies he gets a whole planet to himself plus forty wives to play with. Plus Anne Romney, who I can see liking that idea. Not.)
  • And just the other day the Pope also expressed the opinion that gay people were not whole human beings. (They are therefore sub human, presumably. And we know where that led us with Cardinal Ratzinger’s countrymen last time around …)

So, my question is simply this: What are the people on?

The original article begins here:

In a comment that will rock the confidence of many traditionalist or literalist Christians of all denominations, Australia’s Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell – one of the most conservative Roman Catholics in a senior position worldwide, and a possible future Pope – has publicly described the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a sophisticated myth used to explain evil and suffering rather than a scientific truth.

Cardinal Pell appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Q&A” TV chat show, where he was debating British evolutionary biologist and celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins.

Cardinal Pell said humans “probably” evolved from Neanderthals (this is not strictly true*, but at least it concedes that mankind has a long history) but it was impossible to say exactly when there was a first human. “But we have to say if there are humans, there must have been a first one,” he said.

(By the way, this is widely considered, in the case of homo sapiens, to have been a female from Africa, if the DNA sampling of the world is understood. Originally, we were all Africans.)

According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman.

Asked by journalist Tony Jones if he believed in the existence of an actual Garden of Eden with an Adam and Eve, Cardinal Pell said it was not a matter of science but rather a beautiful mythological account.

“It’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world,” he said.

“It’s certainly not a scientific truth. And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

The interesting issue is that when a senior Churchman concedes one story in the Bible is mythology – meaningful, but mythology, nevertheless – then we must ask, what else is?

Noah and the Flood is one biblical story which is clearly ludicrous, unless you think he also collected two by two of every grub, bacteria and virus on the planet.

Critical theologians have long demonstrated that some of the chronology of the Old Testament – especially concerning Moses and Joshua, is not literally true. Once you remove one brick from the wall, the edifice of the literal 100% truth of the Bible collapses – correctly, in my view – and we can start to apply a modern mind to the writings of the past.

This, of course, is why so many Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants are hysterical about not reducing the verisimilitude of the Bible by a single word. What, for example, of the argument that the Bible says nothing at all about homosexuality when it is read in the original languages, even Pauline comments in the New Testament which appear irrefutable.

Will we next see Pell refute his implacable opposition to homosexual communicants and priests?

Will we see him weaken his opposition to female celebrants? (The Catholic Church long ago quietly forgot that women were supposed to stay silent in Church, and wear hats, of course.)

Pell directly contradicts the Catholic Catechism

As others have pointed out, this commentary on Adam and Eve also violates the Catholic Church’s official attitude toward the Primal Couple.  The Catholic Catechism, for example, states:

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”. Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.

As one commentator remarked: “I wonder if the good Cardinal will now be excommunicated? Don’t count on it – the Vatican tends to turn a blind eye toward these local violations of dogma.”

PS Some Days Later and more than 4,500 hits later:

This article has been criticised on some (predominantly atheist) forums because it ignores the logical argument that if Adam and Eve was bunkum then “Original Sin”  is bunkum too, and therefore the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice is a nonsense, so, logically the whole of Christian religion is nonsense.  (The point made in 402 and 403 above.)

To my mind this interpretation sheets home to some atheists as much obsession with literal interpretation as I criticise in some Christians. Indeed, sometimes when I see leading atheists and leading believers go at it hammer and tongs, they remind me more of each other than anything else. Anyhow: “Original Sin” – being a description of humanity’s essentially imperfect state – does not, in my opinion, need to be established by the literal truth of the Genesis story. I am quite content to assert that humanity is flawed, (just look around you), and that Christ was not (read the stories).

When, how, and why humanity became flawed and why God chose the unique nature of Jesus to correct the matter can, for me, wait until I no longer see as through a glass darkly, which I do not expect to be anytime soon, and certainly not in this life.

Meanwhile, the facts on evolution as far as our God-given brains can discern them …

*While human evolution begins with the last common ancestor of all life, it generally refers to the evolutionary history of primates and in particular the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids (“great apes”). The study of human evolution involves many scientific disciplines, including physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology, linguistics, embryology and genetics.[1]
Primate evolution likely began in the late Cretaceous, 85 Ma (million years ago) by genetic studies and no later than the Paleocene by the fossil record 55 Ma.[2][3] The family Hominidae, or Great Apes, diverged from the Hylobatidae family 15-20 Ma. Around 14 Ma the Ponginae or orangutans diverged from the Hominidae family.[4] Later the gorilla and chimpanzee would diverge from the lineage leading to the genus Homo, the latter around 5-6 Ma. Modern humans evolved from the last common ancestor of the Hominini and the species Australopithecines some 2.3-2.4 million years ago in Africa.[5][6]In the Hominini tribe, several species and subspecies of Homo evolved and are now extinct or introgressed, and only one species remains. Examples include Homo erectus (which inhabited Asia, Africa, and Europe) and Neanderthals (either Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) (which inhabited Europe and Asia). Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. Examples of archaic humans generally include Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo neanderthalensis and sometimes Homo antecessor and Homo ergaster.[7] Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago.[8] Behaviorally modern humans developed around 50,000 years ago according to many although some view modern behavior as beginning with the emergence of anatomically modern humans.[9]

Time magazine has a go at explaining, er … time. Lots and lots of time.

One view among scientists concerning the origin of anatomically modern humans is the recent African origin of modern humans hypothesis (the “recent single-origin hypothesis” or “recent out-of-Africa” model),[10][11][12] which posits that Homo sapiens arose in Africa and migrated out of the continent some 50,000-100,000 years ago, replacing populations of Homo erectus in Asia and Neanderthals in Europe. An alternative multiregional hypothesis posits that Homo sapiens evolved as geographically separate but interbreeding populations stemming from the worldwide migration of Homo erectus out of Africa nearly 2.5 million years ago. Evidence suggests that several haplotypes of Neanderthal origin are present among all non-African populations, and Neanderthals and other hominids, such as Denisova hominin may have contributed up to 6% of their genome to present-day humans.[13][14][15]