“That the [Catholic] Church’s grasp of truth changes and develops is another insight that has become respectable in the aftermath of Vatican II. …while the Scriptures are the word of God, they do not escape the limitations of history. The Scriptures reflect the limited views current in specific periods of human history, and this historical context must be taken into account in interpreting the weight and import of their inspired message.
“In the last one hundred years we [the Roman Catholic Church] have moved from an understanding wherein inspiration guaranteed that the Bible was totally inerrant to an understanding wherein inerrancy is limited to the Bible’s teaching of “that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.”
—Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, pp. 7-9
Gary: How convenient. How can anyone know what exactly was placed within the “sacred writings” for the sake of our salvation and what was not? Doesn’t this explanation make it possible to excuse any and all future discoveries of error within the Bible, including the Bodily Resurrection itself? If we could find the very bones of Jesus, couldn’t the above excuse be used to say that as long as the message of salvation still exists within Scripture, it is irrelevant if the bodily resurrection of Jesus really occurred in human history or not? If the Christian God exists, who knows what He placed in the Bible as fact and what he allowed in as human error. Who knows the mind of God?
Oh, yes. I forgot. The magisterium of the Holy Mother Church knows the mind of God! They will tell us what is truth and what is not truth.
“[Roman Catholic] theologians are quite aware that the evidence they offer must be assessed within the wider context of the Church’s life guided by the Spirit and are only too happy to put their evidence at the service of the magisterium.” p. 12
Gary: Silly (former) Protestant, me.
The Theory of Evolution:
“The Church has infallibly taught the doctrine that God was specially involved in creating man in His image and likeness. For almost 1900 years that theological doctrine was interpreted to include the how of man’s creation, namely, by direct divine action forming man’s body from the earth, and woman’s body from man’s. Today, no serious theologian accepts this understanding of the how, because of the scientific evidence favoring evolution; yet the changed understanding of the how has not negated the infallibility of the Church’s teaching, for we have learned to distinguish between the theological insight and the physical imagery in which it was clothed.” p. 9
Gary: Right… And the (naked) Emperor really was wearing clothing made of invisible thread that only the most discerning and refined could see!
Come on, Dr. Brown! Why not just admit that the entire Christian Church had been wrong for 1900 years! Why concoct theological psycho-babble (“spin”) which makes you look silly to the entire non-Christian world?
Discussion: I believe that Roman Catholics and conservative/moderate (non-fundamentalist) Protestants share a commonality when it comes to dealing with apparent errors in the Bible. A Roman Catholic simply looks to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church for a new interpretation of the Bible: The previous interpretation was simply human error. When, for example, the Bible said that God made the universe in six days he didn’t mean six literal “days”. The Magisterium cannot be wrong, after all, Church tradition says so.
It is a little more difficult for the Protestant. The Protestant must convince his brain of the probability that the Creation Story was originally written as an allegory. It was never meant to be understood as historical…or some other such rationalization. But unlike the Roman Catholic, each individual Protestant must concoct his (or her) own personal rationalization, he cannot depend on a group of old men in Rome doing it for him.
So you see, dear Reader, both the Catholic and the Protestant Christian can ignore the evidence (or lack thereof) for the Christian supernatural claims. The evidence doesn’t matter. In the end, it is what the highest authority in their respective belief systems tells them is truth: for the Catholic, it is the Magisterium. For the Protestant, it is that “still, small voice” inside of him: his subjective feelings and personal experiences; in other words: HIMSELF—each individual Protestant talking to himself, convincing himself that his supernatural worldview is the one and only Truth.
One thought on “How does the Catholic Church Explain it’s Dramatic Reversal of Position on Issues such as Evolution and Biblical Inerrancy?”
In the immortal words of one of the characters from the very real, Life of Brian:
”He’s making it up as he goes along!”