The Book!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Genesis and Evolution

Have you ever noticed that the stages of Creation as given in Genesis seem to loosely follow the same sequence understood by science? First, God creates light (or perhaps this stands for energy?). This makes day possible. First day, he creates time. Then he creates space. Then he creates plants. Then he creates the stars and planets. Then he creates the fish, then the birds –which began, we know now, as the dinosaurs. Then he created the mammals. Then he created man.

The only thing that seems definitely out of place is to have the planets formed after plants. (And it is entirely possible we will discover, in the future, that organic beings indeed formed in the primordial soup before the stars and planets formed, just as we only recently discovered the ancient pedigree of birds.) But other than that, how can Genesis have gotten it so “right” in scientific terms, when it ought to have been random?

Divine inspiration?

Well, here's a bigger mystery. Genesis's sequence makes sense on the principle of greater consciousness with each step, greater “complexity.” First the physical world, then plants, then fish and birds, then animals, then man—each one more conscious, more ensouled, than the last. We more or less know that to be so now, by examining cell differentiation and nervous systems—though there is no reason to suppose this would have been evident to the ancients. And, while this might make sense on the premise that a God who is all spirit, all consciousness, created the world, it makes no sense at all based on the Darwinian theory of evolution. Never mind that a gradual progression to greater complexity seems to violate the law of entropy. There is also no intrinsic reason, given the “survival of the fittest” mechanism, that greater complexity and greater consciousness should always win out in the evolutionary process. They have no apparent inherent survival value to it.

Granted, necessarily, things started out simple, so over time greater complexity on average might be expected to result, by the law of averages. But at a minimum, we ought to see both trends—we ought to see life forms evolving into simpler, less conscious forms almost as often as into more complex forms, if not just as often. We do not.

One more little proof of God's existence, for those who have eyes to see...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

News Flash: Sky Not Falling After All

Subtitled "Engineers have perfromed their magic once again." New technologies are rapidly bringing huge new sources of natural gas from shale on line. Canada, the US, and Britain have large domestic reserves. This alone could make talk of an energy crisis old hat--within a few years. It could also rapidly shift the balance of power, as world dependence on Middle Eastern and Russian oil is rather rapidly reduced.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Man in the Arab Street Reacts to Obama's Nobel

The local paper does “man-in-the-street” reactions to current news. Strikingly, the local reaction—here in the heart of the Arab Gulf, to the Nobel Peace Prize for Barack Obama is 100% negative. This is ironic, becuase it was supposedly for improving relations with the Muslim world.

The paper interviewed local Qataris, Lebanese, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indonesians, Indians, and Afghans. All were clear in feeling that the award was undeserved. Some seemed to find it actually insulting to the Arab and Muslim world—after all, some Muslim and Arab leaders have positive accomplishments in terms of world peace to their credit—the return of democracy in Pakistan, the end of the Lebanese Civil War, the Doha Round...--and yet this American gets it for nothing!

In other recent news, Al Azhar University, in Cairo, has banned the niqab, the veil, in all female classes, as un-Islamic. For those who are not aware, Al Azhar University is the closest thing Sunni Islam has to a Vatican.

This being so, nobody should still cling to the false notion that wearing a veil is either 1. a religious requirement for Muslim women, or 2. something forced upon them.

A friend has posted this video from The Daily Show. In my experience, this is what the Middle East is really like. It is not the strange, Medieval world that so many seem to think.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The New Priesthood

Harrison Ayre, letter writer in today's National Post, has issued what amounts to a challenge to the Catholic press, and Catholic bloggers. He writes, of the current case of Bishop Lahey, stopped at the border and accused of having child pornography on his laptop:

“It is strange that there is silence among the Catholic bloggers,and stranger still that there is silence from big Catholic newspapers.”

A friend has also written me, “What do you think?”

I am indeed guilty, as a Catholic blogger, of thus far saying nothing. My excuse is that I have already said it all; there is nothing this case raises that I have not said already about previous cases. There is nothing new about this case.

But I hear a call here for some kind of guidance—if that is not too presumptuous. Some are perhaps crying out for some kind of explanation, of any of the rest of us who might have one.

In fact, Bishop Mancini of Halifax is crying out for some kind of explanation. In his pastoral letter on the matter, he wrote:

"I have cried and I have silently screamed, and perhaps that was my prayer to God:Why Lord? What does this all mean? What are you asking of me and my priests? What do you want to see happen among your people? Is this a time of purification or is it nothing more than devastation? Are people going to stop believing, will faithful people stop being people of faith? Lord, what are you asking of us and how can we make it happen?"

These are good questions. Yes, there is nothing new in the revelation that priests too can sin, and yes, there is nothing in this that calls into question one jot or tittle of traditional Catholic teaching. But it is a matter causing suffering to a lot of innocent people: firstly, all the innocent priests; secondly, the innnocent Catholics and non-Catholics alike who might have their faith shaken, or their coming to faith delayed.

Shouldn't God prevent this from happening?

Nah—that's the good old problem of evil. God decided, long ago, when he made Adam, that he was going to allow us free will. That means, inevitably, we will sin: bishop, layman, atheist, priest, or pope—or saint. Nothing new here.

But perhaps it also even serves a divine purpose. Something is surely going on here, in historic terms—a decline in vocations to the priesthood, and now also these never-ending scandals involving priests.

Perhaps it is a change in the nature of the priesthood.

I think Catholics in general—not theologians, perhaps not priests, but common Catholics—have often, even usually, tended to overesteem the priest. They have imagined priests really were a kind of superhuman being who did not sin. For were it not so, such revelations would not be news. This has always been quite wrong in Catholic theology. In fact, it is a sort of idolatry—worshipping priests instead of God is not much better than worshipping gilded livestock.

One thing these scandals do is to disabuse those guilty of this heresy. If some lose their faith as a result—well, it has to have been an idolatrous faith, for this to do it. It is better to have no faith at all than to worship an idol. The path to true faith is shorter.

While the priestly scandals are correcting this immediate spiritual ailment, isn't God also suggesting a more permanent solution, for the longer term?

That would be the growing shortage of priests.

What is the simplest thing to do in face of such a shortage? Surely, to lower the entrance requirements for becoming a priest: let more in.

Is this not what God is saying?

What entrance requirements? Not celibacy. After all, the Protestant churches have the same clergy shortage, without it. Besides, celibacy is a test of sincerity; without it, we should expect more scandals, not fewer.

Lower the educational standards. They are useless, and perhaps worse than useless. How much education, after all, did Peter and the first apostles have? Fishermen? They were probably barely literate. Yet they did all right. More: Jesus made a point of choosing them _instead_ of the well educated. Those latter would have been the scribes and Pharisees. You might even say Jesus rather disliked them.

So why do we want to make them our priests, or rather, make our priests them?

In Canada, the US, or the UK, to be ordained, one ordinarily needs a first degree, then a two-year graduate degree, then another year of on-the-job training. It takes longer before you are assigned your own parish.

How much of this training is necessary? The only essential for a priest is to be able to competently perform the sacraments. He need not be an authority on doctrine—that is the bishop's job, and that of religious educators. He need not, any longer, know Latin, if he ever really did. He demonstrably need not be able to give a good sermon—since most priests can't. In any case, in this day and age, great sermons are accessible to any parish prepared to purchase a screen and projector. Why avoid using them?

All he needs is the order of the mass more or less committed to memory—no, all he needs is to be able to competently read it, and make the right gestures. For the mass, and the other six sacraments. He is an actor, but with just one part to repeat indefinitely.

At a pinch, a three-month course ought to do it, for anyone already literate.

Besides probably quickly replenishing the numbers of priests, this approach would have the colossal additional advantage of pulling the priesthood itself down off its lofty pedestal. It would be best if roughly half the congregation would normally look down on the priest socially. That would bring the priesthood closer to the common people, and it would also discourage class prejudices in the wider society. It would begin to draw the priesthood from about the same pool that has already, so successfully, produced our Charismatic prayer leaders, the most vital and fastest-growing part of the church.

Scandals might be no less frequent, but they would be less damaging, without the priestolatry.

But I suspect they would also be less frequent. Priests would then indeed commonly be the salt of the earth, just as Jesus's disciples were. These are the people Jesus himself identified as the most truly moral.

Sure, insist on a good education and a good academic mind for bishops, and for religious educators. Their job is different.

For priests? Just insist on a vocation, and celibacy. Don't put up artificial barriers to it.

Joe McCarthy vs. Jennifer Lynch: The Smackdown

Believers in basic freedoms really owe it to themselves to hear what Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn had to say recwently before a Parilamentary Committee investigating Canada's Human Rights Commissions.

Joe McCarthy never came near the sort of things these commissions have done. Think Star Chamber.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Polanski and Letterman

You may expect me, gentle reader, to agree with apparently every other right-wing columnist in God's creation, in condemning David Letterman and Roman Polanski, both currently prominent in the yellow news.

I do not.

I do not want to hear about David Letterman's sex life. It is none of my business, it is between him, the women, and God. It does not become my business just because he is famous, and I feel the main issue here is that his privacy has been violated. I deliberately did not read anything about the affair until obliged to to respond to a friend's emai, just to make sure there wasn't anything genuinely scandalous involved.

As for Polanski:

1.The statute of limitations should have run out on that one. Sure, legally, it hasn't, but the reasons for having a statute of limitations largely apply here. Over thirty years later, you are barely prosecuting the same man; and our view of the seriousness of the crime has changed dramatically in the interim.

2.The main purpose of punishment should be rehabilitation. Polanski is already rehabilitated. He has not reoffended in thirty years.

3.He has already been sufficiently punished in any case, by exile, by a civil settlement, by damage to his career and public reputation, and by 42 days in jail.

4.The greater good of society as a whole is best served by allowing him to go on making movies.