Monday, December 13, 2010

How do Christians deal with scientific theories, like we came from monkeys and the big bang?

This question is follow up from what ifscience contradicts scripture

I've got two questions for you. A) How do we deal with the idea that we came from Monkeys? B) How do we deal with the idea that the universe just appeared?

AnswerA) How do we deal with the idea we came from Monkeys?

By in large, there is alot of resistance to the idea of "Macroevolution" -that is, whole new species coming from other species. Christians have no problem with 'micro evolution'- like that all dogs from chihuahuas to huskies can trace their genetic heritage to wolves.

But again, this is Science, so you can believe in Macroevolution if you like.

But Humans have an immortal nature which is different from monkeys or other animals. So you pretty much have to assume that if our bodies did evolve, then at some point God stepped in, and did something particular.

The requirement from the Church is that we have to believe in a first set of parents- at some point, there were 2 primates who were human, and thus capable of sin, and they did sin. we don't have to believe that they were named asdam and Eve, spoke to a talking snake, and ate a fruit. (see how that part sounds like myth?)

They did something that forever changed human nature, started original sin, and made us need a saviour. This is how the church accounts fro suffering and sin in the world- this part is very linked to the whole church teaching.

Fortunately, so far, science seems to support the idea that we are all decended from one mother, and to a lesser degree, one father, and that these lived in Africa.

B) That the universe just appeared is problematic for scientists. One of the traditional proofs for the existence of God, is that everything is caused by something else, but there must have been an original 'uncaused cause'. (The opposite of this is called 'infinite regress'- the idea that you can go back for eternity saying what caused that?, what caused that?) It's kinda like at camp when kids go "Who mad God?" At some point there has to be someone or something that was not made by anything else.

This, as St Tomas Aquinas says, is God. God is "existence"- that's why he said his name is "I AM". God is the only thing that by it's very nature has to exist, because God is existence. Someone once asked the question, what would happen if God ceased to exist... well, the question does not make sense since what we mean by God is existence. What would happen if existence ceased to exist? See the problem?

The big bang theory was first proposed (but not called that) by Georges LemaƮtre in 1927. The other popular theory was 'steady state'- that the universe had always been the same size, and was in fact itself the uncaused cause. Since that time, science has demonstrated that the universe is in fact expanding, and the general concensus is that there was at some point a big bang.

But this does not eliminate the need for a God to start it. As they say "I believe in the big bang. God said it, bang, it happened." If the Big Bang theory is correct- and Catholics have no problem with that- then what caused it? Unfortunately all the laws of physics break down when the mass opf the entire universe is condensed into a single point the size of a pin point- called a singularity- so we can only speculate about what was happening before the big bang. The theory is basically that the singularity was under so much pressure from gravity pulling it in, that eventually the pressure was so great that the singularity exploded- roughly 14 billion years ago. And it is still expanding. Some say it will one day start contracting again, and eventually form a second singularity, and start all over again...

So anyway, there could be a cycle of big bangs and big crunches, but again we end up with infinite regress! What started it all?

I should point out that many of the greatest physicists do think it is possible to eliminate the need for God to explain the universe. Fair enough. But Catholics have no problem believing in the big Bang, we would just say that God caused it. What is debated is to what degree God is guiding the development of the universe!

Again the problem for 'empirical scinetists' is that by definition (empirical means measure) they can only deal with things they can measure. Since God cannot be measured, they can't place God in the equation. So, they have to come up with theories that exclude God. But just because they do and are limmited to them, it does not thus follow that God does not exist. Their whole discipline makes the non existence of God a foregone conclusion, because he can't be a factor.

Imagine if God manipulated everything that happened, and was totally arbitrary about it. It would be impossible to posit a 'law' of physics, since things would never happen the same way twice! As Einstein said, The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.

I suspect that God deliberatley made science possible, for the same reason that a parent builds a playground. God wanted us to be able to play! I find it more blievable that an intelligent mind made a universe that intelligent minds could understand, than that a series of accidents resulted in beings that could actually figure out where they came from. But that's just my opinion- others would, and do, disagree.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What is our obligation to the poor?

What are the major driving forces in life? What motivates people to do what they do?

I can think of several. I believe Freud limited it to 'power' and 'sex', but I think that tells you more about him, then about the general populace. I believe that hope, love, pride, anger, selfishness, greed, justice, vanity.... and I could go on... are major driving forces. But I want to suggest that the biggest driving force for Christians in our society is comfort.

Now which one do you think God thinks it should be?

"Seek first the kingdom" "Make love your aim".

(Incidentally, if you consider that we are intended to make love our aim, and not comfort, it makes a lot more sense out of why a good God would allow suffering.)

What I am proposing is a hard message. I think it is harder and more imperative than the Churches teaching on birth control. Orthodox Catholics love to give convicting messages about birth control, but I can't figure out why Orthodox Catholics are essentially skipping this message.

Just as some of us are called to celibacy, but all are called to chastity, so some of us are called to holy poverty, but all are called to simplicity.

Orthodox Catholics, or Evangelical Catholics, if you like, love to go around saying "We are all called to be saints" and "JOY is an acronym for Jesus, Others, yourself" and "I am third", but let's be honest. When I spend $20 on a luxury for myself, while other people in the world starve, and that $20 would feed them for 20 days... who am I putting first?

Am I making love my aim?

I say that Christians put comfort before love because we all want to retire in a nice house with nice stuff, and the freedom to go on nice vacations, and the majority of the major decisions we make are directed towards those things. When we do consider the need to be charitable, we think of those who are close, how we should be patient with irritating people, and buy our rich family members nice gifts, etc. Of course, charity starts at home... but it should not end there. The world is a global community now. I have the means to help people in Burkina Faso- which means that people in Burkina Faso are my neighbors!


Some people argue that giving to charity only enables them to be dependent, reinforcing a welfare state. Fine, than give intelligently. Make micro loans, or build a school or a water treatment plant or something. We all know that it is only because of imperialism that we are so rich anyway, and we continue to live off the fruits of others unpaid labour. I'm not talking about boycotting Walmart or Nike or only buying fair trade coffee. Let's get real. The only thing that is going to break the cycle is if we stop being consumers who never put restrictions on their consumption! We need to stop making excuses, and start coming up with solutions, starting with taking seriously the importance of putting others before ourselves.

I am so convicted of this, and there are so many quotes from the Bible and Church Teaching that support my views. (In fact, I bet no one can find as many quotes from scripture advocating chastity as I could advocating simplicity and justice... which are the same thing.) I'll tack a bunch of quotes on at the end of this, in case you think I am taking it all out of context.

What I can't figure out is why so many other Church leaders- priests and evangelists and lay missionaries- not only seem to be not on board with this, but argue against it! I can only think of one decent argument against my conviction- and that is that if it were true, there would be a papal encyclical saying so.

Well, maybe you know of one that I don't.

I am not proposing that we never spend $20 on another luxury. I am suggesting that we put a cap on it. I would like to suggest a rather generous $100/month. (That's what Catherine and I have decided on.) You may choose to quickly point out my hypocrisy, that I spend on unnecessary luxuries on average each day enough to feed 3 children in Africa. But it's kinda like prayer, or any other matter of conversion. If you go for perfection right off the start, you're liable to get discouraged and give up.

$100/month is a lot... and it's not. If I want to spend it all on fast food and movies- then it's a lot. But if I want a new computer, or car, or clothes, or an instrument, or a vacation, or a cell phone, or to renovate my house... and I don't need it... therefore it's a luxury... well, you get the picture.

I used to do a lot of apologetics, and one of my protestant friends, if he wanted to 'agree to disagree', would always say 'well, it's not a salvation issue'. Don't drop these arguments- I think they might be a salvation issue. In Matthew 25, Jesus separated the goats from the sheep- that is the damned from the saved- by asking "did you feed me, did you give me drink, did you give me clothes".

Here's an interesting side note- The etymology of the word Luxury goes back to the 14th century, and it meant "lasciviousness, sinful self-indulgence".

Pray about it- I'd be very interested to receive comments and feedback and refutations.

Here are the quotes I mentioned!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim 6:10)

Lazarus and the rich man- please note that the rich man was damned for not doing anything, but living in comfort- (Luke 16)

Jesus' apparent disdain for people who tithe, but give out of their abundance rather than sacrificially. (Luke 20:45-21:4)

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mat 19:24)

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-15)

There are plenty more... for fun, run a search on the word 'money' in a bible search website, and see for yourself. In particular, there are many exhortations in the New Testament against "lovers of money", and in the old Testament it appears that a major part of the reason that Israel broke the covenant over and over was not just idolatry, but actually structural injustices- (consider Ezekiel 34). Homilies on this subject are usually along the lines of warnings about too much attachment to money, but let's consider. If you had two children, and one of them starved while the other ate luxurious foods and went on vacations and bought fancy cars- and the latter said "Yes, but I was not too much attached to money..." what would you think?

If I were God, I would be extremely angry. I would say, that the latter loved money more than the life of their brother or sister.

Lastly- some quotes from the Catechism and other Church Documents, some of which are in turn from saints and Popes. Most of these quotes come from the Catechism section "thou shalt not steal"-

2439 Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility toward those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves or have been prevented from doing so by tragic historical events. It is a duty in solidarity and charity; it is also an obligation in justice if the prosperity of the rich nations has come from resources that have not been paid for fairly.

2445 Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.

2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs."

"The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity' (Vatican II)

When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice. (Pope Gregory the Great)

“Charity will never be true charity unless it takes justice into account.... Let no one attempt with small gifts of charity to exempt himself from the great duties imposed by justice” (Pius XI, 1937, Divini Redemptoris, No. 49).

Works of charity…are in effect a way for the rich to shirk their obligation to work for justice and [are] a means of soothing their consciences while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights. Instead of contributing through individual works of charity to maintaining the status quo, we need to build a just social order in which all receive their share of the world’s goods and no longer have to depend on charity. (Benedict XVI- God is Love)

"The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help." (St. Basil the Great)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Can the Church contradict it's own teaching?

Question The Church is protected by God from making an error in teaching and basic principles, but the people running it can still mess up, just as long as this mistake doesn't go against the teaching of the Church?

Answer The Church can still sin, even against it's own teaching. It just can't teach the wrong thing. This applies to matters of 'faith and morals'- ie:, things you can't prove by science or discover on your own, like "the trinity" and "abortion is wrong". But a pope could still be evil- he could even be a murderer! But if the Pope speaks with the authority of the Church, or if all the Bishops unite in a council, they can't teach the wrong thing. (An individual bishop, ior a Pope teaching just on his own, could make a mistake. It's like the disclaimer in my blog, that what I teach may be just my ideas, and not the teachings of the Church or even OLVC. That way if I make a mistake, no one can accuse the Church of being wrong!)

Suppose there was a Pope though who wanted to undermine Catholicism, for some reason. He says he's teaching with the full authority of the Church, and he says that the Eucharist is just a symbol. Theoretically, he would die before he could teach the thing- or go mute or something. In fact, aprantly rthere was a pope who wanted to teach error, and he died suddenly. There have evem been Popes who believed error- that Jesus was not God- but for some reason they never taught it!

Can we achieve perfection on Earth?

Question So the difference between Catholics and Protestants ideas of salvation is that Catholics have hope of becoming perfect in this world, which might inspire us to try to make a difference, whereas Protestants think this to be impossible so it isn't worth trying, and therefore are less likely to make a difference? How is it possible for us to become perfect on earth? If we need the grace of God to be made perfect, why do we believe that we can work towards our own salvation? Basically what it comes down to then is that we will try harder if there is that hope, right?

Answer Sort of. Very few people actually aspire to perfection on earth... but we should try to be as righteous as possible. The difference is that Catholics think their efforts make a difference, and that if the process isn't finnished on earth, it will be in purgatory. Protestants still try to be righteous, as an expression of their faith, but they don't think 'salvation' is hinged on that. Some protestants- Calvinists- don't think they can do anything about whether they are going to Heaven or Hell- they think God just predestined them before all time, and they just have to put up with it!

I suggest you read the gospel of Matthew (7,8,25) and the letter of James (2) while thinking about this- and you will see that Jesus and his apostles clearly taught that works make a difference! While we may never be totally perfect in this world, we can gain in virtue and eliminate vice, and we should always push on towards that.

How are the body and soul connected? What is the teaching on statues?

Question So at the end of the world when bodies and Souls are reunited. In the Eucharist the bread and wine take the form of the body and blood of Jesus. This is how there is a direct connection between physical and spiritual. How is that same connection present in things like statues?

Answer The human person is composed of 3 parts- body, soul, and spirit. Most people don't realize that there is a difference between soul and spirit. God is pure spirit, as are angels. Animals are body and soul, but no spirit. Because of the spiritual nature of the human soul, our soul will live forever, whereas an animals cannot. We are also capable of truly loving, considering our own existence, and therefore sinning. This is what is meant by "Created in the Image and Likeness of God"

JPII taught that our bodies are 'sacraments' of our spirits. A sacrament is a physical thing that shows a spiritual reality. So our bodies indicate something about our nature- (this means that men and women are not jsut different physically, but spiritually as well!). Your sould is that bit which 'animates' your body- in fact the word 'anima' is greek for 'soul' and is where we get the word animal. So your soul is your life. It is your personality. But if you damage your brain, it will effect your personality. So the two are totally linked! It's like saying that your soul is the neurions firing in your brain, and your body is the grey matter- they are completely linked, but have different names to describe different functions.

That's what is meant when we say that the soul is not trapped in the body- it's kind of part of it. You can't seperate them, isolate them and say here's one and here's the other.

Statues do not have souls or spirits- they are just symbols. The reason Catholic and Protestants have a difference about statues goes back to John Calvin. He was a reformer who saw the commandment "Though shalt not make images..." (against making idols) and thought that any statues or pictures in Church must therefore be wrong. That's why even today protestant churches tend not to have any. It ignored the fact that shortly after that God commanded Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant- complete with statues- and that the temple itself had statues and images in it.

It became deeply political, and entrenched- in Holland. At that time, Holland was being run by the Spanish. So the dutch threw off the Spanish and the Church at the same time- and when they did, they ransacked Churches, destroying all the artwork and statues and stained glass. Catholics of course were very sad about this, and it created considerable tension between the denominations in Holland.

Why do protestants believe in Sola Scriptura?

Why do Protestants believe the only source of truth is the Bible, given the clear contradiction to that idea you made? Do they not believe in the trinity either? (see How can the Church teach things not found in Scripture?)

When Luther seperated, one of his mottos was "Sola Scriptura". I don't think he forsaw the difficulties this would raise. Protestants read the bible, come to a conclusion, and when they find out that The Catholic Church has a different conclusion, they say 'well the Church must be worng'. So basically, they have to keep believing in just the Bible, or change too many other things they believe in!

Luther still believed in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (though slightly different than Catholics)- but even in his day, Calvin and Zwingli came to different conclusions using the Bible alone- so they formed new denominations! Nowadays, there are thousands of protestant denominations all with their own teachings- all using 'just the Bible'!

So, most of them still believe in the Trinity, but not all. Jehovahs Witnesses (usually not considered a denomination, but a cult) think Jesus was St Michael the Archangel, and not God. The United Church officially stated that they don't know for sure.

The problem is they grow up proving everything they believe in scripture to each other, and learn to argue so intensely from the Bible that they never even ask the question if it can stand alone or if the Bible ever intended to teach on things like the trinity. Catholics do this too, so that when Protestants ask us to defend our faith, we show them scripture passages that support our teaching, even though at the end of the day some of the passages were not written to do that. We basically treat scripture like a countries constitution- a basis from which to debate. And we read it like we're a bunch of lawyers. This is not how Catholic have traditionally read scripture- it is not to argue about theology, but rather to come to know the person who is God. This is why we ordain preachers- so that we can say they officially represent what the Church has to say, and we know when we hear a preacher that they are not just spouting off their opinion!

How does the Catholic Church settle arguments that protestants can't settle?

Question Take the example of all of the disagreements you said protestants have (Whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong, whether or not we should be allowed to divorce, have women pastors, how much to give, who gets saved, sacraments, honor Mary, etc.). How do we, as Catholics, know the answers to these?

Answer Again, we have the authority of the Church which has never contradicted itself. The Church is inpsired the same way as scripture- so if something is not explicit in scripture, the Church herself can teach on it. We don't have to read the Bible to find the truth- but rather God directly insp[ires the Church. You can see how this idea is offenseive to protestants, but on the other hand you can see the Church teaching the same thing all over the world and all throughout history, where protestants acknowledge that they do not have that authority.

Why can't women be priests?

Question Why can't women be priests? Isn't this incredibly sexist and something that as a society we've evolved away from?

Answer This goes back to the idea that our bodies reflect our spiritual nature. While men and women are perfectly equal, we are not the same. You should know that feminists like to argue that men and women are the same, and that saying otherwise is sexist. In fact, the president of Harvard was recently fired for making the outlandish claim that men and women are different. It's funny because it is so obvious that we are different, it's actually pretty ridiculous to imply otherwise!

So, in being different, it should not be surprising that our roles are different. Jesus, for some reason, only chose male apostles. Some people say that he was just going according to his culture, but then he did choose tax collectors and ignorant fishermen for apostles, and hung out with prostitutes- he didn't seem too concerned with the culture!

The Catholic Church claims to be inspired by God- but God only made male priests! (Might as well ask why men can't have babies- isn't that sexist? God decided) We don't have the authority to change what God did. If God wants women priests, than theoretically he could tell the Church that, and we could start making women priests- but so far God has not told us that, and I suspect He never will!

The significance of the difference between Men and Women is that men have to give love to accept love, and women have to accept love to give love. This is true physically- and that is a sign. The man has to penetrate the woman. It's also just how we are- men want to pursue, and women want to be pursued! (I bet when this is on my blog I will be eventually called sexist for writing this stuff.)

So because of this, we always refer to God in the masculine, even though God is pure spirit, and so technically neither male nor female. We always refer to the Church in the feminine. The preist is in 'personal Christi'- the person of Christ, so he represents Christ. He is a much better symbol as a male.

There's this funny notion out there that the Catholic Church should change her teachings according to culture. But again, the Church is above and outside of culture- we don't sway with the tide. JPII pretty much settled the debate on women in the pristhood when he said (quoting Pope Paul VI) "She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church." Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

Why do protestants believe in 'once saved always saved'?

Question You said that we do not believe in 'once saved always saved', that even once we are Christian we can still fall back into sin and away from God. So then being saved is kind of like it is in flag wars- you get freed, but can get caught again? Given this passage, why do Protestants believe "once saved always saved"? wouldn't it make more sense that the passage would be interpreted in this way? (Follow up on Can we work for our own salvation?)

AnswerThat's a decent analogy, except remember that the word 'saved' means healed, forgiven, rescued, freed.... so depending on the context in scripture, it could be refering to any number of things.

But protestants tend to use the word only in the sense of 'rescued', like from Hell.

The Calvinists taught (teach) that we are predestined, and can do nothing to contribute to out own salvation. This idea is scriptural, in that we can't possibly deserve salvation and it is only because of the mercy of God that we can be saved- but it ignores the fact that scripture tells us to wortk for our salvation and that we will be judged and saved according to what we did. For a Calvinist, if you're 'predestined' it means that from before all time it was decided, so it is impossible to lose your slavation. So, "once saved, always saved". When confronted with someone who obviously was a Christian and later rejected Christ, they just say that he was never really saved in the first place, he was never really predestined.

It is a problem, because scripture does refer to the 'elect', and 'predestination' (Eph 1). Like anything the ballance has to be struck between two extremes. One is that we can totally earn our way to Heaven, the other that we can't do anything and we just passively recieve salvation. Catholics are somewhere between these two extremes, and we say that anything good we do is done by the grace and prompting of God, grace builds on nature, but nature must cooperate with grace. I don't think we'll fully understand this until Heaven. (Though it'd be interesting to look into further...)

What is the Church teaching on tatoos?

Question Levitiucs 19:28 says that we should not get Tatoos. I've heard that what the Bible was getting at was that it was a costomery thing to do where they would tattoo pagan things on those ready to die or dead to prepare them for death or something like that, and this violated the first commandment about not having any false gods. Does that make sense to you?

AnswerI think it's good to look at the passage in context:

27“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
28“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
So, if people take seriously the admonision against tatoos, they would also have to believe that men should all have beards, and long hair at the sides of their heads (like Orthodox Jews). Most people, Protestant and Catholic alike, would agree that these rules were to set the Jewish people apart, as a seperate people, who lived differently from the rest of the culture. They are like the rules of Kosher foods, or circumcision. In Acts 15, the Church specifically dealt with these things and said they were not binding- especially not on non Jews who were becoming Christian! So those laws are not universal moral laws, but rather customs for a certain people in a certain period of history. Christians need to learn to distinguish between these.

(That's part of the debate about homosexuality and womens ordination- are they universally binding laws, or just customs for the time? Without someone to answer that question difinitively, that's how you end up with the wide range of beliefs among protestants, and churches like the Anglican one splitting over it!)

If Luther did believe that Jesus was physically present in the Sacrament of the Alter, then how come protestants today don't belive this?

Question If Luther did believe that Jesus was physically present in the Sacrament of the Alter, then how come protestants today don't belive this?

Answer Lutherans still believe in the true presence, and so do most Anglicans. The problem with Sola Scriptura is that everybody decides for themselves what they other protestants dissagreed with Luther. Zwingli was a famous protestant who lived at the same time as Luther, and this was one of their big debates. Even if you talk to Anglicans, though they are all part of the same church, they can't agree on what they believe (even though the Anglican book of common prayer says that transubstantiation is 'repugnant to holy writ").

The problem with protestants is that no one has any real authority to translate for anyone else. You should hear this guy on the radio called the 'Bible Answer Man'- people ask him questions and he answers as though he knowsd the answer, but often he speaks out against what other famous protestants teach.

The homosexuality quesition is so big that it's causing the Anglican church to break up- and the head of it, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recently lamented that he needed the authority to teach like the Pope has. But since he doesn't have it, all he can do is try to govern the varied opinions- he can never settle a debate.

Harry Potter, good or bad?

Question; One more quick thing, harry potter, good or bad? I've heard that it should be shunned by the Church because it has magic and that's evil, but to me it seems like trying to live in a bubble of protection from the world is impractical. The more aware of what's around us, the better equiped we can be to fight it, right? And I don't even think it's that bad, as long as we realize that magic isn't real at all and that nothing can contradict God's power. what do you think? and for when I try to bring this argument to school, how do Protestants view this "dilemma"?

Jesus prayed for us that we should be 'in the world, but not of the world'- so in a sense you're right that we shouldn't create a bubble around ourselves. I think one of the things that most discredits Christianity and our message is our unwillingness to intelligently dialogue with people of opposing views- and that the consequence of this is that we are considered irational, and shoved out of the marketplace of ideas.

The Church doesn't take a stand, per se, on things like Harry Potter, but there is a healthy debate in the Church. The most intelligent argument I have heard against it is that witches are actually real (and they are) and their power is not from God, but is of a supernatural nature, so it is thus from Satan. If someone wrote a kids book about drug dealers, but they were good drug dealers... of course, everyone would object. But if there are characters that are using power that essentially comes from Satan, but using it for good, we are all OK with it. This blurs the distinction between good and evil, and lends itself to relativistice thinking.

However, Catholic writers such as Tolkien also employed Wizards for good, and treated magic as though it were fantasticv and not real, which is what happens in the Potter series.

I think as Christians the more we object to this kind of stuff, the more ridiculous we look, and the more we effectively promote the stuff by stirring up controversy. I myself am listening to the series on CD as I drive back and forth from Wetaskiwin. (I also deliberately read both the Dan Brown books). I would not choose it as reading for my kids, as there is a lot of bettre stuff out there, but I don't think I would ban it either.

I think my opinion is pretty much in keeping with the Church- there is no definitive answer, and frankly it's not a big enough deal to care. By the time my kids are old enough to read, Harry Potter will just be a vague cultural memory. Something worse will have come along!

What if science contradicts scripture? What about evolution?

Question I was reading in your blog and you said that St. Augustine said that if science contradicts scripture then we need to re-interpret scripture. How can this be? What then is the Catholic Church's teaching on evolution? If everytime there is a new scientific discovery we have to re-interpret scripture, it seems to me like it won't be very long and scientific "proofs" (like in the 1960s how black people were scientifically proven to be dumber than white people because of their head shape) will contradict the entire bible, and then what?

Answer Evolution is the perfect example.

Evolution is science- not faith and morals. The Church- and indeed, even scripture- purport to be authorities on faith and morals, but not on science or history, or these other things which can be known without the dirrect inspiration of God. So if science were to 'prove' that evolution happened, then the Church would have no problem with that since it is very easy (in fact easier) to inrterpret the creation story in Genesis as poetry than as science or history.

Read Genesis 1, and you will quickly discover that it is written in a very poetic style, complete with repetion and timing, etc. A literal interpretation begs someimportant questions. If we were meant to believe that each day was a 24 hour time period, then how do we know this when there were no people to measure the time, and no sun to rise and set? If God told Moses that that is what happened, (which is what most literalists believe), well scripture also says that to God one day is like a thousand years, so who is to say that it was literally one day?

There are Christians, and even Catholics, who believe that the world is literally 6 thousand years old, and was created in 6 days. They have to account for things like dinosaurs and the extreme ages that people lived before thf flood, by what is generally considered to be 'pseudo science'- and claims that maybe dinosaurs were mostly killed off by the flood, but of course some God on tha ark (2 of each kind), but when the flood receded climate had changed so drastically that they couldn't survive, as the iceage was now started, so most dinosaus died out, but maybe the occaisional ones survived in Africa or Peru, where the Ice Age didn't effect the climate as much. Then some of Noahs decendents went to cold places, like England and America,
and became Cave Men, where as other people went to warm places where farming was possible, like Egypt and India and Babylon, and built great civilizations, so that these great civilizatioons and cave men lived on Earth at the same time. It is a facinating discussion, which I do not have time to delve into here. (Note the picture of the human riding a dinosaur, purportedly a 500 year old image from Peru)

Evolutionary scientists have a different bias. They want to explain the existence of everything, but cannot use anything imeasurable (science only deals with measurable things) so anything which is pure spirit, like God, is outside the realm of science. So they try to explain how everything got here but they absolutely cannot entertain the idea of God- so evolution is really the only theory that works.

So, literalists have to believe that everything in the bible is literal. Athiestic evolutionists have to account for the universe without the possibility of God. Catholics have the advantages of both schools of thought, without the dissadvantages. We are not required to believe that everything in the Bible was even meant top be taken literally, much less that it should be. the first 12 chapters of Genesis are generally considered to be possibly more myth than literal history. However, discerning what should be requires mature and honest inspection. If you read Lukes account of the story of Jesus, it is very obvious that it was meant to betaken literally, and as Catholics we obviously do take it literally. You can't lump the whole Bible into one genre of literature.

In short the Church does not have a teaching on evolution, excpet that it is a possible and highly respectable idea, because the Church is not and does not claim to be an authority on science. Incidentally, there were many who though a heliocentric (sun at the center) universe was contrary to scripture, and this is what caused some of the problems for Galileo. (The Pope he had a conflict with, though, just said he should present his views ballanced with the traditional view that Earth is at the center. Galileo refused, and effectively printed documents where the pope was being called a simpleton. The Pope was a worldly authority, so had him arrested. Galileo was never tortured, that's a myth.)

Science cannot possibly 'disprove' matters of faith and morals, simply because faith and morals are about things which are immeasurable, which science cannot deal with. So science and theology are 2 completely seperate disciplines, but they both lead us to truth. That is the Catholic standpoint- if it is the domain of science, listen to science, if it is the domain of faith and morals, listen to the Church. That way you get the fullness of truth!