Old Testament

Old Testament

Fr Brian Harrison OS

It is clear that in openly denying the truth of Old Testament assertions that he finds unpalatable (August  AD2000), Frank Mobbs' quarrel is not just with me, but with the Catholic Church. For her unchangeable faith, reaffirmed by Vatican II, is that "everything" asserted by the sacred writers of both Old and New Testaments "is to be held as asserted by the Holy Spirit" (DV 11).

The only figleaf my critic can find in attempting to cover his dissent is the theologically puerile claim that "were all biblical assertions true", the "creed" would become an "unbearable burden on Christians" by virtue of including thousands of minor biblical details.

Now, our ancient creeds are of course mere summaries of central Christian beliefs; and, even as such, they make no claim to cover everything all Catholics should know. Not one of them, for instance, mentions the Eucharist, or any other sacrament except Baptism. So there is no reason why we should now start adding to them any new clause(s) about the Bible. Moreover, no one has ever claimed that Christians need to know in detail all the multitudes of specific propositions that are virtually contained in (i.e., implied by) a doctrinal generalisation such as the above quotation from Vatican II.

Dr Mobbs might just as well argue that, because it has 2,865 articles, no less, the  Catechism of the Catholic Church is an "unbearable burden"; or that if I assert that prisoners should have the right to vote, I am thereby assuming the "unbearable burden" of learning the names of every man and woman behind bars in the country!

According to Dr Mobbs, I have conceded too much to atheist Richard Dawkins. I think he's the one guilty of that fault. For he has conceded the correctness of Dawkins' assumption - just as theologically untenable as the one rebutted above - that whatever is morally wrong for a human being must also be morally wrong for God. But the reason why it is wrong for us to take the initiative in destroying "innocent" human life is that we thereby usurp the rights of God, who alone is the Lord of life and death.

I place "innocent" in quotation marks in this context, because we need to recall that even those who have committed no crime deserving a humanly imposed death sentence are already under the divinely imposed death sentence resulting from original sin (cf. Vatican II,  Gaudium et Spes, no. 18). And if God, in Old Testament times, sometimes authorised the Israelites to be his delegated instruments in carrying out that divine sentence, which will strike every one of us sooner or later, then that was his divine prerogative.

St Louis, Missouri, USA

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