Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Vatican astronomer on creationism, what the Creation story tell us, and Benedict's homily

An astronomer for the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, SJ, has been recently quoted as saying that believing that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism: “Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god.”

Well... yeah...that’s all well and good: God isn’t a pagan “nature god” like the deities of ancient civilizations who had their own creation narratives.

And so, what does the Genesis Creation story tell us then?

Somehow Consolmagno’s words do not affirm the intent of the writer(s) of the creation story in Genesis-—which, ironically, is to show how God WAS NOT LIKE those pagan "nature gods."

The Genesis creation story was written in direct opposition to those pagan narratives and deities and affirmed the basic insights of Israel’s faith. And those are:

That there is one God, without gender, alone from the start, who created from his goodness and wise plan a world of order, in which matter is good and not the result of whim or magic. Rather, God’s Word decrees what is to be and establishes limits; God gave humans a place of honor, made in his own image; they were to have responsibility over what was created, and share divine gifts of pro-creating, sharing his sabbath rest and knowing God personally [from “Reading the Old Testament” by Lawrence Boadt, Paulist Press].

By affirming these things, the Genesis creation story (though not literal), actually proclaims that GOD IS NOT A NATURE DEITY.

What does the present Pope say?

Well, back 1981, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a series of homilies on the story of Creation. Note one of the things he said which speaks to this:

“Thus Scripture would not wish to inform us about how the different species of plant life gradually appeared or how the sun and the moon and the stars were established. Its purpose ultimately would be to say one thing: God created the world.

"The world is not, as people used to think then, a chaos of mutually opposed forces; nor is it the dwelling of demonic powers from which human beings must protect themselves. The sun and the moon are not deities that rule over them, and the sky that stretches over their heads is not full of mysterious and adversary divinities.

"Rather, all of this comes from one power, from God’s eternal Reason, which became—in the Word—the power of creation. All of this comes from the same Word of God that we meet in the act of faith.

"Thus, insofar as human beings realized that the world came from the Word, they ceased to care about the gods and demons. In addition, the world was freed so that reason might lift itself up to God and so that human beings might approach this God fearlessly.

"In this Word they experienced the true enlightenment that does away with the gods and the mysterious powers and that reveals to them that there is only one power everywhere and that we are at his hands.

"This is the living God, and this same power (which created the earth and the starts and which bears the whole universe) is the very one whom we meet in the Word of Holy Scripture.

"In his Word we come into contact with the real primordial force of the world and whith the power that is above all powers."

So, the astronomer is right: God is not a pagan "nature god." The Genesis story denies that as well.

In fact, if we divorce the Creation story from “creationism,” we come to affirm the profound truths proclaimed by the writers of Genesis.

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