Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"For Each Other"

Here's a quick recap of what I've done lately for these 'Bible and Catechism' posts:
This one's about God's decision to make humanity in two basic, complimentary, models. Which, in the tradition of after-dinner speakers, 'reminds me of an amusing story.'

'This is Not Good'

I heard someone talk about men, women, and why God made us this way. He started with the way Genesis describes God's evaluation of things: "God saw how good the light was...." (Genesis 1:4); "God called the dry land 'the earth,' and the basin of the water he called 'the sea.' God saw how good it was." (Genesis 1:10); and so on, through Genesis 1:12, 18, 21, and 25.

Then God saw that the man was alone: and God said 'this is not good.' (Genesis 2:18)

Sure, I know that the fellow was mixing the two creation accounts, and that God doesn't make things that are bad. (March 5, 2012, November 27, 2011) I thought it was funny: and I suspect that most married men, whose wives remind them that daft behavior is a bad idea, might agree:
"The LORD God said: 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.' " (Genesis 2:18)
"Suitable partner" and Ephesians 5:21-30, by the way, do not tell me that I can boss my wife around:

The Bible, Being Catholic, and Assumptions

I'm a practicing Catholic, so I'm expected to read the Bible: frequently. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 131-133)

I'm going to be referring to Genesis again before this post is done, so maybe some clarifications are in order. Most of this I've written about before, so I put links at the end of this post, under "What folks know, that just ain't so."

Basically:
Like I said, I'm expected to read the Bible frequently. But I'm not expected to believe that every word of the Bible is literally true: from the point of view of a literalist post-Elizabethan member of Western civilization.

I don't think the Bible is a science textbook. I do think that the Bible is Sacred Scripture. Those aren't mutually exclusive beliefs. Not for someone who understands what the Catholic Church teaches.

What the Bible is - and What It isn't

Like I said, I'll be writing about Genesis, and about some really odd notions that get taken seriously these days. I'll be back to God's design and all that, after this quick overview of what the Bible is. And what the Bible isn't:
  1. "Know what the Bible is - and what it isn't. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation."
(USCCB, "Bible Is for Catholics")

"WORD OF GOD: The entire content of Revelation as contained in the Holy Bible and proclaimed in the Church. In John's Gospel, God's 'Word' means his only-begotten Son, who is the fullness of God's Revelation and who took flesh (the Word incarnate) and became man for the sake of our salvation (65, 81, 101, 241, 461; cf. 2653)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

" 'Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.'42 'And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.'43"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 81)

My Wife: Not an Aardvark, Not a Zebra

I'm focusing on God's decision to make humanity male and female. That means I'll mention marriage: which isn't the same as claiming that everybody has to get married. I've been over marriage, vocations, and getting a grip, before. (December 11, 2011)

Finally, here's something from the Catechism, about God, man, and woman:
"God created man and woman together and willed each for the other...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 371)
There's more, focusing on this part of Genesis:
"So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name.

"The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man."
(Genesis 2:19-20)
No real surprises there: I'm a human being, and I like animals. I even think some animals have useful functions, like horses. But I wouldn't thin of a horse as a "suitable partner." Except in the sense that I would have to understand and work with a horse, sort of like I have to understand and work with the family van.

There's more, about a deep sleep and what a 21st-century American might see as a simplified description of some sort of cloning procedure. Like I've said before, the Bible wasn't written by an American: and the Bible isn't a science textbook. Moving on.

And Adam Spake, Saying "WOW!!"

The man was surprisingly articulate, in Genesis 2:23, when he saw the first woman:
"5 the man said: 'This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken.' "
(Genesis 2:23)
If I'd been writing that, I might have had him say something like "WOW!!" But that's me, projecting my personality on the scene.

There's a point to that part of Genesis. And it's not that the woman was made under the man's arm, where he could get her in a headlock:
"...The woman God 'fashions' from the man's rib and brings to him elicits on the man's part a cry of wonder, an exclamation of love and communion: 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.' 244 Man discovers woman as another 'I,' sharing the same humanity."
(Catechism, 371)
There's a 'spiritual' side to God's design for human beings. We're made male and female so that we can be a "communion of persons."

"Made For Each Other"

My vocation is marriage: something I realized a long time before I met my wife, although I didn't know about that angle on 'vocation' at the time. But marriage isn't the only 'right' vocation. And that's another topic.

Back to the Catechism:
"Man and woman were made 'for each other' - not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be 'helpmate' to the other, for they are equal as persons ('bone of my bones . . .') and complementary as masculine and feminine...."
(Catechism, 372)
So far, that sounds conventionally 'spiritual.' Which is fine: human nature is spiritual. Human nature is also material (more topics), which is where becoming parents comes in:
"...In marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming 'one flesh,'245 they can transmit human life: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'246 By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator's work.247"
(Catechism, 372)
Maybe I could be 'complete' without my wife and our children. It doesn't feel that way, though. But then, my vocation is marriage: and anyway, I'm fairly sure that I could keep on 'keeping on' without my wife and family. I wouldn't like it, and I hope that doesn't happen: still more topics.

The instruction to "fill the earth" sounds disturbingly like Victorian-era nonsense about 'unlimited' natural resources. As I've said before, the beliefs of 19th-century lumber barons and industrial tycoons aren't necessarily the same as what the Catholic Church has been teaching for two millennia.

"Subduing" the Earth

"In God's plan man and woman have the vocation of 'subduing' the earth248...."
(Catechism, 373)
I could take that snippet from the Catechism, and God's instruction to "subdue" the earth in Genesis 1:28 as 'proof' that the Catholic Church tells people to kill cute animals, and that Christianity must be crushed to save the [your favorite endangered species]. That, in my considered opinion, would be silly. Also extremely imprudent. There's the warning in Revelation 22:18-: anyway, I don't think my Lord would take kindly to my editing Sacred Scripture to fit some popular notion.

Where was I? Filling and subduing the earth, not necessarily in that order; Victorian lumber barons; Sacred Scripture. Right.

here's the rest of Catechism, 373:
"...as stewards of God. This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator 'who loves everything that exists,' 249 to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them."
(Catechism, 373)
Bottom line? We're in charge in creation, at least the part we've reached so far. We're stewards. God's the owner. A steward who strip-mines his employer's land, and pockets the profits, probably would have some explaining to do. And that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:
'What folks know, that just ain't so,' about the:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Did these start out as two sentences? "I'll be writing about Genesis, and some really odd notions get taken seriously these days."

Something's missing: "the warning in Revelation 22:18-: anyway,"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

One sentence: from which two important words fell out. Fixed, and thanks!

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.