Sunday, April 24, 2016

Flat Earth, Psalms 150:1 — and Joy

(From N. F. Gier, University of Idaho; adapted from an illustration in the New American Bible: St. Joseph Edition; used w/o permission.)
(A Mesopotamian cosmology, about two dozen centuries back.)

'The Bible says Earth is flat.'

If you live in America, and haven't heard that as a reason for rejecting Christianity: you're not paying attention.

On the other hand, word seems to be getting around that the "dark" ages were anything but.

I've discussed post-Roman Europe, science, and autopsies, before. (January 22, 2016; August 28, 2015; August 15, 2014)

About Earth being flat — I've yet to run into a Christian who says that; although I did meet one who informed me that our sun goes around Earth, not the other way around.

He had a point, given a completely deadpan reading of Joshua 10:12-13. (October 3, 2014)

Interestingly, Sacred Scripture does mention "the pillars of the earth" and "the mighty dome of heaven:"
"...For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S,
"and he has set the world upon them."
(1 Samuel 2:8)

"He shakes the earth out of its place, and the pillars beneath it tremble.
"He commands the sun, and it rises not; he seals up the stars."
(Job 9:6-7)

"1 Hallelujah! 2 Praise God in his holy sanctuary; give praise in the mighty dome of heaven."
(Psalms 150:1)

"The angel said to me in reply, 'These are the four winds of the heavens, which are coming forth after being reviewed by the LORD of all the earth.' "
(Zechariah 6:5)
So how come I'm not ranting and raving about the evils of science, and why NASA should stop smashing space probes into "the mighty dome:" thereby risking flood and the wrath of a hypersensitive God?

I've been over that before, too. (September 6, 2015; October 16, 2015; October 3, 2014)

Briefly — poetry isn't science, and I'm a Catholic who knows a bit about my faith.

"To Learn the Surpassing Knowledge of Jesus Christ"

Reading the Bible isn't an option.

Since I'm a Catholic, can read, and have access to Sacred Scripture, it's a requirement. That's because "ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ," and knowing our Lord is a very high priority:
"More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ"
(Philippians 3:8)

"The Church 'forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.112"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 133)
I really do not think accepting "the loss of all things" and considering them rubbish means that I should sell everything my wife and I have, give the proceeds to the nearest charity, and hope we survive the next winter.

Humility and Getting a Grip

For starters, my wife wouldn't like that: and I don't think impoverishing the family is consistent with my duties as a parent. (Catechism, 2221-2233, 2252)

For another, being humble before God doesn't mean being poverty-stricken.

Being poor or rich is okay. What matters is what we do with it. (Catechism, 544, 2445)

We all have equal dignity and rights, which doesn't mean we're all alike: and this is okay, too. (Catechism, 1934-1937)

Humility is accepting reality: acknowledging that God is the author of all good.1

In my case, it's acknowledging that God blessed me with defective hips, freakishly-enhanced language skills, and a probably-inherited predisposition to depression and something on the autism spectrum.

My contribution to the mix is deciding to do something with that quirky took kit. (October 18, 2015; March 29, 2015)

Getting back to whether or not Earth is flat: insisting that the Almighty must conform to a contemporary blind-to-metaphor reading of ancient poetic imagery seems pretty much the opposite of humble. (March 27, 2016; March 29, 2015)

Free Will and Death

I have free will. I can decide what I do, or don't do. (Catechism, 1730-1742)

Deciding wisely would be a lot easier if we hadn't been dealing with consequences of a really bad decision, and that's another topic. (Catechism, 388-390, 396-412)

I try to keep deciding that following our Lord is more important than anything else, even if that means putting up with the occasional inconvenience or frustration.

I don't know how I'd respond if I was in Stephen's position, after he said something that folks didn't want to hear:
"They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.
"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' 5"
(Acts 7:59)
Keep an eye on young Saul. A bit later, on his way to Damascus, he had an intense interview with our Lord. (Acts 22:6-11)

After that, the narrative calls him Paul. I gather his name wasn't changed. He was a Jew and a Roman citizen, so he had a name for use in both cultures.2

He may have been exaggerating in 1 Corinthians 15:31, saying "every day I face death" — but if so, it wasn't much of an exaggeration. He eventually went to Rome and lost his head: literally.3

"We are Infinitely Loved"

Why would folks like Stephen and Paul let themselves be killed, rather than stop talking about our Lord? Let's see what Paul wrote.
"And I wrote as I did 1 so that when I came I might not be pained by those in whom I should have rejoiced, confident about all of you that my joy is that of all of you."
(2 Corinthians 2:3)

"But, even if I am poured out as a libation 14 upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.
"In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me."
(Philippians 2:17-)
Two millennia later, joy is still at the core of being Christian — or should be.
"...Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. ... In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith...."

"...A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. Far more than immediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, our hearts seek a perfect, full and lasting joy capable of giving 'flavour' to our existence...."
("Message for the 27th World Youth Day," Pope Benedict XVI (March 15, 2012))
It's hardly a new idea:
"Sing praise, play music; proclaim all his wondrous deeds!
"Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!"
(Psalms 105:2-3)

"In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
"gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."
(Galatians 5:22-23)
Two millennia after our Lord stopped being dead,4 joy is still important. Or, like I said, it should be. That's joy, not giddiness:
"...A joy ever new, a joy which is shared

"The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience....

"...I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them....

"...There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved...."
("Evangelii Gaudium," Pope Francis (November 24, 2013))

"Whatever God Wills is Done"

I could be a Christian, following our Lord, if Earth was a flat plate and the sky a dome with water on the other side.

But it's become increasingly obvious that God's creation is not like that.

I don't mind a bit. I see scientific discoveries as invitations to "even greater admiration" of God's greatness. (Catechism, 283)

Besides, we've always known it was big and old.
"1 Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it."
(Deuteronomy 10:14)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft."
(Psalms 19:2)

"4 Indeed, before you the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth."
(Wisdom 11:22)
Being upset that it's bigger and older than we thought doesn't make sense: not to me.

Even if I did disapprove of the Almighty's creation, it wouldn't make much difference:
"Our God is in heaven; whatever God wills is done."
(Psalms 115:3)

(From NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); ESA/Hubble Collaboration; used w/o permission.)

More of my take on God, the universe, and getting a grip:

1 Humility, a Catholic view:
"HUMILITY: The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer (2559). Voluntary humility can be described as 'poverty of spirit' (2546)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, H)
2 One man, two names; dual names in Roman times:
"Saul, also known as Paul: there is no reason to believe that his name was changed from Saul to Paul upon his conversion. The use of a double name, one Semitic (Saul), the other Greco-Roman (Paul), is well attested (cf ⇒ Acts 1:23 Joseph Justus; ⇒ Acts 12:12, ⇒ 25, John Mark)."
(footnote 5, Acts 13, New American Bible)
3 See:
4 As I've said before, it took a series of meetings to convince the surviving 11 that our Lord was really, no kidding, break-bread, eat-a-fish, put-your-hand-in-my-side, ALIVE. (April 5, 2015)
"And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them."
"With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight."
(Luke 24:30-31)

"While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, 'Have you anything here to eat?'
"They gave him a piece of baked fish;
"he took it and ate it in front of them."
(Luke 24:41-43)

"Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.'
"Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.' "
(John 20:26-27)


Anonymous said...

It i so important that we teach our children about how to have the qualities of compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. These qualities are what it takes to be truly happy, joyful, and content in life. It must be the churches that help instill these qualities. We already support our churches through tithing but through fundraisers and programs like cell phones 4 churches we can support our churches in a way that allows them to obtain the resources that are necessary to educate our children and youth. If they can understand and learn these qualities before they are thrown into the World the better off they will be.

Brian H. Gill said...

I agree, Wes g, that churches should help instill "the qualities of compassion, kindness, and forgiveness."

And, of course, supporting churches - in my case, starting with the local parish - through tithing and other material means is a good idea. So, I think, is personal participation: as circumstances permit.

Getting kids off to a good start begins at home, though, I think. Coming from a family where those qualities are part of everyday life helps - again, in my opinion - kids learn what being kind, forgiving, compassionate adults is like.

That's never been easy - and that's almost another topic. ("Holy Family, Not '50s Family" (December 28, 2014)) said...

Hey everyone! I agree with both of commentators who said that we must teach our children about how to have the qualities of compassion, kindness, as well as forgiveness. These characteristics are regarded to be very important in the modern education! Our best essay writing service is an exclusive writing helper with extremely professional training experience!

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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.