CMI : Are there side issues in Scripture?
And if so, should we be focusing on something more important?
Published: 15 March 2014 by Lita Cosner
St Thomas distinguishes between the kind of issue that tells us directly the Christian donctrine, like the 12/14 (I have heard of both enumerations) points of the Apostle's Creed, and the kind of things that happened while this doctrine was being revealed.
The latter does not need to be studied and known by everybody. But everybody who does in fact know such a thing from Scripture is also obliged to believe it.
If one knows that at age 101 Abraham had two sons, one getting adolescent or something, and one born last year, according to Scripture, and if one yet refuses to believe it, then one becomes guilty against the faith. If it is not of sufficient importance "ex parte revelati" (from the point of view of the thing revealed), it is so "ex parte revelantis" (considering who it is who is revealing it, namely God who cannot be in error and who cannot be fooling us).
I can imagine St Thomas arguing with a man who says, time after time, "no, you are wrong, Abraham did not have two sons" and suspecting him of heresy, only to find out he meant something as obvious as the fact that Abraham after being a widower remarried and had even more sons than the two. Then St Thomas would blithely have answered that the man was so far correct that Abraham did have a few sons with Keturah as well, but this does not preclude that at a given age, before that, he had exactly two sons, and those were the most relevant for a point St Paul was making about Agar and Sara, about the two convenants, about Synagogue and Church. Now, the kind of heresy we speak of here is what he called "secondary heresy".
Primary heresy would be:
- [sense 0] against belief in a God who is and who rewards those who seek him;
- 1) against the points of the Apostles' Creed (which includes the first of above in the first article and the second in "inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos");
- or 2) against the points of a Council of the Church dogmatising about a matter where - as with Arius - something that might possibly have been just a secondary heresy was found to imply a primary one, consistently. I am pretty proud to honour St Nicholas who went across the hall of the Council and who slapped Arius.
Now, St Thomas said that the circumstances through which the articles of the creed were revealed made them historically sure and sure as historically sufficiently accurate for basing a faith on. That is true. But one may go even further, not sure St Thomas did not do so himself, and say that as "all Scripture is useful", even if a certain thing is not in itself vital for the salvation of each Christian, that he know and believe it, it is certainly, if in the 73 books of the Bible (Synagogue having arbitrarily shortened the Old Testament, meaning that a 66 book list is shilly-shallying between Church - by accepting New Testament at all - and Synagogue - by not accepting of the Old Testament anything beyon what the Synagogue accepts as canonic), vital for the salvation or correction in a salvation or merit related issue of at least someone.
Can you imagine anything less interesting for a man's salvation than the fact that Jacob and Esau had the same horoscope? And yet it was vital to make St Augustine understand what Stephen Tempier was later obliged to defend against Averroists : our souls and their characteristics and movements, whether involuntary or voluntary, are not the product of the stars.
Obviously, in an era when belief in Horoscopes were on the rising, it would be idiotic to say "well, Jacob holding the heel of Esau while they were being born, that is not in the creed, we could agree it is a pretty story, telling us something of how they differred as characters, but it must be a factually erroneous one, or a fiction that mistakenly became regarded as part of the factual history". It would be idiotic, because we know at least one man who was saved from heresy and damnation by reading it and eventually rejecting Horoscopes as so much error based pseudo-prediction. St Augustine.
The story of Jacob and Esau was in fact not just a matter of detailing how we have come to know God's will for his people, for the Church. In case some believe Horoscopes, they may very well need to ditch that error in order to believe that "God is a rewarder of those seeking him". And the story of Jacob and Esau comes handy.
Up to 1958, the Catholic Church had not specifically condemned Evolution, except insofar as it was thought to apply to man's mind as well as to his body, or insofar as it was inconsistent with a historical Adam. It had even issued some warrants - warrants that were taken as implying a warrant to actually believe those things, but actually stated rather as a warrant to defend both parties in a controversy. I think it had already condemned evolution as well as Heliocentrism indirectly, insofar as either of them implies an exegesis of Bible passages universally absent from Church Fathers dealing with them. Namely at Trent.
In that same council it was however also made a primary heresy (sense two of those noted above) to deny that all 72 books, or 73 if Baruch is counted as distinct from Jeremiah, are inspired by God and therefore in the original manuscript at least of each book totally inerrant and in the Vulgate version at least infallible as to doctrines to be drawn from them.
So, it would be sorry if Lita stayed with only 66 books. Especially since she is so right on other grounds.
(after an ignored renaming)
St Longinus Martyred in
PS: One issue where Evolution acceptance would be damaging to the Faith and to Salvation of people is the question, also for Astrology acceptance, where that scenario leaves human freedom. Ken Miller claims we must accept uniformitarianism because God cherishes the freedom of "secondary causes". But the human will is in itself a secondary cause. Let us not attribute so much freedom to electrons or genes that man in which they function looses his freedom!/HGL