27 August 2011

ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIRST

"Do these words [i.e., the words of the creation account in Genesis] then [in light of science and modernity, etc.] count for anything? [...] Or have they perhaps, along with the entire Word of God and the whole biblical tradition, come out of the reveries of the infant age of human history, for which we occasionally experience homesickness but wo which we can nevertheless not return, inasmuch as we cannot live on nostalgia?  One answer was already worked out some time ago, as the scientific view of the world was gradually crystallizing; many of you probably came across it in your religious instruction.  It says that the Bible is not a natural science textbook, nor does it intend to be such.  It is a religious book, and consequently one cannot obtain information about the natural sciences from it.  One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it.  Anything else is an image and a way of describing things whose aim is to make profound realities graspable to human beings.  [...This view has merits,] but it is not enough.  For when we are told that we have to distinguish between the images themselves and what those images mean, then we can ask in turn: Why wasn't that said earlier?  Evidently it must have been taught differently at one time or else Galileo would never have been put on trial.  And so the suspicion grows that ultimately  perhaps this way of viewing things is only a trick of the church and of theologians who have run out of solutions but do not want to admit it, and now they are looking for something to hide behind.  And on the whole the impression is given that the history of Christianity in the last four hundred years has been a constant rearguard action as the assertions of the faith and of theology have been dismantled piece by piece."

—  Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning