The Pope has gotten into the business of denouncing fake news, and we can all applaud his effort. His example of the first fake news, however, has a problem.
The AP reported on the Pope’s annual social communications message (which I read about in the Tampa Bay Times, January 25, 2018). Pope: ‘Fake news’ is evil, journalists must search for truth .
Francis writes that the first fake news dates from the biblical beginning of time, which Eve was tempted to take an apple from the Garden of Eden based on disinformation from the serpent.
“The strategy of this skilled ‘Father of Lies’ is precisely mimicry; that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments,” Francis said of the snake.
The Pope is citing from the second creation account that begins with Genesis Chapter 2, verse 4, and continues into Chapter 3. In case you’ve forgotten your Sunday school lessons from 60 years ago, here are the relevant portions, which I take from the pew bible at my darling wife’s Presbyterian Church, the New Revised Standard Version:
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall die.”
In an earlier post on theodicy, the justification of God’s ways to man, I said I’d describe my sermon on the book of Job, published in the Humanist. In that earlier post, I explained how I came to write my essay. I consider that famous story as a unified work of literature rather than selecting verses here and there from which to draw lessons.
I’m not a Biblical scholar, and I don’t read the Bible in its ancient Hebrew. I’m limited to reading the various English translations. I have read articles and books on Job and on the general subject of theodicy. One enjoyable, informative book is William Safire’s The First Dissident, in which the New York Times columnist explained that contrary to Job’s reputation as patient, he strongly protested against the Lord’s rule, and that the Lord did not respond honestly to him. Reading this book gave me the idea and the courage to assemble my thoughts. Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural Address deals with the subject of God’s ways, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s shorter than this post.
The authors of the Bible’s books are not known to us. Scholars believe that Job as it has come down to us had several authors. There is a prose introduction that describes a series of calamities that befall Job. There is a poem in which Job’s three friends try to comfort him in his suffering. A fourth friend shows up to repeat and muddle some of these discussions. God responds in a famous theophany, His longest speech in the Bible. There is a coda tacked on at the end that restores Job to his original condition. Although scholars believe that each of these parts had its own author or authors, there must have been some final compiler or editor, and the work remained stable after his work. Thus someone believed that the work belonged together as one, and that in that form they provided a consistent and important message for readers. At this time, the work must have expressed ideas that seemed important to its guardians, and they worked to maintain the text. A key purpose of the entire Bible was to explain God to the Jewish people, and a modern reader might well expect to learn something about God’s character, activities, powers, and thoughts. As Lincoln said, however, God’s ways are inscrutable to us. Continue reading
Rethinking the Phrase “God Allows” In Response to Evil is the title of a blog post by Mark Gregory Karris on the Patheos group blog. He describes himself as an ordained pastor, author, musician, licensed marriage and family therapist, and all around biophilic. (My italics.) Patheos says that it is “hosting the conversation of faith,” and it is an attractive and active group blog.
My darling wife sent the link to me because we have discussed the subject for a long time. This subject is the justification of God’s way to man, or the problem of evil, or in fancy language, theodicy. Indeed, I am a published author on the subject. That essay, a discussion of the Bible’s book of Job, appeared in the Humanist, and, edited, in the Guardian, where there were many comments.
My darling wife sent me a link to a blog post entitled: Is it more important to believe the right things or do the right things?, by Randal Rauser, a professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary, in Edmonton, Alberta. Prof. Rauser writes about a schism within the entirety of Christianity. What is required for salvation: is faith alone sufficient, or are good deeds required. Of course, Christians mean a particular belief in this context. Salvation means that, as all humans are imperfect, sinners, God will set us apart from Him, send us to eternal punishment, unless we can persuade Him to forgive us and place us near to Him. I have in mind the separation of the sheep from the goats.