Thursday, December 18, 2008

And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth, Part II

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1. This was going to be a term paper for Faith & Critical Reason but for sundry reasons it was not to be and it did not end up nearly long enough anyway; my term paper was instead on reasons for safeguarding the environment. I was moved by the style of the Church Fathers to write this in a homiletic manner, but there is probably a great deal of rambling because I was trying to draw things out to meet the required paper length:

2. These days the majority of Biblical scholars, i.e. the mainstream, would have us believe that the creation story in Genesis communicates important religious truths but is not literally historically true. Most of these scholars, influenced by the scientific consensus in favor of evolution, would thus deny that God formed a man called Adam literally from the slime of the earth, and that God anesthetized Adam and literally formed from his side the body of his wife Eve. However, God indeed formed Adam from the slime of the earth and formed Eve from his side. To deny this is to greatly undermine the special dignity of humankind above all other animals, the most profound and holy unity between man and woman which forms the basis for the sacrament of marriage and the prohibition of divorce, the sacramental formation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church from the side of Christ on the Cross, confidence in the ancient norms of interpretation used by the Magisterium, the equality of dignity between men and women, and the order of creation and authority which God designed to maintain harmony, peace, justice, and love the Church and in every family.

3. We have a special dignity above all the animals and this needs to be stressed, but not, of course, at the expense of our affirmation of responsibility for caring for the rest of creation. Indeed, part of the special dignity we must affirm is our dominion over all the animals and plants and understanding and appreciating this dominion, not tyranny, instills in us a motivation to live frugally rather than extravagantly, and to maintain clean air and water supplies and avoid pernicious practices like slash and burn agriculture which lead to desertification of once lush jungles and the extinction of, for example, plant species that could have provided a cure for several types of cancer and even congenital diseases.

4. Nevertheless, what swine, what mosquito, what cobra, is created in the image of God? Amen, I say to you, of all the corporeal creatures humans alone are created in the image of God; we alone among the corporeal creatures have immortal souls which, after death, are immutably fixed in either good or evil. What beast of the field was suitable to be the partner of Adam? [Gen 2:20]. To which of the brute animals did God grant the priceless gift of original justice? We have religion, music, art; truly of us alone among the corporeal creatures can be predicated that term civilization. We have divine authorization to eat animals, as befits our place and high honor in God's creation [Gen 9:2-3].

5. It is more fitting that Adam be created separately, and not come about as the descendant of soulless hominids, in order to illustrate marvelously and unforgettably this special dignity of humanity over the rest of animals. It is more fitting that Eve should come from the body of Adam, so that she and all her children are shown to possess the same dignity above the animals.

6. The formation of Eve from the side of Adam during his sleep parallels the formation of the Church from the side of Jesus Christ while He was experiencing the deep sleep of death on the Cross. The sacramental formation of the Church from the Sacred Heart of the Lord, pierced by our sins, is a fact of history. If the statement in Genesis that God fashioned Eve from the side of Adam is not a fact of history, where is the strength of the parallel? The parallel, built on a foundation of sand, would collapse. Would not a parallel for the historical event of the formation of the Church be strongest if it were also part of the class of historical events?

7. To no lesser degree is the question of the bodily origin of Adam and Eve related to the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The basis for this beautiful sacrament is nothing less than the profound and singular unity that exists between man and woman. This unity and reciprocal love is manifested and consummated in the marriage act whereby husband and wife become, in the words of Christ, not two, but one flesh. And who can separate what God joined together? Thus becomes clear the basis for the prohibition of divorce: the marriage bond lasts until death does them part. The affirmation of the literal formation of Eve from the side of Adam, already grounded in many solid foundations, can only serve to strengthen belief in the sanctity and power of marriage, and to remind us sinners of the gravity of adultery so that we might, with the grace of God, avoid that abomination. On the other hand, where goes the singular unity between man and woman when we introduce the novel proposition, unheard of until the 19th century, that Adam was the son of a soulless hominid, or otherwise taken from the living matter of some animal? And to where but the abyss does that precious unity go when we affirm that Eve is not bone of Adam's bones and flesh of Adam's flesh?

8. The thesis of the literal creation of Adam from the ground and Eve from the side of Adam has important ties to and implications for feminist theology. If Eve really came from the side of Adam, then she is much more clearly side by side with, i.e., equal to, Adam in dignity. Thus men and women are clearly of equal dignity, a truth most dear to feminist theologians as it ought to be most dear to everyone. And yet it also puts a check on feminist theology. In St. Paul the Apostle's First Letter to Timothy, the creation story serves as a basis for an irreformable moral teaching, that women cannot usurp the roles which God gave to men in Church and must keep silent while in church. While feminist theologians might strive for more prerogatives in this area for women, we must obey the word of God because it is not open to debate, for inspiration is incompatible with all errors and defects, including moral shortcomings. The Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, repeatedly affirms the headship of the husband in the family. Ought we not to trust God for making things this way? Does not God, Who does not merely have wisdom but is Wisdom itself, order all things sweetly? [Wisdom 8:1]. Is not this order of authority designed to foster mutual harmony and love? St. Paul plainly affirms that "Adam was formed first" and this is one of the reasons for this divinely inspired doctrine. Thus to deny that Eve was in very truth formed from the side of Adam is to, whether consciously or not, remove one of the indispensable bases for the doctrine of different ecclesial and familial roles for men and women and make the Spirit of Truth Who inspired St. Paul a spirit who commits fallacies. Let us shrink from such a crime!

9. Finally, in addition to the above arguments from right reason, it must be said that the affirmation of the formation of Adam from the slime of the earth and Eve from the side of Adam is most fitting in order to foster a stronger confidence in the Magisterium to interpret correctly the sacred literature God left us. The thesis of this paper is the unanimous consensus of the Church Fathers, which is infallible. Ought we not to give precedence to the saintly Doctors throughout the centuries rather than to modern Biblical scholars who have departed from the ancient traditional norms of the interpretation? Ought we not to see the literal sense of Scripture as the sense on which all other senses of Scripture are based? Are we wiser than all the Church Fathers, who were handed the exegetical rules and methods of the very Apostles themselves?

10. It is more sensible to safeguard the literal, straightforward historical interpretation which has been perpetually cherished throughout the two millennia of the history of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Far from neglecting and overshadowing the deeper religious truths of the creation story, the literal approach forms the strong and unshakable basis for these salvific truths. If we deny that Eve was formed from the body of Adam, how will we account for the name "woman" which describes all the female offspring of our first parents? And indeed if we say that Adam evolved from a lesser ape, how is he ultimately one of our two first parents? The buck stops with Adam and Eve. With the denial of the real historicity of the Genesis creation narrative, what becomes of the use of Genesis 1:26 as support, from the use of the first person plural, for the doctrine of the Trinity, especially when we evangelize our Jewish friends who would look first to the Torah and Tanakh before considering any of the New Testament? What becomes of the religious truth that men will sweat and work hard in order to feed themselves until the moment of their death if we reduce to mere allegory the reason God Himself is recorded as providing: "for out of [the ground] you were taken"? [Gen 3:19]. All the more could Adam love Eve as himself and as his own body in accordance with Ephesians 5:28,33, if the body of Eve came from him. By saying such things we erode the types and bases for marriage, the formation of the Church, the social relationships and roles of men and women, the dignity of men and women far above and apart from that of the animals. Thus let us believe firmly, and never doubt, the plain sense of one of the earliest statements in God-breathed Scripture: "And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul" [Gen 2:7]. Amen.

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