Author Archives: One Bread One Body

Who wrote Genesis?

My college education was long and chaotic. Some might call it eclectic but it would more accurately called undirected. For a good part of the time I was an anthropology major at Wayne State University studying under Dr. John Cole, a student of the famous social anthropologist Leslie White. One of the foundational principles in studying other cultures is never to bring your cultural biases into your field work. Most of the field work of the nineteenth century was terribly flawed in this regard. “Civilized” anthropologists went out to study “primitive” cultures, imposing their values on what they observed. 

One of the most common errors was to treat oral traditions as “myths” in the sense of being fables or legends. They assumed that the indigenous people “believed” literally the stories they told. This was a bias made by members of a literate culture observing a non-literate (not illiterate) culture. The meaning of the concept of “belief” they held was much more concrete than the understanding of the speakers. 

The role of story-telling in preliterate cultures has a distinct evolutionary advantage. Stories are the means by which the deepest truths of the culture are preserved intact even after many generations because stories contain a relatively small number of details which must be preserved if the story is to make sense. Let me illustrate

Have you ever had the experience of hearing someone describe an event at which you were also present? Did you notice that the other person always got it “wrong” by leaving out facts, adding new ones or distorting some? Personal memory is a very unreliable way to store information, so if we are to transmit cultural wisdom we have to have some way to ensure that information is preserved intact through countless generations.

If you have children or grandchildren you must have told them some classic bedtime stories which are pretty much known throughout our culture. And did you notice that when someone else told them the details were pretty much exactly intact? Why? Because unlike the memory of actual events, they are not dependent on personal recollection but rather on the fictional details, repeated time after time.

So in preliterate societies, the story tellers were responsible for passing on the culture And we call these stories”myths.” Myths are not untrue in a modern Western sense, but rather they contain essential truth wrapped in a fictional structure that protects that truth from distortion. As a culture begins to develop writing, these myths start to be written down, not so much as a historical record as a modern person would define it, but as a memory aid to ensure even more the accuracy of the story. When we approach these texts as modern Westerners, we tend to bring our understanding of textual criticism with us. And many people approach early texts incorrectly with that bias.

Creation myths are cultural universals, that is they appear without exception in all cultures. I happen to believe that the creation myths of the Jews were in fact inspired by the Holy Spirit and provide infallible information about God and our relationship to Him. I don’t think one needs to read them in a literal, Western sense to understand the truth contained within. For instance, I do not need to believe in a literal Garden of Eden with a literal serpent in order to accept as true the fact of Man’s fallen nature. I also believe that God is revealed to us in two manners: via the direct evidence of His magnificent creation, and by direct revelation through the Holy Spirit. They are each true in their own way and cannot disagree. When science seems to conflict with Scripture, I think it is reasonable to assume that our reading is where the problem lay. Bear in mind that God can only reveal Himself in the language and the mental constructs of the men (and women) he inspires. The fantastic vision that Ezekiel saw, of wheels within wheels, would have been described entirely differently by a native of of a mesoamerican culture that did not yet have the technology of wheels. God’s revelation is so immense and so entirely beyond our ability to express it in words that anything we say is in one sense “mythic,” not that it speaks of the untrue but rather of the unknowable.

So to answer my question, it would be entirely correct to say that God “wrote” genesis since He was the only one around at the time. But I also believe it was the earliest writers of the Pentateuch who received the revelation of God and passed it faithfully to us. For me, the most important thing is that God the Holy Spirit can speak directly to us via the Scripture in order to know Him and, in so doing, begin to know ourselves. 


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I am not alone

I ran across this site in the comments threads and am happy to post a link.

Not exactly what this site is about but close, and I recommend it as a well written and thoroughly researched defense of Christian faith and reason.


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This post concerns a comment by a reader “John” of I quote:

First of all I certainly am against killing of the innocent. The timing of the abortion (how far along the pregnancy is) is important to me. I certainly am against late term abortions.

I have invited him here to discuss this in a more temperate atmosphere.

Here are a few questions that I need clarified if we are to have an intelligent debate on the subject.

  1. Why are you “against late term abortions?”
  2.  Is your opposition based on objective principles or are you just uncomfortable with the practice?
  3.  Do you believe there is a right to an abortion that ends when it becomes ” late term” or is this right absolute?

What do you say?

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The Elephant in the Sanctuary

Respect for another’s beliefs is impossible if one does not in fact know what the other believes. If this exercise is ever to fill a need, then it is necessary that we approach boldly those things on which we are most divided.

My evangelical brothers would of course point to things like salvation through works and the “worship” of Mary, but these things are trivialities compared to the amputation of the very center of Christian worship. I am referring to the denial of the True Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Here we find evangelicals backed into a corner. The discussion usually focuses on all the things that Catholics do that aren’t in the Bible, but when it come to the True Presence we are suddenly told that the clear sense of Scripture is not in fact saying what it appears to be saying. You may thank John Calvin for that. Martin Luther had no problem with it, although his enmity toward Rome may have compelled him to find a middle ground, namely consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation. I sincerely doubt that any Bible believing evangelical could accept either one.

Scripture clearly shows that Jesus was emphatically not speaking metaphorically when He said that unless you drink His blood and eat His flesh you have no part in Him. The Patristic texts also show that it was central part of Christian worship less than a century after Jesus’ death. There are plenty of resources outside this blog if anyone cares to look them up. That’s not my purpose here.

The point of this post is to raise two very important points:

1. If Jesus was, in fact, speaking in a metaphor, where else in all of scripture does he say “this” is “me?” There are numerous examples of His use of metaphors which evangelicals use to buttress the argument that this was not different. “I am the door…” Was Jesus saying He was a door? Of course not. Same thing with “I am the vine..” “I am the Way..” etc. But there is no other passage that says “this is me” or “this is my.” Metaphors don’t work that way. One may say to one’s beloved “Your hair is golden flax,” but if you say “this golden flax is your hair” the definite pronoun means that golden flax is the thing present and the hair is present as well. That is not a metaphor. So when Jesus says with respect to the bread He is holding in His hand, “This is my body..” he is saying that the bread is a real and present thing and it is referring to His real and present body. This is no metaphor.

2. The Eucharist had been the center of Christian worship for centuries. Why, them did the Reformers attack that first? Were they scandalized by its implications? If so they were in familiar company:

John 6:60, 66
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

When I was an evangelical Protestant, I knew nothing of the true meaning of the Mass. I had a vague sense that it was all a bunch of meaningless ritual, no different in kind from the frankly arbitrary nature of evangelical worship. When I began to educate myself as to what Catholics actually believed, I was forced to see the Eucharist as either a horrendous abomination or else the very center and focus of Christian worship and piety. 

That is the challenge I place before my readers: either prove that it is an abomination or admit that it is what the Lord truly intended. There is no middle ground.

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Permabear rants

Haha you folks are a bunch of gullible idiots. Shame on this “news” site for deliberately misrepresenting the president’s quote to get its uneducated reader base all fired up. Reaffirming a commitment to
“a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters”
and that
“The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families, and their doctors”
does not equate at all to a “commitment to abortion”. How stupid can you people get? Grow up. 

Judging by your other comments, it is almost a certainty that I am better educated, more successful, and innately more intelligent than you’ll ever be. Given this, if you believe that I am stupid, I shudder to hear how lowly your opinions are of yourself, assuming you perceive a proportional relative comparison. I also like how you’re incapable of presenting a proper rebuttal that could have included facts, quotes, or even some sort of logic-based argument. Typical.

“Permabear Hunter” on

Here’s my response and an invitation to take it outside:

This posting is about to get the kind of attention it shouldn’t deserve.

1. “a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters”. I’m 100% with you on that. Such as home schooling, what we pack in our children’s lunch boxes, how we choose our medical care, how we choose to defend our homes. Stuff like that. Obama has no problem intruding when it supports his agenda.

2. “The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions
best made between women, their families, and their doctors” Couldn’t agree more. The Constitution grants the states sole discretion into matters of this type.Yet Roe tramples on the rights of states to protect its citizens from an over-reaching federal government.

But this nonsense about “a decision between a woman and her doctor” is entirely irrelevant. A woman and her doctor are not protected if they plan to rob a bank or kill a toddler. So it all boils down to what they are, in fact, deciding to do. And if one believes, as I do, that a fetus is a person entitled to protection under the law, then a criminal conspiracy has no constitutional protection. The ENTIRE argument regarding abortion hinges on that one question and nothing else.

And later:

If you want to take this off line, comment on my blog I’ll provide you with all the intelligent discussion you crave.

Will (s)he show up? Or am I not well educated, intelligent and successful enough to engage?


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Evangelical idol destroyed by fire

Our friends at have posted this article:

Apparently statues of Jesus are considered “idols” by that web site.

Here’s another idol:

God must have been displeased because this evangelical idol was destroyed by lightning from heaven on June 5, 2010.

It has since been replaced by this idol:

Apparently only Catholic statues are considered idols.

I’m obviously being sarcastic, but I wonder if being sarcastic is worse than being hostile and self-righteous. It probably is.

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The Patristic Gap

How many of my evangelical readers have read any of the Church Fathers? The period during which they wrote, and during which much fundamental doctrine was hammered out, is referred to as the patristic period. And keep in mind that the patristic period could be said to have begun with the Resurrection. We have no problem reading Acts, or Paul’s writings for example, but many evangelicals seem to act as if nothing written after Paul and Revelation has any significance. No Augustine, no Justin Martyr, none of the early councils. And. most surprisingly, no Ignatius of Antioch. Here was a man who was appointed by Peter as bishop of Antioch and was himself a disciple of John, yet who is disregarded almost entirely in evangelical teaching. Is it possible that nothing he said was important to the life of the Church?

It would not be too much of a stretch to say that the patristic writings are ignored by evangelicals because they are too “Catholic.” In fact, it is quite clear that many of the “unbiblical” practices of the Catholic Church were already an established part of Christian worship in the first and second centuries.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at some point the patristic writings took the Church away from the simplicity of the Gospel and had become by then distorted by the accretions of the “traditions of men.” We would therefore have to ask ourselves when exactly did that occur. Did the Gospel message get lost immediately after the death of the last Apostle only to be rediscovered by the Reformers fifteen centuries later? Or should we  assume that the Church lost her way gradually and that the earliest writings may shed some light on Christian practice soon after Jesus’ death. If so, then we are forced to take seriously the writings of those who were themselves disciples of the Apostles.

Here is my proposition: let us discuss what aspects of Catholic and evangelical theology and practice best conform to the earliest writings of the Church and to the writings of the Reformers. Where did Catholicism lose its way? Where did the Reformation get it right and where did it get it wrong? How closely to the teachings of the first Protestants does evangelical worship adhere? These are things we must discuss without rancor and with open hearts and minds.

I was raised an evangelical and I was led to the Roman Catholic Church. There are many, many testimonies of those who have taken a similar path, just as there are those who feel that God led them in the opposite direction. Let’s discuss their testimonies and see what understanding we can glean from them.

I still have some lingering doubts about the Catholic Church just as I had doubts about Protestantism. I’m perfectly willing to listen to those who have discovered the truth and have no doubts at all. Talk to me and share the truth. I am strongly of the opinion that as each of us draw closer to the true God we inevitably draw closer to one another.

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Who owns the Bible?

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 2 Peter 1:20 – King James Version (KJV)

Any reader of knows that the debates in the comments are almost always loaded with scriptural references that “prove” the writers’ points. As you can see, I just did it myself.

If we believe that the Bible itself is the final word on sound doctrine, we are still left with a dilemma: no text, including scripture, can speak authoritatively about it’s own veracity. In other words, if I say “Everything I say is true,” I have not proven in any way that “everything I say is true.” If I truly never utter a falsehood, then that statement is true. If, on the other hand, I say untrue things at times then that statement is false, and the text offers no clue as to which case is correct. This argument in no way implies that the reliability of a text can’t be determined by other means, only that the text itself can’t be a deciding factor.

We take it on faith that the scripture is the inspired Word of God manifested through the writings of men filled with the Spirit of God. And we justify this faith because “we know in our hearts” that the Word of God is true. We believe, for instance, that God’s word was given to the prophets by inspiration:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hebrews 1:1 – King James Version (KJV)

That, of course, raises another very thorny issue. If every Protestant Evangelical (and from now I will use the term “evangelical” to mean that, even though there are evangelical Catholics) “rightly divides the word of truth,” then we would expect there to be only one true bible-believing church set apart from that great Whore of Babylon. Of course there are a fairly large number of evangelical denominations which disagree on some issues but not on the major ones. Here is a link to an article that addresses that very well from an evangelical standpoint.  

There are really only two major issues dividing Catholic from Protestants: “sola scriptura” (the Bible alone as the true source of all Christian doctrine) and sola fide (justification through faith alone). And actually sola fide is itself a consequence of sola scriptura. Every other doctrinal disagreement stems from that as well. So we really can’t have a dialog until we come to some understanding of who, in fact, “owns” the Bible.

Again, here’s a quote from the website I referenced earlier (and it’s a pretty good one):

The truth is that both Roman Catholics and Protestants must, in the end, rely upon their reasoning abilities (to choose their authority) and their interpretive skills (to understand what that authority teaches) in order to determine what they will believe. Protestants are simply more willing to admit that this is the case.

I disagree that Protestants are inherently more willing to do that. I see “blind obedience” on both sides of the divide and I also see many Catholics and as well as evangelicals who confront the issue of the Magisterium (traditions of men) head on. But the point is well made. In the end it is Reason informed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that matters. We do “see in part” and “know in part.” And although we may be justified by faith, we still retain the taint of original sin that obscures our understanding.
Any discussion of scripture must inevitably confront the issue of just how the Bible came into being. And while I believe that its writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit, I suspect that not all of them would have made the claim of innerancy at the time they were writing. Books were included in the Bible (or what is called the canon of scripture) because they conformed to the teaching of the Church at that time. And “that time” was many decades (if not centuries) after the last Apostles died.

 So the composition of the Bible is, in a very real sense, a reflection of what the Church taught at the time the canon was fixed. (This is a very complex history and beyond the scope of this blog.) Or to put it another way, and in a way that is bound to be troubling to fans of sola scriptura, it was the teaching tradition of the Church combined with the inspired writings that formed the “deposit of faith” which Catholics refer to as the Magisterium.

I believe it is actually that way today. No scripture is of any private interpretation. Catholics and evangelicals both understand the necessity of studying scripture in the context of a larger faith community. Evangelicals have their own “magisterium” but it is so woven into the fabric of their religious culture that it’s taken for granted. There is a tradition of teaching stretching back to the Reformation that defines evangelical theology but which no evangelical would dare call “the traditions of men.” (That phrase alone will be the subject of another probably lengthy blog.)

So, who owns the Bible? Who gets to interpret what it really says? No one, if by “really” you mean defining absolutely unassailable truth. Yet, at the same time, it belongs to everyone who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord. And as unpalatable as it may seem to some, that includes Roman Catholics. Thus the title of my blog. Catholics believe the Bible, they have always believed the Bible and they always will. And the sooner we begin to understand that the world is drawing strength from our divisions, the sooner we will stop this petty name-calling and get down to spreading the Gospel.

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Are we as one?

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. – John 17:20-23

I have been moved to create this blog as a counterpoint to the heated and, dare I say, often vitriolic posts in regarding Roman Catholics. Sadly, the free-for-all atmosphere of the comments arena does not lend itself to the dispassionate and reasoned discussion we need if we are ever to achieve Jesus’ prayer that we “be as one.”

I think perfect Christian unity is not something that we, as fallen people, will ever achieve in this world. But I do believe that there exists common ground where it is not necessary to label as apostate other devout Christians. I do not think for a moment that unity means Protestants coming back to Rome or Catholics forsaking the Eucharist.

I do think that unity means that the “world may know that thou hast sent me”. Our unity in Christ is the face of Christ to the world. What face are we showing? It’s bad enough that there is such rancor between Catholics and evangelicals. How much worse that even evangelicals are seen occasionally attacking each other over doctrinal issues.

I was raised in an evangelical family and, in spite of my youthful rebellion, returned to it as an adult. I was baptized in a full-gospel church and received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I was very opposed the the Roman Catholic Church and never in a million years thought that I would one day belong. While debating with a Catholic friend about our different doctrines she challenged me to actually read the Catechism. It was shocking to find that it differed from Protestant doctrine in surprisingly few places. I was already a student of the bible but returned to it with a desire to refute Catholic doctrine. I was only partially successful.

I now believe firmly that sincere evangelicals stand on solid theological ground. I also firmly believe that sincere Catholics likewise have a scripturally sound basis for their beliefs. How is this possible? 

It is because we all see in part and we all know in part. We will never be in total agreement until we see Him as He is. For now it will have to be enough that I can accept the possible truth of your beliefs without having to adopt them, and you mine. Anything less and the world has already triumphed.

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