God, Time & the Chosen People

Nice grand title for a small but interesting idea.
I was skimming through the papal comments about Evolution (as discussed in Mark Brumley’s “The Mystery of Human Origins: Which theories are compatible with Catholic faith?” on http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/) when a sudden concatenation of thoughts led to this: God is said to have chosen a people, at a certain point in time – the descendants of Abraham.
Before that moment of choice, we assume He had not yet made it. We see a God who is beyond and outside of time, who intervenes in history at certain points. So why not an intervention to create an …Omniverse, since we now know there are many Universes. Bang!
Then a long long cup of celestial tea, then a decision: which species, on which planet? Humanity. The human soul is created in God’s image and placed in this primordial garden, presumably somewhere on the African Savannah in homo quiensabiensis. Actually, from a paleontological point of view God’s most creative act, from our point of view, happened in the so-called Pre-Cambrian explosion, when all surviving forms of multi-celled life, and many others which did not, emerged in a once-only planetary biological flowering season.

With the body, the soul. After the soul, the possibility of behaving in a certain way, or not. The story of Genesis is very interesting on this point because it clearly suggests that God did not know, or at least did not preordain, which way the moral wind would blow. But Eve ate the apple and Cain slew Abel. No suggestion of even a Divine Nudge, much less a constant hand on the tiller.

And so, eventually, the choice of people, i.e. the descendants of Abraham.

The whole thing is shot through with events in time and space which expose the weakness because time and space are themselves created things.

Which brings me to the point. I believe that there are times in Scripture when Christ, who most of the time talked in a way which left little confusion in the minds of his apostles if not all his followers, occasionally made a point of talking specifically to us, i.e. modern, post-Einstein man.

What can the Jews and Pharisees possibly have made of the statement ‘Before Abraham was, I am?” It is just nonsense, at most a prod in the mental plexus like a Zen koan. Unless you know that there is such a perfectly real, formed thing as a time-space continuum and can therefore conceive of existence and essence outside time and space that statement makes no sense. We can of course, and understand easily that Christ was declaring HIs divinity to be outside of space and time. Jesus’ coevals couldn’t.

Indeed, this raises what is for me the most critical question in the gospels, which is to guess when Jesus was speaking to his specific time and place and when he was not. This is why I have a very un-Catholic view on divorce. Jesus prefaced His remark about this by making reference to the Mosaic Covenant, in which divorce was very easy. He said something like, “When a man and a woman come together they are one flesh, one spirit,” and that a divorced man sleeping with, or even wanting, another woman was an adulterer. He referred to the Jews using Moses’ phrase, calling them ‘a stiff-necked people.” In other words, He was setting his strictures in his current social context. Also he had plenty of advice for slaves and masters. He didn’t rail against slavery, I assume because by doing so He would have simply alienated everyone and His message would not have been heard.

However, there is also a timeless aspect to his ‘one flesh, one spirit’ message exposed by the reverse corollary to that comment, which is, implicitly, that if a man and a woman come together and are not one flesh, one spirit, then they are not truly together, or married as we now say. The woman who marries a man because she rather likes him and he is rich, or a man who marries a woman because he has the raging hots for her and the marriage is a way of having sex with her on tap are not really married. Wisely, the Church recognises this and grants annulments, something I used to consider an act of scandalous sophistry. In the Coptic Church this doesn’t happen, because the priest won’t marry a couple without a long period, commonly one or two years, of examination and instruction. A skilled priest will winkle out all the unworthy motives in that time.


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