Have Love for One Another

Charity trumps points of disagreement

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Community Faith

Yesterday in the public library I had a challenging conversation with a Protestant evangelical friend who holds the firm belief that the Bible is all she needs to live a holy life (Sola Scriptura). Her private interpretations of Scripture are the result of inward counsel and the Sunday preaching of her Calvinist pastor. Many Protestants like her have spent untold hours coloring key Bible passages with magic markers and memorizing chapter references. She knows Scripture backwards and forwards, better than anyone I’ve met amongst the Catholic laity.

She holds firm to her literal interpretation of Genesis. In her view the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old― as some Jewish biblical scholars figure ― despite abundant scientific evidence that it’s at least 4.5 billion years old (using the radiometric dating of rocks on Earth and the Moon). She won’t allow scientific contradictions. Whenever I tried to submit such evidence, she’d quickly interrupt me. She can’t permit cracks in the buttressed dam that Protestants have carefully erected to retain their fundamentalism.

On the question of Adam and Eve, her position is literal whereas mine is not. I proposed the evolution of primitive life forms into naked apes that at some point presented as homo sapiens. I speculated that we humans eventually developed brain power sufficient to conceive of God and actuate a moral conscience. I speculated that Adam and Eve would eventually be traced back through our matriarchal mitochondria (mtDNA) to one singular psychic breakthrough, maybe some 2.5 million years ago. Earth had been formed and dinosaurs dead, way before mankind.

Again, she shook her head in disagreement, convinced that humans and dinosaurs walked together on Earth only 10,000 years ago, and that dinosaurs could not have died before the original sin of Adam and Eve had cursed all life with physiological death.

We hadn’t broached the delicate subject of monogenism versus polygenism, the argument of whether we humans came from one set of parents or a tribe. Her belief system would have it that we came from one solitary and unique couple, Adam and Eve. But the Catholic Church remains, in the words of Pope John Paul II, open to “theories of evolution.”

We hugged and parted as dear friends, despite our disagreement. After all, what does it matter how old the Earth is, or who our original parents are? To agree on a literal or figurative interpretation of Scripture is unimportant if we strive for sanctity and, in doing so, have love for one another.

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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