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Last night the BBC’s biblical scholar made a crucial and sloppy mistake about Christian belief

Isn’t the BBC supposed to educate? Why, then, is it spreading ignorance in this way?

By on Thursday, 31 March 2011

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by Wenzel Peter

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by Wenzel Peter

I had resolved not to watch Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s third programme on The Bible’s Hidden Secrets, entitled The Real Garden of Eden, but in the end the temptation to stay away from the BBC iPlayer was simply too much to resist.

I would love to provide a point by point refutation of the doctor’s thesis that the Garden of Eden was in fact on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a real place, and that Adam was a historical kingly personage, and the Fall an allegory of the sack of Jerusalem, but alas, there is neither time nor space for that. Life is too short. And really, if she had been in Dan Brown territory last week, the good doctor was in Erich von Däniken territory this week. Where was the hard evidence for these extraordinary claims? And why was there no mention of the evidence that rules it out? After all, unless a lot has changed in Biblical scholarship since I was at the Gregorian University, sitting at the feet of Professor Gianluigi Prato, everyone knows that the Eden story is Babylonian in origin and that it was written down in the time of King Solomon and the so-called “Solomonic enlightenment”) (circa 900 BC), which was several hundred years before the first sack of Jerusalem in 597 BC.

But this sort of nonsense all springs from the basic error of ignoring what the text says in favour of what I think it ought to say – something I was severely told off for by my English teacher as an A-level student.

But what I really want to say to the doctor is that she is guilty of attributing indiscriminately to Christians doctrines that many Christians do not hold. Twice we were told that the Eden story was the basis for the belief that humanity is “fundamentally bad”. That sounds great, but no Catholic would ever claim that humanity is fundamentally bad, for no Catholic believes that. (Some Protestants may do so, but I can leave them to fight their own corner.) Belief in original sin means that we all have a tendency to do wrong and commit sin; it does not mean that we are completely corrupted. The Catechism (articles 410-412) is very clear on this: “After his fall, man was not abandoned by God,” it says.

Why is this important? Well, if one leaves the doctor’s statement that we think humanity fundamentally bad, we seemingly assent to the foundational attack on faith made by Nietzsche, namely that belief in God necessarily entails the denigration of humanity, and that the more you love God the less you care about the human race. It is this Nietzschean idea that is the foundation of the unjustified claim that the Catholic Church is “the enemy of humanity”.

But this is simply false: the more you believe in God the more you will value humanity as his creation, and as the people called to dialogue with him.

The assertion that the Eden story is the source of this belief in human depravity also contradicts the text of Genesis, for, if you remember, God shows mercy to our first parents. He clothes their nakedness, and though they are put out of the Garden, this is not necessarily a disaster, as the closing words of Milton’s Paradise Lost show:

Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.

The doctor’s error is something that would guarantee her a fail at A-level, at least if I were marking her paper – it is an elementary, careless mistake, and it shows that the BBC does not employ fact checkers; it is another sign of the sloppiness of our age, and in particular the way that religion is routinely misrepresented by people who ought to know better. After all, isn’t one of the BBC’s purposes to educate? Why, then, is it spreading ignorance in this way?

One last point: the doctor also asserted that the Eden story has had a negative impact on women and led to their suppression. I am prepared to accept this preliminary thesis. I agree, Eve is not the best standard bearer for women. But can someone, somewhere, please find me a single shred of evidence that links the Eden story to an actual occasion where women have been treated badly? Can it be proved? Is there any hard evidence for this view at all? Because if it cannot be verified then it is yet another worthless supposition.

  • Kripamoya Das

    Unfortunately, religion itself and, by extension, the writings that act as its foundation, is under repeated attack by academics. It is highly fashionable, whether in the university, the dinner party, or the popular media, to attribute all modern ills to ‘religion.’ The academic that happens to believe in anything that is not immdeiately provable certainly risks his/her professional credibility.

  • Memory-of-Forever

    so, according to this enlightened being Stavropoulos, “there is no enough evidence for King David”, but she supposedly has evidence for Adam, and the fall being the sack?? she is a little revolutionary something now isn’t she? quick, everybody bow to her, she says whatever she can say to mock religion! you should see the party they’re throwing for her on Richard Dawkins’ website!! aaah, I used to actually respect his views, and those of militant atheists (of course normal atheists are as lovable as anyone could be), but now, the hypocrisy, the lies, the constant accusation, the saying that religion alienates you, while it is what they are doing to religious people, etc…they hate those they accuse of hatred, man they lost credibility. Even if I were to become atheist, I know which “side” I would love more. Everything good in my life, every good moral in me, has been taught by the religious side, while the atheist side only tells me:” whine about how God is bad if He exists, about how religion ruined the world, at the same time do whatever you like, no boundaries, and still blame it on everyone else.” I am far from being perfect, whether Christian or atheist, but I know who I aim to be like, and it is definitely not the atheists.

  • Martin

    Taking your last point, I have to admit that i have never had eve presented to me as a Bad example of a woman.

    As far as we know, she only sinned once and through both Adam and Eve we are all here today. Without them there would be no us to whinge about them.

    Its not as if you can blame Eve for sinning alone, Adam was right next to her.

    The creation of eve actual presents a beautiful picture of Human marriage, being made from Adams rib it shows how a Man should honour his wife:

    She should be welcome under his arm for protection, an intimate part of his make up and constantly close to his heart. Without her he should feel less than whole and with her totally complete. She should have nothing to fear from the outside world and should be as confident as he is when they face the world together.

  • Mary Kochan

    We cannot repeat enough that humanity is fundamentally good (though flawed) and made in the iamge of God. Not in a time when that image is under such a virulent demonic attack. The devil wants us to detest ourselves and one another as he detests us, so that we can no longer even imagine the love of God.

  • brian morris

    I am surprised that anyone is surprised at the malevolent ignorance of the BBC about religion…it is run by bourgeois liberals who hate all religion,and Ctholicism in particular.

  • Savonarola

    Alexander Lucie-Smith writes, ‘no Catholic would ever claim that humanity is fundamentally bad, for no Catholic believes that. (Some Protestants may do so, but I can leave them to fight their own corner.) Belief in original sin means that we all have a tendency to do wrong and commit sin; it does not mean that we are completely corrupted. The Catechism (articles 410-412) is very clear on this: “After his fall, man was not abandoned by God,” it says.’ This may strictly be true in an abstract sense, but what is clear to me from much experience of giving spiritual direction is that many Catholics and other Christians have been given through their religion the impression that their humanity does have something fundamentally bad about it. They have had a God of love preached to them, but in practice have been shown a hateful judging condemning God, one impossible to love, who makes them feel guilty simply for being human and especially for being a sexual human being. Religion has been presented them to as a matter of rules and regulations, rewards and punishments (the other day a prayer in the mass spoke of “the reward of eternal life”), in blatant contradiction to the Gospel of Christ.
    Dr. Stravrakapoulou is obviously a serious scholar whose programmes I found very interesting, though not necessarily agreeing with everything or even much that she said. If she thinks (and she is by no means alone in this) that Catholics think humanity is completely corrupted, maybe the Church needs to consider if it is really is presenting its beliefs accurately before blithely dismissing her views.

  • Petuniabean

    I have purposely not watched one minute of this programme on the “Bible’s Buried Secrets”. Having heard a trailer about it I realised that Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou was going to expound on a subject about which, if she knows anything at all, she has an inbuilt prejudice and an unrealistic imagination. Having read Father Alexander’s comments I am so glad that I have not watched any of this programme.
    By the way, is it true that the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are considering making St. Valentine’s Day a Holy Day of Obligation?

  • Weary Convert

    I cannot give chapter and verse without delving through my library but I have a very clear impression that the “sin ” of poor Eve was regularly used in earlier times – certainly by clerics in the Middle Ages, a.k.a. the Age of Faith – to damn women as the sex responsible for the Fall and still always out to snare men with their wiles, and hence should be treated accordingly. Perhaps someone else can do some research as I really find the whole “Fall of Man” nonsense not worth the effort! However, someone did try to justify the tale as some form of explanation for an aboriginal catastrophe at the beginnign of man’s history. Assuming however we are the result of an evolutionary process from pre-homo sapiens, it is hardly likely that we would ever have been perfect anyway.

  • Tiggy

    Educate? The BBC? Oh please Father where have you been?They are only interested in their own narrow agenda.

  • Tiggy

    Cannot wait for their series on the stories in The Koran. Will be a long wait I suspect.

  • Auricularis

    But that is where you are slightly wrong: they absolutely love Islam. Hence why they will never be a programme critiquing the Quran or about how their so-called “prophet” had a penchant for girls of a rather young age.

  • Peter

    Anyone who stupidly relies on the BBC for religious knowledge deserves to be misled.

  • Peter

    If man were fundamentally bad and completely corrupted, why would God value man so much as to become one of us and suffer and die for us?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your lucid demolition, Father. Sadly, this is par for the course from a BBC which is in thrall to the secular liberal establishment. The default position of the great and good who influence every aspect of our society is that men and women of faith are deluded fools, that any semi-cogent critique of religion is to be encouraged on the grounds of ‘a debate’, that ‘faith communities’ may never be represented on the airwaves by bigots (that is, orthodox believers), and that all informed people of goodwill will, of necessity, approve of the liberal consensus. ‘Traditionalists’ are occasionally put in the stocks, but seldom listened to with any respect. Why respect something that you have already deemed to be worthless because it does not conform to your own standards of truth?

    The paradox of contemporary ‘liberalism’ is that it emulates some of the worst features of intellectual fascism: the mockery and exclusion of alternative voices, and the establishment of a new orthodoxy from which one may not depart.

    Educated, orthodox, reflective Christians must persevere in standing out against this new variant of persecution. We are safe ‘game’ of course: the secular elite does not dare to treat radical Islam on the same terms. And Catholicism is treated worst of all. Then again, it is a form of compliment: we must be doing something right to elicit such a response.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Well, that is interesting… but chapter and verse would be useful. Now you come to mention it, I too have vaguely heard that some medeival preachers did use the Eve-story as a stick with which to beat contemporary women, but one sympathises with the weariness that comes over the Convert at the thought of having to wade through the sermons, for example, of Bernard of Clairvaux. But I think my fundamental point remains – it is simply too easy to couple Christinity with hatred of women or the flesh, bypassing any in depth argument on the matter. There ought to be no short cuts (or short circuits) in theology.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    What you say is correct, Savonarola: if Dr Stavrokopoulou is misprepresenting the Church’s teaching, then perhaps this is because the Church itself is not presenting that teaching effectively. I could not agree more.

    However, this does not absolve the doctor or any other scholar from presenting evidence for their views, and this she did not do. The idea that Christains see humanity as fundamentally bad was presented without nuance, and presented as something beyond argument. Of course this is parlty the fault of the medium of television, which is tailored to sound bites rather than subtlety. Theology is not simple and should resist reductionism – that is what I hope both you and I can agree on – especially when such simplistic approaches do such untold harm.

  • In Our Times

    As women have been historically so conditioned to silence & obedience it is hardly surprising there isn’t much chapter & verse ‘hard evidence’ for abuse &/or oppression. (I Cor 14: 34, 35, Timothy 2.13-14, Timothy 2.11-12, Ephesians 5.22-24 etc…). But we know that both misogyny & superiority over women can be found in most of the major world religions, so to single out Christianity particularly would indeed be unfair. (The default guilt/salvation cycle within Christianity cannot really be refuted though, surely? And the perpetuation of this cycle, we can see clearly, even now, in the churches position & judgements regarding “deplorable” homosexual unions & marriage. Shaming oneself whilst shaming others etc…).

    I do agree that “theology is not simple and should resist reductionism”. (I read a scientific paper more or less reducing The Suffragettes to women as having ADHD & the Roman Catholics as having OCD. Not particularly helpful either.) But I also feel it needs to take very seriously the “untold harm” it can actually still do.

  • In Our Times

    Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou has as much entitlement to her “imagination” as the Old Testament prophets did!

  • Jonbindloss

    You do know that it’s a made-up story don’t you?

  • Martin

    Personally (whilst i know other veiws exist within the church) I bow to Jesus’s knowledge of events over my own.

    For example:

    Matt 19.4 – Jesus seems to be taking the Genesis account literally in order to give weight to his reason why individuals should not divorce or seperate. If it didnt happen then his arguement is based on a none event.

    Matt 23.35 – Jesus refers to the murder of rightous Abel (again if it didnt happen, the context is meaningless).

    Matt 24.37 Refering to the time of his return, he said it will be simular to the time of Noah. Again, if only based on a story, meaningless.

    Luke 17.27 Again Jesus here is refering to the comng kingdom and relates it to the time of Noah and the Flood. (Genesis)

    Luke 17.28 Jesus refers to the Days of Lot (again from Genesis)

    Luke 17.29 Jesus refers to the literal destruction of Sodom (again Genesis).

    For me, if you are not a Christian then i would not be to concerned with the above as it meaningless when compared to the Resurrection Account. It is your view of this that will have eternally consequences and should be examined first.

    For a Catholic or a Christian however, whilst i understand that many different views on Genesis exist, (God Bless them all), we can confidently proclaim:

    ……..I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light. Begotten not made, one in Being with the Father.
    Through Him all things were made……………..

    Having been there at the begining we can have confidence that when Jesus quotes something, it is authoritive in the sense that he knows all and has seen all.

    If you are a Christian, i will respect your view if it wavers from mine, but may claim in this case to a greater hold on the Creed than you.

    If you are not a Christain, i would encourage you to forget the arguement and concentrate on the basis of truth in the Easter account. This IS the Story of Christianity in a nutshell.

    God bless

  • Anonymous

    I think the BBC’s respect for Islam has more to do with a wish not to be separated from their heads rather than any love or affection for the religion itself.

  • Martin

    Whilst you maybe indeed right about individuals using the account of Genesis in order to oppress others or further their view point, it doesnt make them right in doing so or indeed the account of Genesis any less true because they do so.

    Your final point is the exact reason why there is so much effort being put into demonising any view that Genesis maybe correct. It destroys the reason for Jesus and destroys faith in the Word of God.

    Anyone now who holds such views are normally ridiculed, marginalised and pushed to the idiot fringe. The funny thing is, a lot of individuals who hold these veiws are very well qualifed, often more than the people who critise them.

    Even in the Church people are embarrased if the Creation debate starts in ernest.

    But yes you hit the nail on the head.

    If we were never originally perfect (innocent), then there was no original state of innocents to fall from. If we had never fallen, then there was no ideal state to return to. We are not accountable we are only doing what we were programmed/created to do?

    I repeat, what was the reason of Jesus? If you’ve read the Bible, you will find Genesis and Revelation Key. It summarises the loss of God’s presence and the eventual return of God’s literal presence. It is paradise regained. Man reunited with God. With out either of these books, the bible would hardly make sense.

    I understand the pressures of people who follow evolution. They seem to have all the answers, all the great minds on their side and all the scientific evidence in their favour.

    The reality is that they dont. Both view points simply have Evidence and that Evidence is viewed through the lenses of their view point.

    A problem is that the majority of evolutionists are normally atheists and as such will never view the evidence accounting for God. He must not exist in or around anything to do with evolution. To do so would shatter their Faith.

    I dont intend to alter your viewpoint here, but the end result of following Evolution can be the lowering of the view of Scripture to simply stories. Nothing must ever indicate or substantiate the Genesis account as real.

    As a bit of a test…At what point in the old testimant account does it become literal? which are the first real people that we meet in the Bible? Why did Jesus have to come? Do we disregard any other books of the Bible based on Genesis being obsolete?

    Id be interested in your thoughts

    God Bless

  • guest -m

    You are attacking straw man…..:D



    I know that there is no lie that catholic can abstain from telling to defend his stupid faith… the problem is that this is simply more that I can bear…….Doctor asserted that humanity is “FUNDAMENTALLY bad”…while you oppose the idea that it is “COMPLETELY corrupted”…..There is fine line between those two words written in capitals..Don’t you think?

    “Fundamentally” according to

    has two meanings:

    1. in a way that affects the basis or essentials; utterly

    the terms of engagement have been fundamentally altered

    2. (sentence modifier) in essence; at heart

    The first meaning is preferable ’cause used expression is not a sentence to be modified. But even the first meaning is ambiguous – terms of agrement need not to be changed Totally to be fundamentally changed – One doesn’t need to change every term…Only some of them, but this partial change may affect the whole in a Fundamental way……

    So “FUNDAMENTALLY bad” means not completely bad -It means “BAD IN A WAY THAT AFFECTS THE BASIS OR ESSENTIALS”
    It means that humans are bad “in essence” -that their nature is corrupted

    This is perfectly in accordance with the doctrine of original sin. It means that humans, while not completely bad, are still rotten in their nature (hence rotten in essentials -hence fundamentally rotten)….

    They have essential disposition to do bad things -that cannot be eliminated by natural means….Only supernatural occurence (existence of Great Tooth Fairy probably its revelation) can ( along with individual will) direct human to salvation that is conceived as supernatural gift (possibly partially earned) of GTF that transfigures human nature – nature that has SOME ( but not ALL) of its roots rotten – and this is why it is fundamentally rotten……’Cause design of a building does not need to be COMPLETELY fucked up to be fundamentally flaved…..It is perfectly enough that one of its fundaments is badly made….

    So it seems your article is a great peace of junk- you used half of it to criticize statement that -applying Principle of Charity – can be interpreted in a way that is consisted with the church doctrine…..

    In fact you catholics seem to be pathetic here…some here wrote that humans can not be fundamentally flawed cause god would not be eager to die for such a person…..The problem is that it can be perfectly rationalized in your Fair….discourse as proof for god’s mercy….

    I’d also like to defeat a guy you unjustly attacked (much the same as the doctor)—As far as I know Nietzsche viewed God as causing denigration of human but exactly because the interpretation of OS doctrine I presented……

    Nietzsche thought that christianity is ridden by guilt….that christians feel guilty because of the fact they exist…..And such thinking is indeed fueled by the OS doctrine….Cause according to it- human is – at start – a corrupted entity and only grace of GTF can make him “ethically and existentially fulffilled”……

    THe denigration occurs because according to Christianity human is fundamentally dependended on GTF and has no being of its own…..And because human can not be satisfied with himself unless receive the grace of GTF for which he/she should be thankful for……….

    This is real criticism of Nietzsche -which still valid today as it was in XIX century…….Nietzsche is not about guys like Jerry Falwell -he hits principles of christian life stance…….
    So I advice to criticise dr. Stavropoulos better….She may be wrong but you himself did not better…….You lost half of review for nothing…..also the other half is flawed cause Eve was definitely presented is old times as “more corrupted” human……Your statement that you do not know good evidence for that is compromising, cause one can learn about such an evidence even from wikipedia…..AND NO -IT IS NOT JUST WIKI -THERE ARE several sources that substantiate it….

    Drawing upon the statement in II Cor., xi, 3, where reference is made to her deception by the serpent, and in I Tim., ii, 13-4, where the Apostle enjoins submission and silence upon women, arguing that “Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression”, because Eve had tempted Adam to eat of the fatal fruit, some early Fathers of the Church held her and all subsequent women to be the first sinners, and especially responsible for the Fall because of the sin of Eve. She was also called “the lance of the demon”, “the road of iniquity” “the sting of the scorpion”, “a daughter of falsehood, the sentinel of Hell”, “the enemy of peace” and “of the wild beast, the most dangerous.” “You are the devil’s gateway,” Tertullian told his female listeners in the early 2nd century, and went on to explain that all women were responsible for the death of Christ: “On account of your desert – that is, death – even the Son of God had to die.”

    Please note that there is a link to Tertulian text here…so there is a substantiation….

    So to sum up -I do not know whether dr. S is right…Maybe she is poor academician….but your criticism is a complete academic disaster …poor analysis, lack of any charity of interpretation ,focusing on not important matters, and -last but not least -ignorance……..

  • Feminist

    I find this a very sane response. I watched the final programme in the series and lost patience with it because of the level of vague generalisation: assertion presented as research; failure to grasp that being a Christian doesn’t wipe out our intellect but that purely intellectual analysis misrepresents us as human beings. It’s plain to me that evolution provides the best possible explanation of ‘original sin’ – animals are without morality but with emotion and response. We’re en route, still – we are in the image of God but not God. We are self-conscious and we struggle with being the inheritors of our mammal ancestors. We carry within us the viciousness of dolphins when they torment victims – only they aren’t vicious because their behaviour is instinctive but ours is more than instinctive. It’s complex, becoming human in the image of God/Christ/Spirit. Francesca S is naive. I don’t think the BBC is biased – I’m a BBC fan. It was good TV; just theologically inane.

  • hassan

    Had to post a comment. For a woman who studied at undergrad and doctorate level at Oxford SHE…IS…THICK…AS…CHIPS! Or she is just a blatant lier for the sake of sensationalist television? Wouldn’t suprise me, the bbc did once refuse to show a series on UN peacekeeping because it was not “controversial” or “sensational” enough. Anyway, I’m glad you guys can understand the joke that she is :) People can be easily duped by the television especially academics. Maybe its all just a bit of Ivory tower syndrome.

  • hassan

    by “especially academics” I meant by so called experts and academics on tv

  • Peter

    “In fact you catholics seem to be pathetic here…some here wrote that humans can not be fundamentally flawed cause god would not be eager to die for such a person…..The problem is that it can be perfectly rationalized in your Fair….discourse as proof for god’s mercy….”

    An omnipotent Creator can show mercy in an infinite number of ways. Only a Creator who loves us deeply and passionately will become one of us and suffer like us and die like us, doing so competely for our sake with no advantage to Himself.

    Because of this we know that the Creator loves us with an ardent passion, and because we are loved we know we are valued. We know that we are of tremendous worth to the God who created us. If we were “fundamentally rotten in our nature”, why would God hold us in such high esteem?

  • guest -m

    Rubbish :D
    You understood nothing from your own theology :D

    According to your theology GTF loves you just because he/she/it is so good that he/she/it loves everything (demons may be posiible exception -but in principle god should be willing to accept even satan’s apology if he/she/it was offered such a thing -though this is said as imposible)…..

    IN short -GTF is said (according to christianity) to love you WITHOUT reason…..

    ‘Cause this is the nature of true love….TRUE love is Unconditioned…and given to those who do not deserve it…..That’s the point…..Humans are said to be “repaired” by GTF during salvation….

    Of course such a vision denigrates human nevertheless (making him absolutely dependended on GTF grace) but this is another story – that is why Nietzsche is still kicking……

    Now justification of what I said:

    2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

  • guest -m

    Also read the all section “merit” in catechism ( it is in my link below) -you may be surprised

    For example:

    2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

    2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

    Also note that all these passages (article 2 Grace and justification) -define the state of human before taking god’s grace as “sin”….So initially human is sinful and undeserving salvation -grace is fundamental in bringing salvation – hence the need for it is fundamental -hence there is fundamental lack of power or merit for salvation in human -hence humans are essentially not good enough to be saved, hence we are initially bad…

    One can try avoid the last statement by saying that “not good enough” is not equal to bad….but the gospel naarrative suggests that our imperfection is caused by lack of obedience known as OS – incarnation is described as GTF plan to diminish results of OS…..

    So essentially human per se is bad and undeserving salvation -in this sense it is fundamentally bad. His nature, if not augmented by grace will bring him to hell..

    This is what one can read in your catechism…

    Of,course it is denigrating and irrational (who sinned at the beginning? Some ape millenniia ago? Why his/her sin is my burden? And if there was not OS then why we are “undeserving”?)…but that is another story…

  • Savonarola

    What a religion believes is expressed in many ways, through devotion, liturgy and ritual, for example, as much as through official doctrine. Western Catholicism in practice has tended to place a heavy emphasis on sin, guilt and the importance of confession, and not nearly as much on the goodness of humanity as created by God, particularly not human sexuality as an image of divine love. The prayers and texts of Lent speak so much of self-denial and disciplining our desires and bodies that they suggest almost a hatred of our human nature. Just yesterday the preface for Lent Sunday 4 in the Roman Missal spoke of human beings as “slaves of sin” through the fall of Adam – accurately translating the Latin original (servi peccati veteris). Is it surprising that even scholars hear the message that humanity in the Christian view is fundamentally bad? Before criticising Dr. Stravakapoulou we need to relearn what Christianity truly is. I do not have much confidence, however, that the new translation of the Mass will correct these old distortions.

  • Peter

    If we humans are so “fundamentally rotten in our nature”, why does God single us out from the rest of creation and call us to become His adopted children. Surely God must value the human race immeasurably if He desires us to partake eternally in His divine nature?

  • guest -m

    ehhh…still the same

    First of all – though being an agnostic/atheist myself – I can answer to that in a typical clerical way -”It is a mystery”… :D :D :D

    “Cause who are we to determine god’s reasons :D :D:D…..

    But there are many other possible replies…..often contradicting each other :D (which means you can choose what you like :D)

    GTF may for example has a plan of salvation for other creatures as well -maybe identities of animals and even plants will be prserved somehow…however it is not our business so gospels are silent about that…..
    (however apokatastasis concept)

    On the other hand the difference may lie in possesing consciousness – not in moral corruption -if dogs for example do not have an immortal soul it is not because they are morally worse than we are…It is because they do not have sense of fading akin to ours. They are not aware of time and death just as we are -they do not ask existential questions…………..Also they are driven by instincts and do not posess morality or conscience….or sin…………. All these reasons make salvation of animals redundant……..On the other hand humans posess reason, morality,consciousness- which make them somehow similar to GTF (Imago Dei -though theologians play some tricks regarding this similarity)

    Of course -atheist -naturalist may doubt as to whether there is such a huge gap between animals and humans -maybe animals are more rational than we think (elephants mourn their fellows) and -on the other hand – humans are also driven by insticts…..however theologian will probably evade such hypotheses as they pose threat to the concept of human as a pinnacle of creation and “Imago Dei”…..But if we force him to accept these he/she will rather asume that there is some salvation for animals -albeit unknown to us than give up the concept of GTF goodness. There are some theologians who say that aliens may have their “jesuses” so what is the problem of extending that for other lifeforms :D :D: D

    Of course -there are problems….but if animals need salvation but do not have prospects for it -then god may be accused of cruelty – so theologians will be unwilling to accept it…………..

    However -last but not least – one can also say – that god prefers some beings to others WITHOUT A REASON or -at least- without an apparent reason…..He does it cause he chooses to… GTF is free, and freely loves some cratures more than others….

    Of course- this may suggest that god is irrational in his love -an idea which some theologians may abhor- still it is not more irrational then Creation itself – perfect being has no reason to create the world hence either we can explain it by GTF unconditioned love or creation is irrational….If we abhor the latter and choose the former then such an unconditioned love also may explain the elevation of human above animals

    You still have problems with comprehending the idea that GTF acts WITHOUT a reason– but this may be unavoidable conclusion—-reasons of GTF are his “internal causes”– and as you known the chain of causes is either infinite or looped or has first uncaused element…..If we reject first two options we have to state that there is reason in god without a reason…..

    For me it shows that explanation by god is no better that naturalistic explanation ( at least assuming that first reason of god is not absolute like GTF itself)…..but if you wish to continue to believe in it nevertheless you may be forced to admit that ultimately god’s will has no reasons – It simply is…….

  • Peter

    You claim in an earlier post that human nature is “fundamentally rotten”, yet God has chosen to glorify human nature through the resurrection of the body. Why would God wish to glorify into immortality what is essentially corrupt? The destiny of all humanity is eternal life and no-one is deprived of it except by their own free will. Why did God, through Christ, make everlasting life in divinised form available to us? Because He loves us. Why does He love us? Because He is the Father and we are His children.

  • guest -m

    And, your point is….?

    I am telling one more time- according to christianity and catholicism in particular (see my references to catechism)- humans are chosen to be saved PREDOMINANTLY by virtue of god’s will….Which is free and driven by mercy….humans need to help god to save them- but still it is the grace that is essential….AND GRACE is described as UNDESERVED ( in fact that is why it is called grace) This suggest that initial condition of human is miserable -he/she cannot attain salvation -GTF must “shine upon him” to “give him a chance” -then human has to agree with god…This is how it works….

    This implies that human has little or no merit in his/her salvation…One may muse about whether human has some intrinsic value inside…. He/she probably has but this value is not enough to make GTF obliged to save humans…..
    But this suggests that human nature is corrupted -cause if god is not obliged to save humans then probably humans do not deserve salvation by virtue of justice…..And the do not deserve it as a species….So this seems to suggest that something in human nature makes humans unworthy of salvation -that there is something corrupted in human soul….So mercy is required to elevate humans to salvations..

    Why would God wish to glorify into immortality what is essentially corrupt?

    Cause it is his/her/its will…:D I repet it one more time…according to catechism GTF is such a supercool dude that he/she/it wants to save humans as he/she/it loves them…..And GTF love is perfect love-hence it is not conditioned by anything we did- or what we are—GTF loves us “as we are”…..according to christianity of course….

    The glorification is said to remove corruption -ultimately…..

    If humans werent essentially corupted the incarnation and crucifixion would be useles…Not that they make much sense either way….but they are said to negate the old testament order of pure justice -they are presented as an act of mercy -and mercy is given to those who according to justice deserve punishment….

    All of people seem to be in such situation (cause incarnation is said to redeem ALL people) hence the guilt applies to ALL people.. But this suggests that the corruption that makes human deserving punishment is essential to human nature as it applies to whole humanity…… It is our collective crime that can hardly be explained other than by essential corruption of human nature……Not that makes much sense eitheer, but stilll………..

  • Anonymous

    “…the BBC does not employ fact checkers” – even a cursory glance at any news bulletin or documentary reveals that the BBC’s agenda is not to educate but to indoctrinate. Does anyone really think that we’d have an enthusiasm for promoting the godless agenda of the Humanist/Secularist Brigade, if the population were being “educated” – that is, given the truth about homosexuality, AIDS/HIV, abortion, contraception, etc, instead of the propaganda peddled by the broadcasting and print media?

    As for the feminist baloney about “Eve not being the best standard bearer for women” (sadly given credence by the priest-author of this blog) – what… are we supposed to believe that women don’t have the ability to tempt men? Or what? In what way is Eve untypical of women – in any age?

  • Anonymous

    Well, the whole “Fall of Man” nonsense, as you put it, is an article of the Faith, so hope you are not laying claim to being a Catholic.

    And, trust me… as a woman I can assure you that we do, indeed, ensnare men with our wiles. We’re really naughty.

  • Anonymous

    Women victims again – give it a rest, please. As a woman I always feel insulted by the feminist claptrap about misogyny and superiority over women – tell that to the henpecked husbands down the centuries.

    Give it a rest – please.

  • Peter

    You are getting tied up in theological knots. Humans are not fundamentally rotten. We are highly valued by God. Our immense worth is revealed in Scripture. Isaiah 43:4 reads “You are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you”. In John 6:26, Jesus says: “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not worth much more than they are?” Also John 6:30, “Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown in the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith?”

  • guest -m

    I am not getting tied up by anything :D

    I quoted Catechism to back up my opinions…and you seem unable to counter it ….

    And – in case you were ignorant of these- it’s theology that -according to christianity -describes what god is and what he wants…..I proposed many solutions to the problem to strees that your objections can be answered in many ways -just building strong cumulative case…

    You are also making theological claims -the problem is, it is hardly catholic theology :D….

    And quotations from scripture are insufficient ’cause the had to be interpreted theologically…..and according to your (I supppose you are catholic) faith it is church that is responsible for providing you interpretation -YOU had to believe in :D…..

    But answering directly your objections -neither of the quotes justifies what you wish it to justify…..

    1 “”You are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you” – That means only that GTF loves humans -It is worth of noting that GTF says”you are precious IN MY EYES”…Not precious in itself but in the eyes of god……This means that great value of human being is not something essential to human nature -it is ascribed to him/her by GTF, depended on god……It is the love of GTF that makes human worthy of salvation -but without it human may very well be nothing -and in fact it is said to be nothing in christianity :D…

    Also, even if that quote gives human such an intrinsic value -that stil does not object opinion I promoted…

    ‘Cause i am not saying that human is totally bad -I am saying that he/she has essential flaw in his nature…Consider the pianist that is an alcoholic…..He is morally corrupt (according to traditional teaching) nevertheless he posesses some talent and possible also a positive moral traits…So one may find reason -either moral or pragmatic, to value him higly , not denying however that he is morally corrupt…..According to catholicism we may all be like this pianist……

    Two other quotes are implausible in context of our discussion…..They only state that god finds humans more precious than the rest of creation…I do not dispute it – still it does not entail that humans are not rotten…. An old rusty car looks pathetic when we think of what would it be if we took him to the mechanic…Still even now it is better than horse (faster)…….Humans may be like car in comparison to other lifeforms…

  • Castellan

    A highly interesting article, thank you. I particularly enjoyed the closing lines: ‘Is there any hard evidence for this view at all? Because if it cannot be verified then it is yet another worthless supposition.’ I must confess the irony had me smiling broadly.

  • Savonarola

    Because God is good and loves what he creates and is endlessly willing to give himself to us. God values us not because of anything we do or are but because he is universal love and compassion, and hence gives himself totally to bring back to himself even slightly corrupted humanity – see Luke 15, ‘the gospel within the gospel.’

  • Indiemacmillan

    Christianity like all other religions are no more then cults. the Bible isn’t reliable. you are all brainwashed and will believe what you chose to regardless of facts. get with it. don’t waste your life. its all in your head, there is no God.

  • Memory-of-Forever

    thank you for discovering everything about the universe, I mean the many different universes. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW MANY UNIVERSES THERE ARE…. SO STOP CLAIMING YOU KNOW GOD DOESN’T EXIST.

  • Peter

    Not only does God love humanity more than the rest of creation, but the love He has for humanity is the same love that exists within the Trinity itself. In John 15:9 Jesus says “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” The love of the First Person of the Trinity for the Second Person is the same love that the Second Person has for the human race. Not bad for a “fundamentally rotten” species, is it?

  • guest -m

    Possibly -but that is other issue….

    The matter of dispute is not whether GTF loves humanity -but whether there exist some reason in human nature, for him to do this…..

    Also quoted saying of Jesus does not necessearily means what you want them to……It is not certain whether this is an equation (of love in trinity to love to humans)…It may simply be analogy (e.g. ” As you like jogging so I like ice cream” – You can love jogging much more than i love ice-cream -the sntence only implies that we both have certain “likes”…….

  • Indiemacmillan

    if god does exist, the bible definately isn’t the place to discover it. its full of contradictions, been re-written, edited by the powes that be many times and mis-translated over and over again AND disproven by archeologists, biologists, and nearly every scientific discipline you can name. do your reseach!

  • Peter

    “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). It sounds like the real thing to me.

  • Rachel

    where is the hard evidence that god exists?

  • Anonymous

    Because you say so? I would rather believe Dr Francesca myths than your subjective Ad hominem fallacious arguments. And when you say disproven are you stating a fact or a opinion of other scholars? You could-if you dare-visit hundreds of bible archaeology sites to counter claim those claims.(Just google bible archaeology) or here it is A good one for your biology claims is with Dr Francis Collins website. If you don’t already know Dr Collins he is a Christian and was the leading Scientific researcher into the DNA genome project. Also if you watched part 1 or Dr Francesca then she proves that archaeology had uncovered crucial evidence of biblical figures in the old testament. The enemies of David and also King Omri who is only mentioned once in the bible (1 Kings 16:23) Also the Tel Dan Stele is a archaeological discovery of the house of David inscribed on the artefact which the Dr found somewhat amusing or doubtful but carbon dating linked it to the time of David. Also last question are you a good person? If you think you are then also visit this site if will make you think…

  • Nik Matheou

    Firstly her name is Stavrakapoulou, if you are to disagree then I suggest this initial fact is got right. Secondly, there is no link between the King David episode and that on Eden, the vast majority of Biblical archaeologists and historians now accept that there is too little evidence OUTSIDE the Bible to corroborate King David’s existence. For instance you can read Israel Finkelstein’s works to see how he believes that if David did exist, then he would have only been a chieftain of a group of tribes, and used as a founding figure later in the same way as Achaemenes was used by Cyrus the Great (or for that matter a plethora of other classical figures such as Solon for Athens or Romulus for Rome). I am not saying that I agree with her thesis on the Eden tale, but I would accept that with her training that it cannot be discounted. Also I would add that despite her being an atheist, she still chooses to study the Bible for a living. Unless we are to believe that she is dedicating her life to dismantling religion in the most in depth way possible, then I would suggest that we be less touchy about her more outlandish claims, and accept that she may have had other evidence which viewing time did not permit. One of the things I am most proud of about the Catholic Church is that we reject literal Biblical truth, whilst still believing that it is divinely inspired. This means that we must accept that it is open to investigation, and would have been partially influenced by the circumstances of it’s day. To this end ALL theses must be viewed and assessed instead of being dismissed out of hand as a fashionable attack on religion.