Read Psalm 137. Read it all the way through, including its final few lines:
O daughter of Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall he be who requites you
with what you have done to us!
Happy shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!”
Now ask yourself, “How can that be in the Bible?”
Then try to explain that to atheists.
The following is a link to my attempt at doing just this. It is published on Strange Notions, a popular website devoted to promoting dialogue between Catholics and atheists. The site bills itself as a “digital Areopagus,” echoing the famous dialogue of St. Paul with the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17. I recommend bookmarking it and perusing the resources blogger Brandon Vogt has made available which are geared toward helping us Catholics better defend the faith in the modern, digital world.
This month I have a variety of thoughts to share with my readers which I am linking to below.
First, you can hear my short radio spot on EWTN’s Son Rise morning radio show which aired around 7:45 Eastern Time on 12/20. It should be posted here within a few days. The interview was about Benedict XVI’s biblical interpretation in general and his understanding of the Gospel infancy narratives in particular.
In the blogosphere there’s this interview I did with Brandon Vogt on my recent book Dark Passages of the Bible.
At Homiletic and Pastoral Review I recently authored a piece on reading Jesus’ infancy through the eyes of Pope Benedict XVI. This piece discusses how and in what sense the Gospels record history and teach theology.
Today Brandon has published my article Common Ground for Catholics and Atheists? Violence Is Contrary to God’s Nature on his wonderful site Strange Notions. This site is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Catholics and atheists, serving as a “digital Areopagus.”
Finally, Crisis Magazine has published an article of mine, Benedict XVI on the Christmas Readings. It helps us make sense of the seemingly boring genealogies in the Gospels.
Happy Advent and Merry early Christmas to you and yours.
This is not an easy question to answer when you look at all the evidence honestly, but there are answers out there! This is a topic I take up in my recent book Dark Passages of the Bible, which was recently discussed along with other important works on the subject by Brandon Vogt. See his post here.
The existence of the devil is not very compatible with modern thinking. Such is the view confronted by Benedict XVI in a response he once wrote to a book called Farewell to the Devil. Its author, an Old Testament scholar, expressed the view of many a modern man in claiming, “By now we have understood that the term ‘devil’ in the New Testament simply stands for the term ‘sin.’” The devil is just an image for sin, just something Jesus talks about to keep a little holy fear in us—but not someone we really have to fear, someone whose existence we can prove and wiles we can’t explain otherwise through modern psychology.
I recently authored a book entitled Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas. In that book one of the three main themes I treat is the problem of evil in the Old Testament. I encourage you to read my post at Benedictine College’s Gregorian Institute on what Pope Benedict has to say about the existence of the devil. Do the Scriptures really affirm the existence of the devil, or is he a superstition from a bygone age which enlightened people today need to move beyond?
I was happy to find out this week that my forthcoming book is in the Fall catalog of Catholic University of America Press and set to be in print by September. It is already available for pre-order on Amazon. A more extended blurb can be found on the CUA Press website.
The cover we decided on (above) is a Rembrandt sketch of the scene from Gen 22 when Abraham is called by God to slaughter Isaac–a dark passage indeed! Of course, Abraham did not have to go through with the physical action, but it still stands out as a particularly evocative “dark passage” and one that is well represented in the Church’s artistic tradition.