Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Miracles Allowed: Historical/Critical Exegesis

"God does not reach into Reality and violate natural law."
~a lay "sister" in an online Catholic forum re: miracles

UM.... yeah, He does!

I would have made that bigger but that's the largest font option Blogger has.
In the mid-19th century we have the true advent of the so-called Historical/Critical school of Scripture study. Here's a quote from a Wikipedia article with a general definition:
Historical criticism, higher criticism, or the historical-critical method is a branch of literary analysis that investigates the origins of a text. As applied in biblical studies it investigates the books of the Bible and compares them to other texts written at the same time, before, or recently after the text in question. In Classical studies, the new higher criticism of the 19th century set aside "efforts to fill ancient religion with direct meaning and relevance and devoted itself instead to the critical collection and chronological ordering of the source material."[1] Thus higher criticism, whether biblical, classical, Byzantine or medieval, focuses on the sources of a document to determine who wrote it, when it was written, and where. For example, higher criticism deals with the synoptic problem--the question of how Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate to each other. 
H/C is a good thing.  It's okay to know that species evolve and that some parts of Scripture are mythological in nature and some historical and some songs and poetry and whatever.  As Pope Pius XII said in Divino Afflante Spiritu
Textual criticism ... [is] quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books ... Let the interpreter then, with all care and without neglecting any light derived from recent research, endeavor to determine the peculiar character and circumstances of the sacred writer, the age in which he lived, the sources written or oral to which he had recourse and the forms of expression he employed."
But then, devout monks became atheists using this method and theologians started adopting the "modern" view that in Matthew 14:13–21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15, Jesus doesn't feed anyone at all.  Their story is that the people who were all hoarding their food for themselves, were so inspired by the Holy Spirit, that they shared their food with one another and there was more than enough for all:  No miracles required.  They seem fine with interior locution by the Holy Spirit, but without the possibility of  supernatural intervention, how would anyone objectively attribute such to the Holy Spirit?  Couldn't it just be that Jesus was a charismatic speaker and got them all pumped-up? 

How the hell did these people get from the Pentateuch being the combined  efforts of four+ author/sources to: there's no such thing as miracles?  BTW, the other "explanation" for feeding the 5000 is it never happened at all, it's an allegory for Jesus' words sating their hunger for Truth. I'm sure He did.  He also fed them.

It's not like food miracles aren't some of the more common ones, including cross-culturally, or that they haven't happened since. Here's a link to a YouTube video by an evangelical guy - no idea about him or his group, I just Googled "multiplication of food miracles."  I believe everything he says.  In The Miracle Detective, Randall Sullivan relates the last non-medical miracle the Vatican recognized when considering a Sainthood petition. This multiplication of food miracle is also included in “Scientific Method & Appeal to Supernatural Agency: A Christian Case for Modest Methodological Naturalism,” from that paper:
Case #2: The Multiplication of Rice (Ribera del Fresno, Spain, 1949):

On January 25, 1949, at the parish church in Ribera de Fresno a volunteer was preparing a Sunday meal for the poor of the parish. Realizing that she only had three cups of rice, not nearly enough food to feed the number of people expected, she prayed to Bl. Juan MacĂ­as, a Dominican lay brother, born in the village in 1585,whose holy life in a Peruvian convent had led to his beatification in 1837. To her astonishment, and that of those working with her, the pot of rice continued to boil for about four hours, producing enough food for about 150 people.
Sullivan, who was researching a book on how the Catholic Church investigates miracles and whose information came directly from Father Peter Gumpel (relator for the Sacred Congregation of the Causes for Saints) during a meeting at the Vatican, relates more details:

Children from a nearby orphanage came to the Ribera del Fresno parish hall each evening to be fed and poor families in the parish would come to the door to receive a meal. On January 25, 1949 (if you think this is ancient history, I was born withing a year of this occurrence) there was less than a pound and a half of meat and rice (of each) to feed the orphans and poor.  The cook knelt and prayed to the Blessed John Macias, who devoted himself to the poor during his life and after she started cooking the rice, she noticed the pot was overflowing and had use two more pots to catch the overflow.  For four hours the pot overflowed with rice until all who came, almost 200 persons, were fed. 22 people witnessed the overflowing rice pot.

Why can a cook pray and have a miracle of food multiplication in 1949, but Jesus didn't pray and multiply loaves and fishes in 30-something A.D.?  

I'm a big fan of intellectual inquiry.  But the fact is, you cannot make sense of the Incarnation, not the the words written on paper that Scripture comprises but the actual Incarnation, without the acknowledgment that not only are miracles then and now possible, but that miracles then and now occur.

If not, I must be living in a facility for the psychotic someplace and just hallucinating writing this blog post.  helllllooooooooo?????


  1. I suppose if one has not personally experienced a miracle, one logically assumes it cannot happen. However, logic disappears when confronted with the reality of a miracle in one's own life. We are a contrary people, to be sure.

  2. "My Lord and my God!" were the first words that came to mind...

    This is where I burst out "Oh my gosh!" and started tearing up. Of course, what Catholics pray when we genuflect, that's what came into the atheist mind! LOL! God is so cool!

    As to your comment, no I don't rail at atheists who don't believe in miracles. Why would they? But I do get very frustrated when religious, especially lay religious living with consecrated religious, make such pronouncements as self-appointed experts in ... what? "God knowledge?!" oi!

    I have a personal mission to try and find more folks like myself, and like you, I see, and connect us. I'll spend some time tomorrow linking you up on this blog, and on a forum I am building. (I should put a link to that up ...)

    I'll do that, please post there or email me or leave here any other links people might like to follow.

  3. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what Catholics prayed. I had never even been inside a Catholic church! (Now I know.)

    Trying to connect with others with similar experiences is why I set up the blog, Modern Mysticism. I had ancient Catholic mysticism in mind, but over time I have learned that the word mysticism is used in many different ways today and often refers to New Age thinking, which is not in concert with my experiences.

    On my Modern Mysticism blog I have listed links to similar blogs, and several of the followers have had mystical/metaphysical experiences.

    I have also come to know over time, alas, like you, that not only are there few who feel the Hand of God in this way but there are many, including priests, who do not believe that I could have experienced some of the things I have even when there were witnesses and medical documentation. Two of them said to me, "God does not work that way." Now, why are they limiting God's power to the range of abilities displayed by humans? Fortunately, two other priests, one quite well known and respected, have been confirming influences for me, and both dissected my experiences in an effort to help me with discernment and concluded that they were authentic. (While one is "certain" on the inside, it never hurts to have someone purportedly more knowledge on the outside to provide the same interpretation.)

    Glad I found your blog!

  4. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what Catholics prayed. That's why it's so powerful to read if you are Catholic. There's only one way that got into your head!

    As for priests who say God doesn't work that way... sigh... one of the reasons I started this blog was running into a woman on a Catholic Forum who'd had her own extraordinary experience and had no one to talk to. People feel very isolated, I did. I'm so glad you found the support that you did.

    I'm going to be discussing New Age here, and I'll be looking at all your blogs today. One of the reasons Catholics and others end up at New Age sites and bookstores is this lack of support they find inside their own Church.

    I'm glad you found my blog, too, so I would find yours. Thanks, Lord.