The Magnificat Advent Companion: eVersions Now Available

The annual booklets from Magnificat are a regular feature of my Advent and Lent observance. Just in time for the beginning of Advent this Sunday, this year;s version is now available for iPhone/iPad, Kindle, and nook for a buck. I prefer this format since it’s always with me, it’s easy to navigate, and it doesn’t add to my pile of things I’m reluctant to throw away.

The companion includes original meditations on the daily gospel reading, prayers (morning, evening, night, O Antiphons, and different seasonal prayers), blessings, “The Advent Stations,” and an article on English Christmas traditions.

The iPhone version includes recordings of Rorate Caeli and Alma Redemptoris Mater. Very nice!

St. Augustine’s Medicine For Doubt

I broke this discussion into two posts because I didn’t want Augustine’s greater point to get lost in his fit of pique. Instead, I want to draw your focus back to the first paragraph of the passage I cite from City of God Book 2:

If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth! If only it would, in its feeble condition, submit itself to the restorative medicine of sound teaching, until divine assistance, procured by devout faith,  effected a cure!

I’ve encountered that passage many times in my experience with City of God, but blew right by it without understanding that it was actually about me. (Look, it’s a thousand pages long: you can’t grasp the whole thing at one go.)

I returned to the faith after a undeniable encounter with the living God that broke through my doubt and drew me back, as though with Waugh‘s unseen hook and invisible line. But when I came back, I didn’t really believe it all. I fought my way back (or, rather, was dragged back) to Catholicism in stages, through mere theism (requiring deep reading in atheism and philosophy), scripture, Christianity (deep reading in apologetics), and finally Catholicism (lots of St. Thomas, Kreeft, Ratzinger, and catechism).

When I made that final leap to return to the faith of my youth, I didn’t believe everything Catholicism taught. I had mental reservations on a few contentious points, but I found everything else so balanced and perfect and right that I simply decided to submit my will and intellect on the rest. It was an act of humility, and not a pleasant one at first, but I saw that the collective wisdom of good and admirable and wise people, working for millennia on the deepest and most relevant questions of human existence, had yielded undeniable wisdom and clarity. If I was unable to mentally or emotionally grasp the last 5% that continued to give me trouble, whose fault was that?

And so, in what Augustine calls my “feeble condition,” I performed an act of faith, and submitted to the “the restorative medicine of sound teaching.” I let go, and put God in charge. As though one with the father of the possessed child in Mark 9:24, I said: “I believe; help my unbelief!” And in that act of submission, belief came.

I had to throw away a lot of carefully constructed dogma of my own invention, but once I shed it, I was overwhelmed with an immense sense of relief. I allowed my belief system to be stripped down to ground level: everything was on the table. In doing so, I shed a lot of modernist nonsense, as well as emotional and intellectual bias that clouded my thinking, and let myself be fill up with the simple and good things of God.

That’s an act of will leading to pure sacrifice. Submission of the will and intellect is what the Church calls for on its central elements of dogma. Modern ears hear that as simple tyranny, because, of course, in our few decades of life experience we know far better than the inherited wisdom of ages as guided by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity working through the Church. You don’t really know much until you grasp the enormity of all you do not–indeed, all you cannot–know as one mortal living a circumscribed and brief life. That’s the great lie of the modern world: I am my own man! I am self-invented! I can figure it all out! I took a class!

Hogwash. We are the product of billions of decisions made long before sperm met egg in a mother’s womb. We perch upon the accumulated wisdom of ages–trial and error, revelation and understanding, deep study in the things of God and man–and imagine we heaped up that mountain all on our own. At least, I did.

And from up there on my perch, it was impossible to tell whether that mountain is made of diamond or dung. I just knew it gave me a grand view of what I perceived to be reality. And it helped me look down on those who scratch out their lives on smaller mountains built of simple and sturdy faith.

Until I leveled that mountain, I may have known a lot of things, but a final and abiding Truth wasn’t among them. It was only in humility, and only by taking Augustine’s “restorative medicine” of simple faith, that I could find it.

It was only then that God could say, in effect, “Okay, let us begin.”

St. Augustine is Annoyed: Or, Don’t Wrestle With a Pig

There are a number of things that draw people to St. Augustine: the power of his prose, the clarity of his faith, his humanizing struggles, and his centrality to Christian doctrine. No other saint (or, indeed, any single figure of the ancient world) left us so many words, and in these words we find an immensely appealing and brilliant man.

Spend a significant amount of time with him, however, and there’s one delightful sideline of his prose: his frequent eruptions of irritation. One of his quips seems ready-made for the combox troll, but there’s also the opening of City of God Book 2, which includes this extended diatribe against answering endless question from people determined not to believe [emphasis added]:

If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth! If only it would, in its feeble condition, submit itself to the restorative medicine of sound teaching, until divine assistance, procured by devout faith,  effected a cure! In that case, men of sound judgment and adequate powers of exposition would not need to engage in lengthy discussion in order to refute mistakes and fanciful conjectures.

But as things are, the intelligent are infected by a gross mental disorder which makes them defend the irrational workings of their minds as if they were logic and truth itself, even when the evidence has been put before them as plainly as is humanly possible. Either they are too blind to see what is put before their face, or they are too perversely obstinate to admit what they see. The result is that we are forced very often to give an extended exposition of the obvious, as if we were not presenting it for people to look at, but for them to touch and handle with their eyes shut.

And yet, will we ever come to an end of discussion and talk if we think we must always reply to replies? For replies come from those who either cannot understand what is said to them, or are so stubborn and contentious that they refuse to give in even if they do understand  In fact, the Bible says “Their conversation is unrighteousness, and they are indefatigable in folly.” [Ps 94.4] You can see how infinitely laborious and fruitless it would be to try to refute every objection they offer, when they have resolved never to think before they speak provided that somehow or other they contradict our arguments. [from City of God, 2.1]

That’s some eloquent irritation right there, and I thought of it today after reading the patient and charitable explanations from some of the Patheos writers to the latest face-palm post from a blogger on the atheist channel. Augustine is addressing what writer Daniel J. Flynn called Intellectual Morons, and the kind of people brilliantly lampooned by Paul Johnson in Intellectuals: people who may well be intelligent, but are so blinded by their own bias that they sometimes fail to grasp basic logic. They refuse to understand simple points because it disrupts a carefully constructed worldview.

It’s a good approach to take. We need to engage the faith and evangelize, but we also need to know when our efforts are wasted on people who are so intransigent in their disbelief that they insist on repeating the same errors even when corrected. It’s still worthwhile to give witness, but we need to also recognize “how infinitely laborious and fruitless it would be to try to refute every objection they offer.” Some fields will never be fertile, and you just need to move on and work the ground the Lord has prepared for you: good ground that will produce a crop thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.

Or, as the old quote (sometimes attributed to George Bernard Shaw) goes: Don’t wrestle with a pig. You both end up dirty, and the pig likes it.

This post is continued here.

Thanks, Y’all

I’ve never been one of those folks who, come Thanksgiving, likes to make lists of all the things for which I’m thankful. I just kind of think of them and rhetorically wave in their general direction and give a thumbs up. 

See, there are all kinds of things I like, such as good food, beer, and wine; watching old movies; music; theology/philosophy; games; and the other things I do or experience that provide life with its little pleasures and, sometimes, a bit of insight into the divine order.

But when you’re talking about real thankfulness, there’s a debt involved, and usually a debt that cannot be repaid. If you can easily say “thank you” for something, it’s probably not rising to the level of a real debt. You can thank someone for a good meal or a gift or a ride to the airport, but can you thank them for love, or faith, or hope? It’s possible, but “thanks” really doesn’t cover it, does it? The debt goes deeper than that.

Patheos asked us to consider writing thanksgiving posts about people who have nurtured our faith, something I was reminded of this morning by Joanne McPortland’s excellent post. Sadly, I don’t really have a spiritual mentor, or some one person who was key to my spiritual development, and I’m sure I’m the poorer for it. I’m a borderline hermit, and my Christianity is a very solitary experience most times, publicly limited to worship and teaching and the occasional bar fight. My journey is more like a series of encounters with people and things that have led me to a deeper appreciation of Christ in the world, and I’m thankful for all of them. Here are a few.

My Wife

I’m going to contradict myself right at the outset. I said you can’t thank people for something like love, but I often say, “Thanks for being my wife.” It can be awkward when I say it to strangers in the grocery store, but when I say it to the woman I married 22 years ago this month, I really mean it. She was the answer to a prayer: “Please help be find someone to love.” That prayer was answered when I was 18, and I promptly thanked God for this fathomless gift by turning my back on him and functionally lapsing from the faith for 15 years. It helps that she is a saint: patient, kind, giving, gentle: all things good. I was a lost soul when I found her, and I’d be dead without her. That’s not figuratively dead: I mean it literally. I was on a downward spiral to ruin, and she saved me. There is no thanks good enough for her.

My Kids

Note: Five Guys Dude is not one of my children.

It’s a cliche, but one that bears constant repeating: you don’t really understand life or your purpose in the world until you have kids. I am on this earth not to leave behind some great book or make a pile of money or die with more toys than the next guy. I am on this earth to raise a boy and a girl in such a way that one day, many decades after I’m dead and buried, they themselves will come to glory in God. My wife tells the parents of her first communicants that their purpose is not to get kids through school or into college or even to make them happy and healthy and wealthy. Their purpose as parents is to get their kids to heaven. We’re playing a long game, here, and the prize is eternity. My children keep me focused on that goal, and thus on the meaning of life itself.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Oh dear, does it suck. Yes indeed. It’s agonizing. It crippled me. It left me broken and wounded. And in that broken state, I finally crashed through my own pride and hubris and was able to touch the face of God. Pain is, as CS Lewis said, God’s megaphone. In my utter ruin, I was finally able to find the way back to the faith of my childhood. I had an encounter with the living God that left me with no doubt at all about His existence. Suffering was a gift.


It’s also a gift that you really, really don’t want, so I’m thankful for remission.


Since I began working on a masters, I have had 18 solid months of no reading other than theology. I finally snapped, and made some time for a first love: books and literature. Victorian novels. Poetry. Stories. Not too much right now since time is limited, but enough to renew my soul a bit. The written word is sacred. Scripture was a gift of the undiluted guidance of the Holy Spirit. Shakespeare, Yeats, Dickens, Chesterton, Eliot, and others were also given a gift of the Spirit, albeit it in a lesser form than Holy Writ. We find God there as well.


The more I see of the world, our country, our leaders, our politics, our businesses, our economy, and all the other messes we’ve made, the more I retreat to the pleasures of home and faith and community. When you turn away from the meaningless noise of the world, you find wisdom in the simple places.  Earlier this year, we started keeping chickens. Three chicks, bought locally and hand-raised. Chickens are beautiful, friendly, and useful. They add immense richness to our lives. Just changing their water, filling their feeder, and freshening their straw and bedding becomes an act of communion with God’s creatures. It brings us closer to the source of our food, and gives us joy at the same time. I try to let them out of their run for a little while each day, so they can scratch around for bugs and get chased by the dog. I usually bring a book or an iPad along to get some reading done while I wait (we have to stay with them because of the hawks), but I usually just wind up watching them. It’s all very zen, as they do their little scratch-scratch-backstep dance while looking for food. There’s a simple wonder in a freshly laid egg: a tasty little microcosm of creation.


I know people get all kinds of cranky about bloggers: they don’t like them spouting off, they don’t like the idea of people speaking for the Catholic Brand without proper oversight, and they don’t like the contentiousness of the comboxes. Me neither! But … the online Catholic community has provided a vital lifeline to my faith for me. Informing (and sometimes misinforming), challenging, connecting, amusing, angering: all of it is useful. Something is happening with the faith and the internet. I’m not sure what it is, and like many things in the Church it will take a century or so to figure it out, but the Catholic blogosphere has created a small but vital little fire inside the Church. Remember: there my not be many bloggers and readers compared to the millions in the Church, but each is likely to be more engaged in their parishes than someone who doesn’t connect with other Catholics online. We take those online encounters with us into our ministries. It’s affected me, and I have to imagine it’s affected others.



Hot damn, do I love this Church. Everything from its weirdos and disaffected souls to its ancient rituals and odd byways. And the biggest love of all is just one word: truth. I love it because I love the truth. I sought the truth everywhere for years. I looked in the most unlikely places, and then I found it in the place I least expected to find it: in the place I least wanted to find it: the Church of my childhood. I was out of the Church! I was free! I didn’t want to go back. I was dragged back by a God who wouldn’t give up on me. And I found it and fell in love for the first time for a simple reason: it’s true. It can be beautiful and profound and moving and grand and all those things, and it wouldn’t matter. And it can be squalid and frustrating and awkward and irritating and all those things, and it wouldn’t matter. Only one thing matters, and it was the greatest shock of all: it was true. At the end of my exploring, after years of wandering and pain, I wound up back where I began, and knew it for the first time.

Shopping Amazon for Christmas or Hanukkah?

Please consider accessing the site from one of my links. Like this one! Or the picture above! Or the sidebars! I get a little bit of each sale, and it gradually adds up allowing me to buy books for school and maybe a new leisure suit for my pet frog. It doesn’t add any expense on your end: Amazon treats it like a sales commission, somewhere between 4% and 6%.

Thanks for your support.

Ancient Temple Shows Signs of Conflict, Desecration

Excavations at an 11th century temple complex outside of Jerusalem show evidence of the tensions among the Israelites, Canaanites and Philistines. On the floor of the temple…

… excavators found shards of painted chalices and goblets — not the type of containers that would have been used for daily household activities. They also found animal bones surrounding a flat stone inside the building and discovered two more flat stones seemingly designed to direct liquids. Lacking the typical traces of domestic use, the excavators believe the building served as a place of worship that was possibly connected to an Israelite cult.

But the complex didn’t stay holy for long. The archaeologists found evidence that the temple was destroyed. What’s more, an analysis of dirt at the site turned up microscopic remains of plants commonly eaten by livestock as well as the remnants of poop from grass-eating animals, suggesting the site was appropriated as a livestock pen.

The excavators believe the animal takeover of the temple might represent a deliberate desecration by the Philistines, who lived alongside, though hardly peacefully, with the Israelites and Canaanites. The ancient village of Beth-Shemesh, located at the crossroads of the three groups, frequently changed hands between the Philistines and the Canaanite and Israelite populations that resisted them. The researchers say the Philistines likely gained temporary control of Beth-Shemesh and then brought in livestock to reside on what they knew had been a holy place for their enemies.

Read the whole thing.

From the history books and the excavations to the headlines, there’s one constant in Israel: territorial, ethnic, and religious conflict. Pray for peace, but don’t expect it to come any time soon.

Latin Hymns of Sublime Beauty

At the end of my yawp against emotionally manipulative, phony, crass, pseudo-Christian pop culture, I linked to a clip from Beth Nielsen Chapman’s home-made album of traditional pre-Vatican II Latin hymns. A lot of people who should know about this album may not, so I wanted to give it it’s own post.

Chapman is an extremely gifted song-writer and performer who penned a number of hits for artists like Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, and others. Her solo career peaked with her album Sand and Water, a profound, deeply moving meditation on the loss of her husband, grief, and moving on. It’s sad and beautiful and life-affirming and everything good music should be. It yielded a minor hit called “Sand and Water” which became famous when Elton John adapted it in honor of Princess Diana. Her work is pretty consistently strong, but she’s never really found a large audience.

A cradle Catholic, Chapman has a deep affection for the Latin hymns that characterized the pre-Vatican II church, and which we trashed in search of a mess of pottage from the likes of OCP. We could be singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” at mass. Instead we get crap like “Gather Us In.” Chapman’s versions of these songs for the album Hymns are simple, beautiful, and incredibly moving. She refers to them as the “greatest hits” of her childhood, and she sings them with a deep and abiding love. I honestly cannot think of a better contemporary album of Catholic music.

Here are few more samples (ignore the video: it’s the music that counts):

You should really buy it. (Use this link and I get a very small commission.) It would make a perfect Christmas present!

“The Christmas Shoes” is The Worst Song Ever

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas music. I don’t want to hear it until the day after Thanksgiving, and it must be gone by the time the tree is taken down, 12 days after Christmas. In between those two periods I have a few things I like well enough, such as:

… as well as some Bach, Dean Martin, Alan Jackson, Harry Connick, and other bits and bobs. Most Christmas songs, however, go through me like alien blood through the deck of the Nostromo.

And then Katrina–proprietor of The Crescat–went ahead and posted about something called “The Christmas Shoes.” My wife insists she introduced me to this … thing … at some time in the past, but my brain (God bless it’s faulty wiring) erased all memory of it. This is good and bad.

The good is that I was able, for a time, to live a life that did not include “The Christmas Shoes.”

The bad is that I get to experience the horror of first discovery all over again, like some terrible version of Groundhog Day, but with music composed by people who despise all things good and pure.

Honestly, I don’t want to get all hyperbolic here, but “The Christmas Shoes” is something squeezed from the very hindquarters of Satan himself. This is the sound hell’s chorus makes after feasting on a diet of nothing but marshmallows and syrup and hate. This is the soundtrack for a thousand Hallmark Channel Original Movies, compressed by some unholy alchemy–perhaps involving non-Euclidean geometry and dark chants howled to Yog Sothoth during a gibbous moon in the eldritch shadows of Innsmouth or Arkham–into the span of five minutes. I cannot be certain, but I suspect cosmic evil was somehow involved in its aborning, because nothing this impure can be created without the taint of ancient horrors from beyond space, beyond time. And, being me, I cannot let this thing pass from my mind without inflicting sharing it with you.

Here it is, for those who may not know, or may have blotted it from their brainpans, or haven’t yet experienced it this year. There’s an official video starring Rob Lowe, but I think this amateurish film-school-project version really amps up the mawkishness to 11.

Is this the worst song ever?

Yes it is.

I hear you starting: “But what about-”


“And you’re forgetting-”

No, I’m not.

I’d listen “Macarthur Park” or “Wonderful Christmas Time” and Culture Club every day for the rest of my life if it meant never hearing it again. It is all that is manipulative and tacky not just about hyper-sentimental Christmas fare, but about Evangelical pop culture in general. To say the boys in the band “New Song” have tin ears isn’t enough. They have tin hearts. This is Evangelical “Jesus is my boyfriend” pop culture, which can imagine–even through the eyes of a child–a dying woman who needs to get dolled up in red pumps to look spiffy for Jesus. Even in death, blind consumption is substituted for faith. Good Lord, kid: leave the damn shoes, and get the lady a priest for a final confession and anointing of the sick.

Because I’m not a cruel blogger, I will leave you with a palate cleanser. If the music of New Song is the sound of Lucifer cackling, then this is the sound the angels made on the first Christmas:

And Beth Nielsen Chapman, from her album of Latin hymns:

And here’s Elvis, because it’s Elvis, and that’s enough:

UPDATE: Oh sweet mercy, they made a movie of it! Starring Rob Lowe! And Brad Paisley’s wife!

CHECK OUT some more good stuff to clear your ears.

The Origin of Man, Original Sin, and Why It’s All Your Fault

On Twitter, Kyle Cupp asked the following question:

I replied with a quip I use with my students: “The sin of Adam was inevitable, even if ‘Adam’ wasn’t the one who committed it. If Adam hadn’t eaten the apple, I would have.”

He was, however, looking for something more specific:

I have to say at the outset that I reject the premise, so I doubt I’ll be able to provide a satisfactory reply to his completely reasonable question. Science–particularly genome sequencing–is a moving target, and the theologian who chases it winds up like a kitty following a laser pointer as it flits around the floor. It’s foolish to change ancient and settled points of theology derived from scripture and tradition in the light of trending information. Science can never achieve the level of certainty about human origins to force definitive changes to our theological understanding of original sin.

I spent enough time studying anthropology to realize that what we know about human origins is a very very tiny sliver of the whole picture, and that picture is always changing. For example, when, in 1987, an 18-year-old me asked my anthropology professor if Neanderthals and homo sapiens had interbred, he laughed at the idea. Now, it seems likely that such interbreeding of anatomically modern humans and “lower” orders of hominid took place.

Homo habilis

So, no: I’m not going to bite at that apple, except to make one or two points. Mitochondrial Eve  could have lived anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000 years ago. (Or more. Or less. This is far from settled.) Some even suggest that humanity may have a most recent common ancestor as recently as 5,000 years ago.  The idea that hominids developed along different tracks is uncontroversial. Certainly one need only look at the diversity of the human population to understand that our genetic makeup isn’t a nice neat line from Eden to us. It’s more like a stew.

The problem is viewing human lines of descent as a series of replacements, rather than a lot of strange dead ends and offshoots, possibly with interbreeding among various members of Genus Homo (and perhaps even between Genera Homo and Australopithecus), and significant periods of overlap, perhaps including trade, warfare, and cultural influence. The idea of a nice neat “ascent of man” from lower to higher orders is a post-Enlightenment prejudice. The fossil hominid record is quite small, and often it’s asked to carry the weight of far more speculation about human origins than it can possibly bear. Genome sequencing may help clear up some of the mystery, but without a more robust fossil record, it’s little more than educated guesses.

So where does this leave us with Adam and Eve and original sin? If they didn’t exist, can the doctrine of original sin still hold? If we are not all descended from a single person, what happens to the notion of inherited sin?

I know moderns are uneasy with the idea of Adam and Eve, and certainly elements of Genesis are meant to be read as a figurative theological account of how a universe, created by a perfect God, came to be so completely screwed up. Does this mean Adam and Eve “weren’t real”? Can the notion of a single set of first parents survive in the light of developing knowledge about human origins?

Of course it can, because there is nothing at all that science can do to disprove this statement: humankind as we know it was uniquely and specially created with a rational soul by a loving God, and placed in a ideal world with the power of free will.

In scripture, there is a tantalizing answer the question of genetic diversity in humans. It’s right there, in Genesis 4, and it’s a subject of some controversy:

13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

Questions: If there are only three people on earth (Adam, Eve, Cain), how can Cain be a “fugitive”? Who exactly will “find” and “slay” him? Who are these people who might come upon and kill him? Most mysteriously, who is this “wife” who gives him a child, Enoch? And how does he populate an entire city, also called Enoch?

The answer we often get is: incest with his mother. That’s not even good nonsense, since Eve is clearly depicted as remaining with Adam and giving birth to Seth and others.

So the question remains: who are all these people who threaten Cain, fill cities, and provide wives for him and his decedents?

Perhaps the answer is right there in the fossil record.

God created man after his image. We understand this to mean that God created a man and a woman with rational souls. We can call them anatomically modern humans, or Homo sapiens sapiens. Who is to say there weren’t other hominids at large in the world at the time, with the first parents inserted into the timeline, bringing with them something new: a rational, immortal soul? And when we were cast from Eden, perhaps Cain and the descendants of Adam and Eve took spouses from among these people. There’s nothing at all in the scripture to suggest this is not possible, and some evidence (such as the sudden appearance of wives and foes and cities full of people) to suggest it is.

The offspring of these people are still traceable to our first parents. It doesn’t need to be a closed loop of Adam + Eve = Cain, Cain + Eve = Enoch in order to for original sin to be passed along. Adam was given the gift of the spirit. He was given a soul and a desire for God. This soul was wounded in act of free will. This gift (and this wound) was passed along, introducing something new into the human family.

We have no reason to fear any new understanding of human diversity and development. As people of faith, we have only to remember this: someone had to be first. God created a world, and God created a person to carry his gift into that world. Whether you prefer the old model of a single pair populating a planet, or an image of a first pair of ensouled humans uplifting a diverse population of hominids, both models follow the same arc: creation, fall, redemption.

If the name “Adam” bothers you and smacks of too many Sunday school lessons for comfort, make up your own name. You could come up with a word in an ancient language that describes the ruddy appearance of this first human. Handily, we have a word in Hebrew that does the job: âdâm ( אָדָם), which means (literally) “ruddy”, and also “mankind.” Oddly enough adâmâh (אֲדָמָה), means “earth,” as in soil. So you have a ruddy man made from the earth.

Language is how we communicate ideas. We can communicate those ideas this way:

That’s a language. The language of DNA.

Or we communicate them this way:

The genome tells us a great deal about the composition of human life, but nothing about its meaning or purpose. For as much as DNA helps us to live our lives and understand our world, they might as well be sequencing moss.

On the other hand, three little letters–aleph, daleth, and mem–pack a vast amount of meaning into an incredibly small package. It takes massive computing power for even a specialist to make sense of the DNA of a single human, and you won’t know a bloody thing about why that particular âdâm loves, makes bad choices, sacrifices himself, or creates great works of art. A little time spent with Genesis, and you understand man’s greatness and foolishness, his pride and his curiosity, his reason and freedom, and his willingness to abuse them all in an act of defiance. His sin is this simple: it’s a turning away from God to the desires of the self. Here, in the primordial history, our first parents experience in action what will be expressed as words in Deuteronomy: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.”

And we choose death. Because we always do. I know what’s right, what’s healthy, what’s good, what I’m supposed to do. Yet time again, I make the wrong choice. That’s the tendency of original sin tugging at me, but even before that original sin, there was the great gift and the great danger of free-will. That’s what I mean when I say that if Adam hadn’t taken the apple, I would have. It was inevitable.

People like to blame Eve. As if you would have done anything differently. Pandora opens the box because she’s told not to. Eve takes the apple because she’s told not to. And you (and I) would have done the exact same thing. God well knew that we would fall, and he also knew that, in the fullness of time, he’d turn the wood of the forbidden tree into the wood of the cross.

The human genome is not a map of life. We make a grave error when we mistake it for one. It may provide answers to certain questions about our bodies and provide some hints about origins, but it’s not the vaunted Encyclopedia of Man some may think it is. At some point, we pass beyond the purview of the scientist and into the realm of the metaphysician, the artist, the philosopher, the theologian. We were uniquely created by the hand of a loving God, and given a gift–freedom–which we have abused ever since. Science can’t unravel that one.

UPDATE: Mike Flynn explains this better. He knows science and stuff.