'I am a cannibal to God'

by CynthiaYockey on March 12, 2009

I’m reading Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism now and have been appalled at finding from his book, for the first time, that socially conservative Christians resist Darwin’s theory of evolution because they don’t want people to get the notion that ideas also can evolve, say, for example, interpretation of the Bible.

This is news to my father and me. And that is a big deal because that’s my father’s book I showcase in my Amazon widget on the right side of the page, entitled Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life by Hubert P. Yockey.

So I asked my father to keep me company this afternoon while I was preparing dinner and explaining this to him. A few minutes into our chat I was surprised when he laughed and said, “I am a cannibal to God.”

Our conversation had turned his mind to his childhood when one of his brothers came home from school and told their mother, “I am a cannibal to God.”

It turned out that the teacher had said, “I am accountable to God.”

Dad couldn’t remember whether his brother had heard the expression in public school or Sunday school. The Darwin conversation didn’t go much farther after that. But isn’t it funny how what we hear is really a combination of what we already know how to hear and what we want to hear?

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  • How funny; I don’t remember that part of the book at all. This probably reflect my feeling that the evolution argument is largely a red herring: I am one of those “creation via evolution” people. So I am essentially a Darwinian-leaning believer in God who acknowledges the dark underbelly of Darwinism: the eugenics, the strain of Darwinism in National Socialism (for more of which, see Ben Stein’s No Intelligence Allowed,) the slander of “social Darwinism” against pro-free-market people.

    Ideas can and must evolve–but that fact means that we must find what is worth hanging on to, and do so. For me as a citizen, that thing is the Constitution, and the Christian/Roman Catholic belief in the fundamental worth of human life. (Though I am technically pro-choice on abortion as a matter of individual conscience overriding the right to life as a matter of public policy, which should be strictly neutral on abortion, especially on the Federal level.)

    I find it interesting that Roman Catholics are largely considered the most “spiritually conservative” among the mainstream Christian Churches, but they are much more “pro-evolution” than many of the evangelical Protestant churches.

    • Joy,

      Thanks for your comments! I believe the Roman Catholic Church’s insistence on education and scholarship may be why it is more pro-evolution than evangelical Protestant churches. Plus, they are still living down persecuting Galileo. I am interested in learning more about the evangelicals’ attitude toward Biblical scholarship — do they discourage or encourage it? Is their dogma supporting faith, or constricting it?

      I don’t think Darwin and his theory should be held accountable for eugenics and other mischief. But it’s late and I’ll have to pick this up again tomorrow.

      It’s always a pleasure when you stop by!

      Cynthia

  • P.S. Is there a cannibalistic element in the doctrine of transubstantiation? Discuss.

  • heh?

    I think I qualify as a socially conservative Christian. And I read Jonah Goldberg’s book last year, but must have nodded when he asserted this. Of course, I wasn’t paying close attention toward the end when he seemed to be overreaching.

    Best to explain why I’m skeptical of Darwin to directly refute this point. By way of background, my undergraduate college (a conservative Christian private college) made a point of purging all the theistic evolution faculty a few years before I started back in 1974. I was taught unapologetic young-earth Creationism. There were no shortages of reasons to resist Darwin. The one you cite I never heard.

    The bottom line is that if you think the Bible is more than ancient myth, then any narrative that directly contradicts the Biblical narrative causes cognitive domain dissonance. We resist Darwin because he can be read to contradict Genesis 1-10.

    Nevertheless, we are rational beings and I think God holds us responsible to apply our reason to interpreting all forms of revelation, both the words written by those claiming direct encounter with deity, and the stuff observed in nature created by deity. The task is to come up with the most reasonable interpretation of two books: the Bible and Nature.

    Rather than grasp Darwin’s thistle, I’d like to drop back to Galileo and refute Mr. Goldberg’s thesis directly. The Bible uses terms like “sunrise” and “sunset” which could be interpreted to mean that the Earth is flat and/or the Sun moves around the Earth. Or, it could be interpreted to mean what things look like to a normal observer. I.e., don’t read more into “sunrise” or “sunset” than the weatherman’s usage on the evening news.

    This principle of hermeneutics comes to biblical scholarship courtesy of Galileo’s observation of phenomena (specifically Jupiter’s moons) that tell us not to read more into the narrative than the brute facts stated in the text. Once you pocket this hermeneutical principle, you can apply it to other parts of the Bible that might otherwise be troublesome. (I could cite an example, but I fear you’d find it tedious & distracting.)

    Now, if I’m interpreting the Bible pre-Galileo, my toolbox has one less tool in it than if I’m interpreting the Bible post-Galileo. I think this constitutes an existence proof that I’m cool with ideas for the interpretation of the Bible evolving.

    Sorry for writing so much. I hope you haven’t found this boring. I enjoy explaining this stuff too much.

  • Cynthia,

    You said, “I am interested in learning more about the evangelicals’ attitude toward Biblical scholarship — do they discourage or encourage it? Is their dogma supporting faith, or constricting it?”

    We’re a mixed bag. I’m into Biblical scholarship and I can cite dozens of like minded Evangelicals. Nevertheless, many coreligionists are decidedly anti-intellectual. Someone has to think that way to establish the stereotype.

    I don’t think I understand what you mean when you wonder whether dogma supports faith or constricts it. How do you define faith? What does it mean to constrict faith?

  • Roy Lofquist

    From memory:

    The Catholic Church accepts the broad concept of evolution – species are derived from other species. Where they differ is that they see a supernatural hand affecting these changes whereas the neo-Darwinists ascribe it to random chance. This is precisely the argument of the Intelligent Design proponents. The difference is that the ID folks have no opinion as to the nature of the supernatural agent – the Galilean outlook as described above.

    In religious terms the ID view is akin to Deism or Gnosticism, though they eschew any religious doctrine to justify their views.

  • Stephen Gordon

    Heinlein wrote probably the best piece of fiction regarding ritual cannibalism in Stranger in a Strange Land I’ve ever read. Here’s one pertinent section of the book.

    If “drinking the blood of Christ” isn’t symbolic cannibalism, then I suppose eating his flesh isn’t, either.

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