Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Creationists Take Genesis, but not Jesus, Literally

Most creationists are protestants and fundamentalists. Some are Catholics, but the last few decades and the last few popes have not been very good for the remaining Catholic creationists. Creationists, as most of you understand, are (primarily) Christians who insist on a “literal” reading of the entire Bible.

Well, not quite. When it comes to The Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion, protestant creationists hastily abandon their literalism. According to the Bible, Jesus book the (unleavened Passover) bread and said, “This is my body.” You will find this in Luke 22 and in Matthew 26 as direct gospel accounts and it is repeated by the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians 11. Later, he took “the fruit of the vine” which everyone except teetotalers recognize as wine and said, “This is my blood.” (I suppose it could be juice from some other vine. In one novel manuscript, I describe a desert church that used gourd juice.)

Jesus does not say “This represents my body” or his blood. It says that it is. He then says, do this in remembrance of me. But nevertheless the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. Only Catholics, during the communion service they call the Eucharist, take this statement literally. According to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the wafer actually becomes the same “substance” as Christ’s body, and the wine the same substance as Christ’s blood. The bread is still gluten and starch, and the wine is still resveratrol and ethanol and anthocyanin and sucrose, but the inner “substance” is transformed into Christ’s body and blood. (I wonder what Catholic physicists have to say about transubstantiation.) Protestant and fundy creationists, during what they usually call the Lord’s Supper, alter the plain meaning of scripture and twist it to mean that the bread and grape juice are just meant to make us think about Jesus’ body and blood. They throw literalism out the window where, one would think, it matters most.

“Well, of course,” they could say, “Jesus didn’t actually mean his actual body, because He was sitting right there holding the bread which was molecularly distinct from his body. And He couldn’t have actually meant his actual blood which was still inside of his arteries and veins.” But if this is so, it makes Jesus seem pretty stupid. If it was so blinking obvious that the bread was not actually his body, why would he say that it was? Was he lying, or was he stupid? (Or was he speaking symbolically? No, creationists will not permit Jesus to do this.)

I first encountered this contradiction when I read a book about 25 years ago (which I might not have read were I not asked to review it) of letters exchanged between a literalist creationist and a scientist who was also a Catholic. Personally, I have no interest in this argument, but it does show that creationists are no more faithful to the Bible than other religious people.

And yet creationists present themselves to the rest of us as practically the owners of the Bible. They imply that if you don’t agree with them that the Earth is young, then you need not bother believing in Jesus. But, they think, it is just fine to believe in Jesus without believing that the communion bread is his body and the communion wine is his blood.


  1. Since there are contradictory creation stories in Genesis I have a hard time seeing how anyone can read that literally.

  2. Since there are contradictory creation stories in Genesis I have a hard time seeing how anyone can read that literally.