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in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


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A Response to Professor Marek Glogoczowski

by Anthony S. McCarthy


Some time ago, Professor Marek Glogoczowski wrote a lengthy response to my Culture Wars book review of Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I am always flattered when someone devotes some time to something I have written and therefore thank the good professor for doing so.


This response will be somewhat terser than MG’s essay in part because I found it difficult to understand some of his comments/accusations. For example, I will not reply to the series of assertions in the final paragraph, which MG does not attempt to elucidate. However, I would like to pick up on a number of other points MG makes, and I thank him for making these as they are worth pursuing.


In judging Abraham as “an odious person who deserves to stay in Hell”, MG omits to mention some salient points. At the beginning of Part II MG refers to Jesus as a “truth-teller”, yet fails to mention that this truth-teller speaks with the utmost respect for Abraham, referring to the God of Abraham, whom He identifies as the God of the Living – His Father. Christ also says (John 8.40) “But as it is, you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.”  So it is evident that Christ does not view Abraham as a murderer or even one who seeks to kill (in the sense of, seeks to murder).


I would ask readers to look again at the story in the proper context.  To begin with, Isaac may have been willing to die: he, in the vigour of his youth, could presumably have easily prevented his 125-year-old father from binding him. Such willingness would, of course, be consonant with the One of whom he is an type, and this has been recognised by Church commentators.


More importantly, MG neglects to mention that Abraham was entitled to hope against hope, knowing that He whom he trusted would not have deceived him concerning descendants, even if Abraham could not explain how exactly Isaac would have children after he was sacrificed. Thus St Paul tells us:


By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11.17-19).


All this talk of sacrifice and redemption will naturally be confusing if one does not have a proper sense of the nature of Original Sin. For MG, “according to the Bible Original Sin consisted of human curiosity to learn what is Good and what is Evil…”

But MG mistakes the perfectly acceptable theoretical knowledge we seek of good and evil for practical knowledge. To commit a practical evil (sin) is ultimately not to increase our knowledge but to diminish it (by corrupting ourselves and deflecting us from our ultimate goal). Such actions are inherently irrational (if I seek the practical knowledge of murder do I act rationally?). And the action here is infused with pride, in that the actor wishes to set himself up in opposition to that Necessary Being who is his Creator, and who holds him in existence each moment of his life.


God had conferred on us supernatural life, making us not mere creatures but sons of God. Adam, representing the entire human race, damaged that races relationship with God, returning it to a merely natural level, bereft of supernatural gifts and prey to other forces. And such a damaged race cannot, of itself, expiate the wrong in its entirety:  that was left to Christ, the New Adam, who chose to expiate our sin through embracing the Cross.


Before examining this, it is worth quoting theologian F.J Sheed on Original Sin:


“But wherein lies our guilt? That this privation of grace should be in us as an effect of sin we can see. But how is it sin? It is, as we have seen, not personal sin. But if it is not personal, how is it ours? Because of that other element that is in us, our nature. It was a state of sinfulness in Adam’s nature, and Adam’s nature was the source of our nature…The accusation of unfairness is peculiarly fragile. We have no right to supernatural life at all, because as men our nature is fully constituted without it; if God chooses to give it us, it is an entirely free gift on His part, a gift, therefore, which He can give or withhold or give conditionally entirely as He pleases, with no question of right upon our part arising…even the complaint at our being this bound up with Adam’s disaster shows a failure to grasp the organic solidarity of the human race. We are not isolated units, but even in the natural order members of one thing: it would be no advantage to us to be separated out, cut off, from the consequences of other men’s ill deeds, but cut off, too, from a sharing of the fruits of other men’s virtues.” (Theology and Sanity, Sheed & Ward 1960 pp. 140-141). St Paul covers this ground at Romans 5.18.


Christ, in showing obedience to His Father (and he repeatedly refers to His Father as clearly the same God as the God of the Old Testament) corrects Adam’s sin. And he does so through offering Himself as an innocent victim. One need only look at Christ’s utterances throughout the Gospels and especially through the Passion to see that he steadily aims to sacrifice Himself (e.g. Mark 8.31-33) and on the cross draws the onlookers’ attention to that famous Psalm 22. Christ frequently cites Scripture to His hostile Jewish interlocutors to show them how they have misinterpreted and betrayed what it says. He treats the Old Testament as authoritative – that is, as God’s Revelation of Himself to the human race. All this from the “truth-teller” Christ should, at least, give Marcionists pause for thought. It should also give pause for thought to the “apostate” MG  mentions, who seems to have problems reconciling himself to the meaning of Christ’s death.


Bearing all of this in mind, let us now turn to MG’s approving recitation of a Polish dictum: “The one who gives, and than takes back, shall find his fate in hell.”

It is surely extraordinary to apply this dictum to gifts given on trust.

Are those who give a loan and then request or even take it back to find their fate in hell?  And has not God freely given us lives in order that we use those lives such that they flourish and fulfill their purpose – the purpose for which He made them?  Is it not for God to decide when life ends, and if God is the Lord of Life, could not His authority over life sometimes be delegated?

A problem that some have with the Old Testament is that they fail to see that the central and dominant character of the entire tome is God Himself. G. K. Chesterton once wrote of those who condemn the Old Testament:


“Those…who complain of the atrocities and treacheries of the judges and prophets of Israel have really got a notion in their head that has nothing to do with the subject. They are too Christian. They are reading back into pre-Christian scriptures a purely Christian idea – the idea of saints, the idea that the chief instruments of God are very particularly good men…the Old Testament idea was much more what may be called the common sense idea, that strength is strength, that cunning is cunning and that worldly success is worldly success, and that Jehovah uses these things for His own ultimate purpose, just as he uses natural forces or physical elements…I cannot comprehend how it is that so many simple-minded skeptics have read such stories as the fraud of Jacob and supposed that the man who wrote it (whoever it was) did not know that Jacob was a sneak just as well as we do….But these simple-minded skeptics are, like the majority of modern skeptics, Christian….they fancy that Jacob was being set up as some kind of saint…The heroes of the Old Testament are not the sons of God at all. The heroes of the Old Testament are not the sons of God, but the slaves of God, gigantic and terrible slaves…(Prophet of Orthodoxy: The Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton ed. Russell Sparkes (Fount 1997) pp. 184-185).


The comments MG makes on Jacob also ignore the fact that Esau sinned greatly by giving up his birthright, given to him by God. He rejected God through his own free will (with predictable results, see Proverbs 1.28) and showed no repentance for what he had done, yet still expected to receive his father’s blessing. He did not humble himself and he only regretted his loss. In this, he contrasted with Jacob. Again, without understanding both the nature of the Old Testament and the context of the story of Jacob and Esau, one is liable to be led into error.


Admittedly, these are difficult matters, as is the question of suffering which seems – perhaps rightly – quite unmerited. Job the non-Jew, the everyman, questions the way of God and eventually God replies. In his perplexity, Job finds solace, if not a definitive solution.  Even before God replies, Job strikingly appears to prophesy the coming or Second Coming of Jesus (19: 25-27), whose entire life is an answer to our questions regarding suffering. 


Thus the Old Testament is constantly pointing towards the new, and it tells us of God’s preparation of the world for the Incarnation. One simply cannot make sense of either Testament by taking it out of context.


In the endnotes MG tells us:


“I asked my students which version they preferred, the Christian one, in which Jesus prior to his rapture has to suffer a cruel Calvary, or the Marcionist/Mohammedan one, in which God’s Messenger is raptured, not suffering at all, by his heavenly Master. No wonder that my, students, not yet corrupted by “our” religion, preferred the story of “the salvation of the Savior” told by the Mohammedan myth.”


That people should prefer a story without suffering, especially a patient suffering which we are called to imitate, is hardly surprising. Yet to truly understand the meaning of human suffering we need to be sure we understand the Crucifixion. I would advise reading John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris    

MG seems to think that it is not compassionate to Christ’s suffering to accept the dogma of Redemption. Has MG never been to a Catholic Good Friday service or listened to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion? In fact, those who understand that Christ’s suffering is undergone because of our sins are all the more compassionate to Christ’s suffering precisely because their compassion is (or should be) mixed with a sense of personal responsibility.


And of course, the Catholic Church can be proud of the compassion towards the suffering of fellow-humans shown in her enormous contribution to healthcare, as well as to spiritual comfort: a compassion inspired by faith in Christ.


Finally, perhaps the most tragic statement of MG’s piece is his statement that

“FROM AN (UNPUNISHED) EVIL ONLY AN EVEN GREATER EVIL CAN ORIGINATE”. This statement is, we are told, “logically scrupulous”.   But firstly, there can be good side-effects from any action, evil or not. This is a point so evident that I will not detain the reader with examples, for there are as many examples as there are actions. Secondly, that  includes evil actions that are hitherto unpunished. Thirdly, who says that the crucifixion of Christ is an ‘unpunished’ action?


There is more from MG on St Paul, the Church, etc; however, as he does not offer evidence to support his statements, I shall not address them here. I only hope that some of my own points are of some use to MG and other readers – at least so that they may gain a sympathetic understanding of that which they may wish to critique, surely a necessary condition for fruitful discussion.


Anthony S. McCarthy can be contacted at