Old Testament Difficulties
128. That Ark surely is a fable or symbol. Even on the measurements given it could never have contained all said to be in it.
It is not a fable, although it does symbolize the Catholic Church in which souls are saved from the moral flood of sin. It was over 400 feet long, 70 wide, and 40 deep. The flood was most probably local, and the animals were of various types from the region only of its occurrence. We are not obliged to believe that all living animals were represented, nor that all animals outside the Ark were destroyed. Men themselves had not spread so far afield at that time, so that Noah and his family were the sole human survivors. The flood happened; the Ark was a fact; all men were drowned save Noah and those with him in the Ark; that much must be accepted in the literal sense. But many subsidiary details need not be, whilst the wholesale imaginative exaggeration of those details is to be entirely rejected. A thing is credible when a sufficiently capable cause is assigned; incredible if the cause I allege could not do it. But if the cause alleged could do it, then it becomes a question of fact. Did it occur? God says that He caused the flood and its consequences. We cannot say that He is mistaken or deliberately deceiving us. I accept it. You must make your choice. But you have given no sufficient reason for unbelief in your letter.
129. What right had God to drown the animals? They did no harm!
The question of right does not enter into this question. God has a perfect right to do as He pleases with the work of His own hands. He did not have to create, nor has He any obligation to creatures that He should continue to confer existence upon them. The drowning of the animals is no more difficult than the destruction of vegetation, and what God makes, He is free to unmake. Nor is the vegetative and animal world to be regarded as entirely independent of man who, as a rational animal, is the representative of all material creation. He sums up in himself the mineral, vegetable, and sensitive kingdoms, and is in fact the intelligent voice of creation, alone capable of responsibility. Mysterious though it be, there is a law of solidarity in this world which cannot altogether be overlooked. However, inability to comprehend the full significance of this event is proof only that the human mind is limited, and in no way affects the historical fact.
130. Do you believe that reflection and refraction caused no rainbows before the flood?
No. I do not believe that. Nor does Scripture say that there were no rainbows before the flood. If God said, "Look at the sun. As surely as it is there in the heavens I shall not do this thing again," that would not suggest that the sun had not existed before that moment.
131. God sent the flood to wipe out sin. But in vain. Sin began again. Did God make a mistake, or is it all a fable?
You are making the mistake. God sent the flood as a just punishment for previous sins and as a lesson to future generations. He did not send it to wipe out the gift of freewill, nor to prevent the possibility of future sin.
132. Lot was blessed by God. Yet can you imagine a lower moral code than that of a man who would sacrifice his own daughters?
Lot was blessed by God in some things--not in others. He ended his days in miserable poverty. Not every man who is approved for some good points is therefore an example of all that men should be in everything. God did not approve of Lot's action in this particular case. Yet let us analyze it. Lot was in a sudden and grave difficulty, with little time to weigh things. He was obsessed by the notion of a duty to his guest greater than that to himself and his household. The law of hospitality was very strict, and is still very strict in the East. Absorbed by this ideal, he did not advert to the full gravity of the alternative he hypothetically suggested, an alternative which he probably felt would not be acceptable. It was the act of a man distracted by anxiety, much as a mother might cry, "Kill me rather than my child," in the hope of moving hardened hearts to spare the child she loves rather than with any deliberate intention of being killed herself.
Can I imagine a lower moral code than this code of Lot? Yes. That of the man who is ever ready to take the worst possible view of other people's conduct, with no allowance for interior states of mind, circumstances, or environment, is a far lower code than that of Lot, with his ideals of charity and hospitality, even though they were excessive ideals. Lot did not lack a moral sense. He wished to prevent what he considered the greater of two evils.
133. Can the infallible Catholic Church give me the chemical equation of the reaction which took place when Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt?
The Church does not exist to dispense chemical equations. But your question is not based upon reason. Probably Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by natural agencies set in movement by God, with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Rock-salt abounds in that region, and an upheaval of that material could easily have overwhelmed and embedded Lot's wife because of her delay, leaving a standing hillock of salt as her memorial.
134. Deut. XIII. says that a husband should stone his own wife to death if she try to persuade him to join her in idolatry. "Well now," says Ingersoll, "I hate a god of that kind, and I would not do it." Did God make a mistake, or is Deut. wrong?
Ingersoll, as usual, makes many mistakes.
Firstly, he forgot the theocratic nature of the nation of the Jews at that time. God was the direct ruler of the Jews, and idolatry was going over to the king's enemies, and an act of treason, even in the temporal order. And God has full rights over life and death.
Secondly, if Ingersoll were a judge administering the law of the land, and his own relatives were the criminals brought before him, he would have to act according to the law with impartial justice. He could not condemn others and exempt relatives because they were relatives.
Thirdly, Almighty God took necessary precautions to bring home to the Jews the full malice of a blasphemous idolatry. Ingersoll, with childish imagination, concentrates upon material details, ignoring the vital reason behind them.
Ingersoll's mistakes are nearly as great as those of the man who takes him as a mental and religious guide, regarding his every utterance as infallible.
135. Ingersoll says, "God taught polygamy. I denounce it as the infamy of infamies."
God did not teach polygamy. He permitted it because of men's weakness and frailty without the helps of Christianity, and because it was not opposed to the primary end of the natural law. Ingersoll may constitute himself the supreme dictator of moral law, and give his irrevocable decisions. But the fact remains that his deliberate distortions of the truth are a far more guilty thing than the frailty of men, owing to their bodily passions.
136. God blessed Jacob, who robbed his brother Esau, and lied to his father.
Jacob did not rob Esau. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Jacob obtained blessings which belonged, not to Esau, but to himself. When Isaac asked, "Are you my son Esau?" he really wished to know whether he was speaking to the son to whom he should give his blessing. Jacob, knowing that he was the son who should receive it, replied in the affirmative. Even if we accuse Jacob of a lie, that sin would not destroy his right to the blessing. In this case, God did not inspire the lie, which was Jacob's sin. God did inspire the writer of the Sacred Book to describe the event just as it happened. Of course, God ratified Jacob's right to the blessing.
137. How could Jacob wrestle with an Angel?
An Angel received power from God to employ physical force, as did the Angel who rolled away the stone from the sepulchre of Christ. Jacob was detained against his will in a given place, and naturally described his vain efforts as struggling with an Angel. St. Paul, too, speaks of an Angel to buffet him when alluding to physical trials.
138. Ingersoll says, "I cannot imagine the Infinite Creater giving a recipe for hair-oil for Aaron's beard!"
That is just what he did imagine. He cannot describe even his own mental processes. It is patent dishonesty to imply that modern notions of hair-oil are in any way equivalent to the anointing and consecrating of a Priest to God in the ancient Jewish rites.
139. Could there not have been a hidden spring in the rock struck by Moses?
There could have been. That would not affect the question. There was no water flowing when Moses struck the barren rock. And to strike a barren rock with a rod is not the normal way of opening up a spring of whose existence one is unaware. If there were no spring, then God also created the water which flowed forth. He who created the oceans could quite easily create a flowing spring of water, for it is certain that God's infinite power was not exhausted by the creating of the oceans.