Baby and Bathwater
Christians believe that God has revealed himself in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. This took place in history in a time and place with a premodern ontology. In this ontology, it was taken for granted that angels and demons intervened in human affairs, miracles were commonplace, mental illness and epilepsy were caused by demonic possession, skin conditions and bodily emissions were ritually polluting, women were subservient to men, and homosexual orientation was a perverse choice rather than an innate tendency…The list could go on. Trying to distinguish the core truths of Christianity from the assumptions of the historical context in which they were revealed is a fascinating and notoriously difficult project.
Biblical literalists resolve the issue by simply buying into the first century ontology: no bathwater, no baby! Liberal protestants, to a greater or lesser degree, simply reduce the New Testament to what the modern mind finds reasonable. For Catholics and other members of other ancient churches, the problem is mitigated to some extent by appeal to Tradition as interpreted by the teaching Church. However the creeds and doctrines of the Church are also often expressed in a premodern conceptual framework. So, again, as with Protestant fundamentalists, conservative Catholics refuse to recognise the problem and liberal Catholics feel entitled to make it up as they go along!
Which leaves us with the problem: What is baby and what is bathwater?