The other day I posted an article on how Roman Catholics look at Scripture. When I originally wrote it, it was far too long to post online in its entirety. Therefore, I cut out some chunks, that I’d like to post now. They are mainly on how I believe the current landscape is in typical Evangelicalism in America. I know I’m using broad strokes to talk about these things, but I assure you, this mindset is still very strong, especially in the South. Here it is:
Oh, the Bible. It’s the lifeblood of the Church. It’s our backbone. Why? Well, the logic goes like this: there’s a God who’s so far beyond our understanding that we can know nothing of Him unless He reveals it to us. That’s what Christian believe the Bible is–the revelation of God. This may sound fairly simple–and it is, in one sense–but in some areas, this truth of Scripture sometimes brings more confusion and disagreement than clarity and insight. Because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to grasp that the God that is SOOOO beyond our understanding revealed himself through–of all mediums–a book? And what’s more: this book? It’s tough to read many (most?) parts of the Bible and think “this is the revelation of GOD.”
I think this is true for a few reasons. I think our contemporary brains, conditioned by Post-Enlightenment forces, just function in a way that is not most beneficial to us for reading the Bible. We approach this book with a systematic-scientific mindset thinking that the revelation of God must be in a very clear point-by-point way only to open it and find… a story? The Bible is not very immediately satisfying to the Post-Enlightenment modernist. Another reason is that, in this scientific “theory of everything” kind of world, we don’t allow much room for mystery. Every question of the Bible needs to have an answer. Every perspective on a particular doctrine must be catalogued and understood. Terms like Inspiration, Revelation, Incarnation, and the like must evoke clear and concise images and definitions in our heads; not the ambiguous i-sort-of-get-it-and-can-maybe-explain-it-to-a-child-but-it-still-messes-with-me-if-i-really-think-about-it sort of way that most all of us experience (if you don’t, something’s wrong).
One last reason I’ll mention here for our misunderstanding of how God reveals Himself in Scripture: the Evangelical Church. In its response to the Enlightenment, Evangelicalism has adopted those ground rules and assumptions that undergird modernism, namely, that Truth must be something that has a one-to-one correlation to things in created reality, therefore making science and history the only vehicles for this Truth. Christians historically, on the other hand, have believed that Truth is anything with a correlation to Ultimate reality–God Himself–thus making so many things a vehicle for truth: poetry, children’s stories, myths, fiction, art, and sacrament. But, most of the Church still has that former assumption when approaching Scripture, so this creates some interesting conflicts with the rest of the world when talking about things like:
This is a little word that has caused so many problems in the Protestant Evangelical Church. It means, at its simplest level, that the Bible contains no “errors”. What does that mean? Most of the modern Western American Church seems to think it means that the Bible is first and foremost a history and science textbook–that for it to be “True” it must have that precise correlation to created reality I talked about earlier. And I get this sentiment, I do. I was raised with it and I understand how it’s seen to be the most faithful approach to Scripture. And you know what? If someone is going to err, I’d rather they err on putting the Bible on too high of a pedestal, rather than too low of one, even if I think it is ultimately misguided and potentially harmful to life of the Church.
This has built an ethos in the Evangelical Protestant Church that keeps causing problems for the American Church. A professor was kicked out of my seminary a couple of years ago for saying Genesis 1 was in the literary form of a “myth”. There are “Creation” museums all over the place. In Texas, they are changing science textbooks. God knows how many people think Obama’s “the Antichrist”. Protestants are continually growing increasingly polarized from the rest of the world, becoming less and less “in it” because they feel like their assumptions and conclusions about the Bible are being challenged from every side. They are becoming more irrelevant to the current discussion on nearly every front because of these assumptions.
Roman Catholics can help us. They show us that the Bible’s fundamental purpose is to give us all that is necessary for our salvation. It is ultimately a Religious book. It is the testimony of witness of all that God has done in History to bring salvation to the world. The Bible itself does not save. It is not divine. It contains the witness of the acts and person of the One that does save, and it is through hearing, from the Bible, of the nature and character of this One and his Deed (the Cross) that we are thereby saved. The Bible, therefore “speaks to man in a human way.” This means that God employed the full range of literary styles and genres to convey this to us, because we are fundamentally people of story–or selfhood is primarily based upon narrative before anything else.
Therefore let’s look at the Bible accurately as the trustworthy book it is, for that which it was sent for.