Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Catholics and Bible Study (Updated)

[A] funny thing happened on the way to modernity: The Catholic Church opened itself to the Word in a way it hadn't done before. In the process, it fostered a balanced culture of biblical exegesis and devotions (at least among most scholars and clerics) that many in sola scriptura Protestantism might envy. Especially in light of trends in mainline denominations that fostered a radical desconstruction of biblical texts on the one hand, or, on the other hand, a blinkered literalism that appeals to many conservative pew-sitters.

David Gibson in Saturday's Houses of Worship Column in the WSJ.

Would all the blinkered literalists please raise their hands? Thank you. Now, all the conservative pew-sitters remaining (yes, those of you who just sit there in your pews) would you kindly raise yours? Thank you. Now please, all of you, walk on out to the outer darkness, sit there, and be forever quiet.

And to you, David, our deepest thanks for dealing with those annoying people.

So, then, Catholic scholars and clerics, please proceed.

UPDATE: Carol points out that my point is rather obscure here. What I meant to do was take issue with the article, especially the glib paragraph that I quote, with its cheap shots. I don't think that Protestants break down into the three groups that Gibson identifies, i.e. those who deconstruct the scripture into meaninglessness, those who read the Bible "literally," whatever exactly that means, and those who are do-nothing, conservative bench warmers. I also do not believe that "[Catholic] scholars and clerics" defines the class that exclusively deals with scripture appropriately.

Our personal experience with Roman Catholics (those who attend our Bible studies) is that they are largely unacquainted with Scripture. They are eager students. On the other hand, for the first time in our memory, the local Catholic Church has a "Bible Study" going; I would very much like to see what that looks like over there. Juan tells me that he attends a men's breakfast Bible study in the Gables and there are a couple of Roman Catholic men who attend. Mary is in a Bible study with some other students in her program at Bryn Mawr, and that study has at least one (maybe two) Roman Catholics. I think these are wonderful developments.

I just get set on edge by the sort of condescension that is reflected in the WSJ article. Of course there are "blinkered literalists" and passive "conservatives" on the Protestant side. But David Gibson should take a trip to Kijabe and take a look at Protestants who are faithful to scripture and working hard for others, sacrificing careers, say, in national journalism, and putting their children at serious risk, that is, in the hands of God. He should look at the folks running the Miami Rescue Mission here in Miami. Or in the medical mission in north Philadelphia that is underwritten by the Tenth Presbyterian Church in that city. There are, surely, a lot of lay Protestant Bible readers behind those efforts.

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