Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Everything the Bible says really happened never happened."

That's the way the students used to characterize the religion classes at the highschool where I used to teach. That's the message that they got from the current way of teaching the bible. Perhaps this is evidence of a flawed approach.

My comrade Throwback has been covering the synod in Rome on the scriptures, and I commend him for his work examining the inerrancy of the Word of God. I think that's important to emphasize. It is The Word of God.

We tend to look for the minimum, the barest little bit that we have to accept. This occurs in the response of Catholics to the teaching of the Church as well as in our reading of Scripture. Is this teaching infallible? Do I really have to believe it? We take a similar approach to scripture: do I have to love my enemies? Do I have to give up lust? Did Jesus really mean that it's near impossible for the rich to get to heaven? We tend to minimize the bible down to small, easily digestible parts that don't conflict with our world view.

It's very convenient, but it is not at all the way that a believer reads a revealed text. The bible is believed to be, in its entirety, the inspired word of God. There isn't any error in it. There may be stories that are more story than history, but there isn't the slightest bit of error, by which I mean that the whole thing, down to the most repugnant descriptions of leprous scabs in Leviticus, is in the book because the Holy Spirit wanted it there.

The believer, confident in the inspiration of the text, then can find meaning in any passage. In a post on my other blog, I wrote about St. John Chrysostom, who takes as the topic for an hour-long, brilliant sermon the text of St. Paul "Take a little wine for your stomach's sake." He does it on purpose, to show just how the believer can see meaning in even the supposedly silly or inconsequential parts.

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