Bible and Bible Study: June 2005 Archives

Amos 8:11-12

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Reading a remarkable little book by Lauren F. Winner titled Real Sex: the Naked Truth about Chastity. And in the course of it she quotes this passage. If you aren't familiar with Amos (and who is) this is what the passage has to say:

Amos 8:11-12

11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

I'll need to spend some more time with this verse and its context, but isn't it a prophecy for today? Isn't it incredibly appropriate to our lives and times? And isn't it frightening.

There will be a famine not of bread and water, but of hearing the word of God, and people will scramble to try to find it and there will be all sorts of "interpreters of the word" ready to tell them exactly what they want to hear. But there will be no one to tell them the truth.

The most frightening part of this is that we are part of that famine. Every time we participate in something ungodly--every time we listen to gossip being spread and say nothing about it, every time we hear God being maligned and simply walk away, every time we hear the scriptures being misused, misquoted, and distorted we increase the famine of the word.

More, every time we pick up the newspaper or turn on the television set without having spent time in the Word and listening to God, every time we let a day pass without reading the scripture and sharing its good news with someone in some small way, every time we pass up an opportunity for a Bible Study or a moment of prayer because it is inconvenient, we are contributing to the famine. And our land is already skeletal and the vulture of the Prince of this world are already circling waiting for the last gasp.

"All that is required for evil to conquer is for good people to do nothing." The time for silence and for putting off our study and time with the Lord has long since passed. We must speak the truth in light, but to do so, we must know it and we can only know it if we know Jesus Christ. And finally, "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."

When I was with the Charismatic movement, I had a gift given me that I believe was wrongly identified as prophecy. I think rather that my gift is exhortation and encouragement. And now I am exhorting and encouraging. Life is terribly, terribly short and souls stand the chance of being lost every single day. Our silence has terrible repurcussions and implications. If you cannot speak the Gospel in words, then speak it in your actions of the day. In Today's reading for Mass Jesus promised us that even so small an action as giving a cup of water would carry a great reward. Think then what the reward would be for pulling the drowning from the waters that threaten to engulf them. I know that I will make a commitment to try much harder to read scripture and live out the image of Christ they convey to the betterment of all around me. And I promise to share as much as I can of what this ultimately means.

God bless you all--now--hit the books!

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As you well know the Catholic Church teaches that the Blessed Virgin remained so throughout her life.

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters point to certain verses in the Gospels that mention the "Brothers and sisters" of the Lord. Or, "James, the brother of the Lord." They find in these compelling evidence against traditional Catholic teaching.

But something occurred to me the other day as I was thinking about this matter. It is by no means a conclusive piece of evidence, but it is certainly persuasive. If Jesus had brothers and sisters, or if His half-brother in the flesh were actually the James who was to head the synagogue in Jerusalem, why, on the Cross did He entrust His mother to the care of John?

If James really were his brother in the flesh and really was a follower and did lead the chief group of early Christians, would it not have made more sense to consign his Mother's livelihood to His own family?

Again, this is not compelling. But it is as persuasive as the arguments that refuse to consider the actual meaning of the terms in Aramaic.

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Loving Scripture

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Over at Disputations, I prevailed upon Tom's hospitality to compose an very long answer to a gentleman who objects to the Catholic Church's "interpretation of Scripture." In reading his comments I (perhaps erroneously) inferred that he seemed to think that the Church hands down a line-by-line interpretation of the Scripture. Here is my response to him;

You say the Rock is Peter. I say the Rock is the truth of acknowledging Christ as the Son of God and Lord of my life and a promise Christ gives to all Christians. Catholics then say, thatís why we have the authority to interpret all scripture because thatís how we interpreted this verse of scripture. [A quotation from my correspondent]

Need it be one or the other? Can the rock not be both? Is it not possible that Peter was chosen as the rock upon which the Church would be built because of his faith in Jesus Christ, and we each are expected to have that faith, and yet, just as at the Cross we are given a mother, in this moment we are given a shepherd.

I don't see the two as contradictory. I see them as mutually supportive. The Church teaches that this verse is what established the Church, but she does not limit the meaning to that.

What people outside the Church do not thoroughly understand is that there is remarkably little scripture that is authoritatively interpreted by the Church. And even when so, it is more often than not that the meaning is not circumscribed, merely elucidated. That is, the meaning that is important to central Church doctrine is enunciated without prejudice to other possible meanings.

The Church gives definitive guidance in how to read and how to interpret scripture, but only very rarely does she pronounce on THE meaning of a passage. She leaves the faithful to read and interpret within the guidelines she offers. And these guidelines, the fruit of centuries of work and experience, are such that they do not so much circumscribe meaning as they give meaningful help in guiding the conscience so that we do not get the multiple schism of the Protestant Church.

What you fail to acknowledge in all of this, is the sheer chaos that comes from unbounded personal interpretation of Scripture.

I've regaled a great many with the tale of how my Grandfather's fundamentalist Baptist Church split into two new Churches over the question of whether women should wear panty-hose or not.

Given my choice between the two systems, I would prefer to interpret scripture in accordance with Tradition and with the understanding that Scripture has held through the ages.

For example, presently, many would have us read the scriptures prohibiting homosexual congress to mean a very isolated instance of a specific problem that is more related to temple worship than to homosexuality. The Church definitively teaches that homosexual congress is a sin. There are few others who do so, and those that do, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention, has no authority to do so by their own understanding of the Scriptures. That is, if all personal interpretation is equally valid, then the "authority" of the Church has no right to a definitive interpretation. Believers must accept the guidance of the individual conscience and cannot conclusively state that the Bible prohibits homosexual congress.

There are those in the Catholic Church who would like this to be the way we operate. But we do not. The Magisterium definitively interprets the scriptures to say that homosexual congress is illicit, immoral, and sinful.

I have faithfully sat on both sides of this fence, and I can tell you that the freedom that comes from not having to know everything about the Bible and the languages in which it was written and what was meant by this phrase and that, is exhilarating.

My experience has always been that the self is a tyrant, and that tyranny is often forced on others, even when the Churches are hammering away at Sola Scriptura.

If, indeed, a Church truly operates on Sola Scriptura then one must grant that the only legitimate approach to scripture is the individual encountering the word, and therefore, tradition, authority, or other extrinsic factors count for nothing in the mix. You cannot have sola scriptura and yet expect others to read the same words and come to exactly the same understanding as you have.

When the Church interprets scripture, she does so in a limited sense to clarify and to assure the unity of the faithful. If you read through the Fathers and the Saints, you'll find dozens, hundreds, thousands of different interpretations even of key scriptures. Only in a rare event are these problematic, usually when they lead to a significant misunderstanding of the nature of God or of Jesus Christ.

The Church does not authoritatively offer a line by line understanding of the Bible. Rather, she provides guidance for the reading of Scripture AND clarification of those scriptures on which our Doctrine and Dogma defend. Without the Church we have no doctrine of the trinity (no where explicitly spelled out in the Bible) we have no "of the same substance" with reference to the Godhead, etc.

So I would respectfully submit that you may have some misconceptions about precisely how the Church handles and interprets scripture and what she demands of her children with respect to these interpretations and with respect to reading the Bible. You do not abandon freedom upon entering the Church--you are shown the true outlines of freedom. There is greater freedom in knowing the boundaries (and greater safety) than in wandering the fields dependent only upon ourselves (even with the assistance of the Holy Spirit) for not falling off a cliff. The multiplicity of Protestant faiths speak clearly of the dangers of a lack of central authority in understanding faith.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Bible and Bible Study category from June 2005.

Bible and Bible Study: May 2005 is the previous archive.

Bible and Bible Study: August 2005 is the next archive.

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