Two items I came across today, both of which shed some much needed light on Scripture and its authority.
First up, Fr. Kenneth Tanner, an FB friend and priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church:
Look, I get it. I understand. Some folks are looking to diminish Scripture because of a disposition that rejects central Christian teachings but it does not help to put the Bible instead of Jesus at the center of faith and practice if we want to foster belief and strengthen discipleship.
The OT was translated into Greek during the three centuries leading up to Jesus. This is the collection that Jesus and the apostles called "the Scriptures" in the gospels and epistles. The NT did not exist as a collected body of canonically-received texts until 300 years after Christ.
And (just for kicks) many Christians don't include some of the OT books that were in the collection the apostles used.
For 15 centuries *after* the resurrection the vast majority of Christ followers could not read Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. Most had access to only portions of what we now call "the Bible" and heard most of the
Scripture that they heard in the context of worship.
These are centuries of martyrdom and deep Christian commitment, of amazing expansion of the faith--all with an at best partially-available Bible.
Even with the invention of the printing press and the translation of Scripture into languages that the ordinary man or woman could read, most Christians were still illiterate and only wealthy families could afford a complete Bible.
Not until the mid-1900s did it become commonplace for the average American to have ready access to a comprehendible version of the Bible at an affordable price.
Yes, some memorized portions of the Scriptures in earlier oral cultures but it was also the liturgy, the prayers, the icons, the sacraments, and the preachers and teachers of the church that were the conduits by which the faith was instilled in most disciples.
The Scriptures were revered but these first Christians also understood the very-human-yet-Spirit-guided process by which they came to have the texts, especially as a collection. The Bible was available because of the church.
Many contemporary Christians more or less imagine that the book they hold in their hands dropped out of heaven from God like (if you believe it) the Book of Mormon or the Koran.
It's not until the last 200 years or so that the Bible--as the collection we have today--has been widely available in the homes of Christ followers and only then in the industrialized West.
Today there are still millions of Christians worldwide that do not have access to a personal bible and yet our faith thrives...not because we have a magic book but because by the power of the Spirit the risen presence of Jesus Christ makes the Father's love known everywhere.
We have to become honest about this. The Bible was never meant to bear the weight it does for some of us apart from the church as the people of God, in whom the resurrected Christ dwells, and of the Eucharistic sacrament as the presence of Jesus himself.
And C.S. Lewis is right: possession of the book does not guarantee that one is reading it well or getting out of it what the Spirit intends: the reality of Jesus as the highest revelation of God *and* of man.
A Bible that is not read with guidance from the Spirit-bearing teachers who wrote, preserved and collected it in the first centuries after Jesus nor read without the aid of Christians down the ages right up to this moment (who by the Spirit have rightly divided it) is a flat-out dangerous book.
We do not worship the Bible but the God who is revealed in the world-altering actions whereby he loved Israel and expanded his promises to all humanity in Jesus Christ.
Before any page of the Old Testament was written there were first personal encounters with the living God by humans and then, in Jesus Christ, personal encounters of the living God as one of us. All of these experiences of the living God are, as all experiences are, first order knowledge.
By the Spirit that leads the people of God into all truth the Scriptures can become anamnesis--not a mere memory of the saving events but a participation in them, a participation in Jesus Christ.
That's an excellent exposition of what I see to be a most Catholic perspective on the good book. From a priest who's part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church no less. Excellent.
And here's another, this one from a Catholic, that takes us to a deeper level:
The Bible is your best tool for sharing the Catholic faith with non-Catholics. Your shared love, your mutual recognition of its inspiration and submission to its authority, make the Bible a great starting point.
But read the Bible with the Church. Do not share your interpretation or your perspective with non-Catholics. Share the interpretation of the Catholic Church. The Bible is, after all, her book. Because of the Catholic Church we know that Paul’s second letter to Timothy is a legitimate part of the Bible, and in that letter Paul says that Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). By “useful” Paul means that Scripture is to be used.
Non-Catholics would contend that the Bible is sufficient on its own apart from the Magisterium. But of what use is an unsinkable ship if the crew cannot agree about the helm, the sails, the captain, the means of navigation, and where they are going? Of what use is an infallible text without an infallible interpretation?
If sola scriptura were true, why were the apostles and evangelists and church fathers unaware of this supposed doctrine? Jesus did not promise his followers that someday—hundreds of years after his ascension—a collection of texts would be faithfully (infallibly?) canonized and accurately (infallibly?) copied and translated so that after the invention of the printing press this book could lay open on any literate (infallible?) person’s lap as the pillar and foundation of the truth. No, Jesus established the apostolic Church to finish his mission of proclaiming the truth (Matt. 16:17-19; Luke 10:16; John 16:13; 17:20; 20:21-23; Acts 1:20). According to the Bible, the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Written by Catholics for Catholics, canonized by Catholics, translated and preserved by Catholics, the Bible is the Catholic Church’s book.
Two very solid explanations of how to see the good book.
Very solid, very good, stuff.