by Tim Rohr, 5/26/2005
Note: Hope no one takes personal offense to this little essay. I’ve spoken to many of you about this topic and my feelings about it, but just thought I’d put it on (virtual) paper.
As most of you know I operate a small Catholic book distribution operation called Veritas Books. Because of this and because we are often present at different parishes around the island on various Sundays, we often receive requests and inquiries for certain resources. By default I am able to see certain trends and the main trend is a desire for more resources for Bible study.
This is a good thing, but I am bit alarmed at how we may unthinkingly just be “chasing the Protestants” here. The main motivation for Bible study seems to be “to get our kids back” ala: The Bible church down the street has a great Bible study and its attracting some of our kids, so we need to have a Bible study too.
Well, we’ve already followed our sep-breth down that slippery slope in the music arena (indeed the whole area of liturgy it sometimes seems), let us think twice before we do the same here. Let me explain.
We would do well to recall once in awhile the 70’s mantra “the medium is the message”. There are three things in operation here:
Our kids can see that we are scrambling to compete with the Protestants – what does that say?
Studying the Bible before studying Church Teachings contradicts the example of the Catholic Church, which uses Scripture to support doctrine and not the other way around, as is the way of our sep-breth.
Prioritizing Bible study over Catechism teaches (the medium is the message) our kids that the Bible came first and not the Church, and by extension that we should the Bible is the foundation of truth and not the Church. In short we are teaching “sola scriptura”.
Here’s a short solution. But first let me say that I do know of fine Scripture studies taking place on our island that are in no danger of imputing a “sola scriptura” mindset. But for the rest of us I propose that we use the Catechism as the template for our Bible study. The Catechism is full of Scripture references on every page. We read the Catechism and reference the Scriptures.
This allows us to take an approach that says, “here’s what we believe (Catechism) and here’s why we believe it (Scripture) -though it will still be very important to show that the first reason we believe anything is because the Church says so. If we don’t do this we run the danger of not only imputing the lesson of “sola scriptura” (or at least “scripture prima”), but also the inevitable next step of private interpretation. At that point we might as well let them go to the church down the street because they’re probably doing a better job of it than we can.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t delve into the Bible as the great story of God’s plan of salvation and enjoy all its history and meditative depth. Certainly, we should! But how much richer that experience will be when we are grounded in the great teachings of our Mother, the Church, the “pillar and foundation of truth”! No need to chase the Protestants.