DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     November 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 211


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE

      Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat informs us of the inaccuracies and misconceptions of "Sola Scriptura" for the Sacred Scriptures are not solely the means to salvation. He warns about "Bible Study" groups who endeavor to interpret the Word from their own limited knowledge. He points out how we must be on our guard not to interpret the Bible as we think but to depend on those qualified and appointed by Holy Mother Church, those Fathers and Doctors of the Church who, through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, have been able to convey to God's people the meaning intended in Sacred Scripture. He shows how anything can be twisted and turned to suit someone's agenda, rationalizing something that is not intended. This holds true for the Bible and if it were left to the individual to interpret we would have total anarchy and spiritual gridlock, especially in these times which Saint Timothy warns that "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths." That is the gist of Pat's column today, Biblical illiteracy

    If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at KnightsCross@aol.com

Biblical illiteracy

        At the National Council of Churches meeting in Cleveland, the Rev. Peter J. Gomes said: "My reading of Western Christian history is that the single most powerful movement was the abandonment of the authority of the papacy and Protestants tended to fill that gap with the authority of Scripture. There is not much talk of the authority of the Scriptures in the pre-Reformation days. Scripture is just one of the gifts and graces of the church, but some have made it the sole source of authority, superior to all else."

        Rev. Gomas isn't about to bolt for Rome, but speaks of the many people who are ignorant of what the Bible really says. Mixing up poetry with history, symbolism with literacy.

        "I think it is fair and sad to say the level of biblical illiteracy is very high," he continued. What Rev. Gomas is saying is perfectly true. However, just who is biblically illiterate is the big question.

        Today, Bible study groups are cropping up all over the Catholic Church. This is both praiseworthy and a problem. Praiseworthy that Catholics, which the Church always encouraged, are rediscovering the beauty and strength of the Bible. The problem? That many of them are making their own way through them.

        "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:20-21)

        Throughout the Scriptures, we see men chosen by God, clearly, as though who spoke (prophesied) in His name. They were the ones the people went to interpret those words. If the Scriptures are the sole authority, whose Scriptures do we rely? The Catholic? The King James Version? Maybe the Jehovah Witness' version? Whose? In the Middle Ages, the Albigenese 'scriptures' sanctified immorality. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage was sanctified, whereas marriage was held as an evil. Birth was seen as an evil since it would 'trap' a soul in sinful flesh. This 'abuse' of the Scriptures prompted the extreme action of the Council of Toulouse (not an ecumenical council) which had to restrict the layman's use of the Bible until they could be sure that they were receiving a correct interpretation instead of the Albigensian's version. This led to the fallacy that "the Catholic Church kept the Bible from the laity and burned it." The only Bible which was burnt (if any) were the Albigenese ones.

        Scripture reads: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3: 16-17). But what if the Scriptures are misinterpreted, mistranslated, or distorted to fit an idea or agenda? How profitable is it then?

        We hear of radical feminists who say that God is a woman since, in the Old Testament, wisdom is personified as Sophia (from the Greek word meaning wisdom). This is the gnostic interpretation which has Sophia as a gnostic 'goddess', where Christ is, at best, a demiurge, a demi-god. Or that Lydia was a priestess as was Phoebe. None of these can be justified by a true interpretation of the Bible, only a misinterpretation or distortion. There are even biblical scholars who are questioning whether the woman in Isiaih 7:14 was a virgin, or just a young woman. And whether her child was a boy or a girl. Of course, if the woman is interpreted as not being a virgin then the Virgin birth is a sham. And if the child is a girl, what of Christ?

        We hear militant gays saying that homosexual practices aren't condemned as a sin. Again, they say that it was male temple prostitutes that St. Paul was condemning. That God punished Sodom for being inhospitable (imagine God punishing an entire city for not offering visitors tea?) In short, name the movement, the agenda, the notion. One can, or will, find a 'Bible' that supports it or a Biblical study guide. Rev. David Stout even joked that "they are going to come out with a pre-natal study Bible." One can only imagine what it may say, depending on who publishes it. Planned Parenthood's interpretation will be far different from that of Right To Life.

        Rev. Gomas points out that this stems from Biblical illiteracy, from 'educated' men and women who are really not literate in the Scriptures. The thing is that they all see themselves as biblically literate. Either through secular or religious universities, or via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

        We may, and should, accept the Scriptures as authoritative teachings. That they are "inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." The problem comes, whose interpretation of those Scriptures do we believe and follow? Rev. Gomas' interpretation is no doubt different from those of Jerry Falwell, which is different from Oral Roberts, which is different from Jimmy Swaggert's. Just as Luther's interpretation was different from Calvin's, which was different from Wesley's, which was different from Knox's (not to mention Joseph Smith's [Mormon] and Charles Taze Russell [Jehovah Witness]).

        Scripture tells us: "There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability" (2 Peter 3: 16-17).

        Where then do we go for 'authoritative' teaching if we must be wary of " the ignorant and unstable" and " lawless men" who distort the Scriptures to their own, and our, destruction?

        Scripture itself gives us the answer. The Church, the pillar and bulwark of truth is the 'authority' of the Scriptures (ref. 1 Timothy 3:15). Not the Church as in the people of God (if it were, we'd be back were we started) but the Church as in the hierarchy of the Church, established by God to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;" (Matthew 28: 19-20) With Peter as the head of that hierarchy (ref. Matthew 16: 16-19).

        As St. Augustine wrote: "I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

        Scott Hahn, an ex-Presbyterian minister and Theologian, asked whether truth was to be found in the Church, the Bible, or Both. As Rev. Gomas pointed out, "Scripture is just one of the gifts and graces of the church" Just as in the Old Testament, God gives His people His words, His teachings, His commands. And we go to His 'representatives' on the earth to help us interpret those words, teachings and commands.

        If we don't, then we are simply replacing one Magisterium for another. The Magisterium of ourselves. Not the Church of the People of God, not even the Church established by God, but a church made up of one. No doubt, many can be found to agree with this singular church, but the truth would not be what is found there.

        So, this Biblical illiteracy can be seen as the cause of great misfortune. Schisms, heresies, apostasies have all come about due to this illiteracy. But rather than making ourselves biblical scholars according to the thoughts of Moody, Harvard, etc. we can rely on God and His Church to reveal the truth of Scriptures.

        "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4: 1-5).

    Pax Christi, Pat

November 15, 1999       volume 10, no. 216


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