Skip to comments.Synod: Christianity not a 'Religion of the Book'
Posted on 10/08/2008 11:33:01 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
Much mischief in Catholicism often results from over-emphasizing one or another pole of a continuum. For example, push too hard on the church as a hierarchy, and the result is an inflated notion of authority; put too much stress on the church as the people of God, and you get congregationalism.
Applied to the current Synod of Bishops on the Bible, this "both/and" feature of Catholicism means that the bishops need to do two things at once: foster a deeper knowledge and love for the Scriptures, without generating an exaggerated cult of the printed word divorced from broader notions of tradition and the living church. A more succint way of phrasing the point is this: How can the church stress the Bible as fundamental, without turning Catholics into fundamentalists?
Yesterday saw just such an effort to strike the right balance, with a forceful plea from a key papal advisor to reject the idea of Christianity as a Religion of the Book.
By most accounts, the afternoons most memorable address came from Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, the rector of the Lateran University and President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Under any circumstances, ears would perk up when Fisichella takes the floor. Hes a longtime advisor to Pope Benedict XVI; the two men worked closely together, for example, on Pope John Paul IIs 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio. (The joke around Rome at the time was that the text could have been titled Fisichella et Ratzinger.)
Fisichella began yesterday by arguing that the document of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on Scripture, Dei Verbum, offered a piece of authentic dogmatic progress that has yet to be adequately discovered and developed: Its stress on the unity of the sources of revelation.
(By way of background, the big debate over Dei Verbum at the time of the council pitted what was then known as the two-source theory, which held that Scripture and tradition are essentially two separate streams of revelation, against the one-source theory, which posited that Scripture is the lone source of revelation and tradition is an elaboration of it. In effect, Dei Verbum held that Scripture and tradition are interdependent and integrally related to one another.)
Fisichella said the failure to appreciate the solution offered by Dei Verbum has had dangerous consequences.
Many believers, when asked what the phrase Word of God means, respond: The Bible, Fisichella said. That response isnt wrong, but its incomplete , or at least it reflects an incomplete perception of the richness present in the expression, and as a consequence it tends to identify Christianity as a Religion of the Book.
In our language, we shouldnt fall into the ambivalent expression the three religions of the Book, Fisichella said, referring to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Instead, he insisted, Christianity is properly understood as a religion of the Word.
Its important that we commit ourselves to constructing a culture that sees Scripture as a living word, Fisichella said. Otherwise, he warned, we run the risk of humiliating the Word of God by reducing it exclusively to a written text, without the provocative capacity to give meaning to life.
Fisichella asserted that the church finds itself facing an educational emergency, created by a culture in which the Bible is often seen as a collection of myths, lacking any historical character and intended solely for the naïve. In that context, he said, its critical to present Scripture in its totality meaning that its part of a living tradition, which is ultimately aimed at salvation.
Fisichellas call to reject the phrase Religion of the Book echoes a point already made by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City, the relator of the synod, in his opening address. Ouellet, too, expressed a preference for the term religion of the Word.
Other notes struck yesterday afternoon:
Bishop George Punnakottil of Kothamangalam, India, from the Syro-Malabar Church, offered a gentle rebuke to synod organizers for neglecting the Eastern tradition, noting that the working paper for the synod contained just eight citations from Eastern fathers. He argued that the Eastern perspective can help achieve one of the synods main aims, which is restoring spiritual depth to the way the Bible is read, beyond historical and literary analysis. Emphasizing development of the inner eye of faith, Punnakottil said that true theologians are true saints.
Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, who also serves as secretary-general of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, stressed that God spoke his Word especially for the sake of the poor. Asia today, Quevedo said, is a continent of the poor, of economic and political imbalances, of ethnic division and conflict. Yet in precisely that context, he said, thousands of small communities of the poor are springing up, drawing strength and consolation from reading the Bible. Quevedos endorsement of Basic Ecclesial Communities carries particular importance in light of the controversy that has sometimes surrounded them, especially in Latin America but also in other parts of the world. Critics charge that base communities can be excessively political and sometimes at odds with the hierarchy, but Quevedo praised them as communities of solidarity and fellowship at the grassroots, effectively challenging in their own little way the modern culture of secularism and materialism.
Bishop Desiderius Rwoma of Singida, Tanzania, returned to one of the most popular themes so far in the synod the need for better homilies. If we speak of people being lukewarm concerning matters of our faith, and the phenomenon of religious sects which are spreading at an alarming speed in many parts of the world, the causes for this can possibly be traced back to a lack of good and proper preaching, Rwoma said. He proposed a return to mystagogical preaching, meaning a style that gradually leads people more deeply into the central mysteries of the faith.
Bishop Filippo Santoro of Petropolis, Brazil, was the first to raise the issue of extraordinary ministers, referring to lay people who under certain circumstances play roles once performed exclusively by priests, such as distributing communion during the Mass. Santoro asserted that extraordinary ministers by themselves, and in themselves, do not arouse an encounter with Christ, but rather can end up exacerbating the bureaucratization of the church.
...the big debate over Dei Verbum at the time of the council pitted what was then known as the two-source theory, which held that Scripture and tradition are essentially two separate streams of revelation, against the one-source theory, which posited that Scripture is the lone source of revelation and tradition is an elaboration of it. In effect, Dei Verbum held that Scripture and tradition are interdependent and integrally related to one another.
Because I know that Yah'shua is the Holy Word of Elohim.
I pray, he is just speaking for the RCC. shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
Because I know that Yah'shua is the Holy Word of Elohim.
Indeed... and this is exactly as Scripture itself teaches in 1 Tim. 3:15, 2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 3:6 and elsewhere.
And the Word is...God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
I am not so hung up on whether you say “Word” or “Bible”, as when people say “bible” they most often do so understanding the bible as “the Word of God”.
Seems right to this Catholic.
What do you think?
Evangelical Christian roger that.
“Bishop George Punnakottil of Kothamangalam, India, from the Syro-Malabar Church, offered a gentle rebuke to synod organizers for neglecting the Eastern tradition, noting that the working paper for the synod contained just eight citations from Eastern fathers. He argued that the Eastern perspective can help achieve one of the synods main aims, which is restoring spiritual depth to the way the Bible is read, beyond historical and literary analysis. Emphasizing development of the inner eye of faith, Punnakottil said that true theologians are true saints.”
Excellent advice for all you Western types...:)
;-)shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
Christianity is not a “religion of the book”. It’s the religion taught, and founded, by a Person, Jesus Christ.
wow, I was wondering if a Muslim was saying this...
In case folks don’t know, only people “of the book” are allowed to live in dhimmitude. All other non-believers are to be killed if they don’t convert.
I was wondering if Islam was telling us they intend to mass slaughter Christians.
Conversely, anything claiming to be a “religion of the book” isn’t Christian.
Before the canon of Scripture was closed (another issue), it was appropriate to allow “the word of God” to include verbal speech, such as Paul’s preaching to the Thessalonians (1 Ths. 2:13). But the way we know it was wholly inspired of God is because it says it was in Scripture, which class of revelation the Holy Spirit assures us is wholly inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16).
This does not mean God cannot speak to souls today, and fundamentalists do not disallow this - esp. during the offering - but such is not guaranteed to be inspired as Scripture is, and it must be tested for conformity the Scriptures, which authority the noble Bereans even tested the very apostles by (Acts 17:11), rather than implicitly submitting to them as infallible.
As for the words of “church tradition,” they cannot be held as wholly inspired of God (and often are contrary to it), though out of this realm some of Scripture was transmitted by, as the canon is closed, and thus to make any other stream of revelation equal to it (which Rome makes her nebulous, uncodified traditions) is to essentially add to the canon.
Moreover, ecclesiastical authority, old or new, is not guaranteed to be infallible, though they declare themselves such and establish criteria for it. The Jewish form of Magisterium is shown not to be infallible by the reproof of prophets (by which God preserved His elect), and the Lord Himself, who reproved them for “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” one of which was by the law of corban (Mk. 7:6-13).
As do many today, “They supposed that when Moses was on Mount Sinai two sets of laws were delivered to him: one, they said, was recorded, and is that contained in the Old Testament; the other was handed down from father to son, and kept uncorrupted to their day. They believed that Moses, before he died, delivered this law to Joshua; he to the Judges; they to the prophets; so that it was kept pure until it was recorded in the Talmuds.” - Barnes
What inspired teaching the apostles (etc.) did was confirmed by Scripture, as well as by powerful supernatural attestation (Rm. 15:19: but which itself must be tested by the Word), and their appeal to the hearts and minds of men assumed that men such as the common Bereans would discern what was inspired of God.
(Luke 24:44) “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”
(Acts 17:2) “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,”
(Acts 18:28) “For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”
(Acts 28:23) “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”
(Exo 17:14) “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”
(Exo 34:27) “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.”
(Isa 30:8) “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:”
(Jer 30:2) “Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.”
See John 1:1
It is indeed sad that you Reject the Word of G-d. shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
See John 1:1
I think that’s precisely what Campion said. The Bible identifies the Word of God as Jesus Christ, and this Christianity is the religion of Jesus Christ - not the Bible.
Please do not include the followers of the Christ in your RCC statement. shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
So you see, Catholics do use Holy Scripture as well as the Holy Tradition it is linked to.
It’s interesting that you think you have a share in the mind of God, to know whether someone is one of His followers, and simply on the basis of the church with which he’s aligned himself.
Personally, I’d leave that judgment up to the only one able to see into the hearts of men. And according to the Bible sitting on my desk, it ain’t you.
Do you think the nasty edge to your comments presents a winsome, attractive face to Christianity? If I were seeking for the first time and all I found were posts like yours, I’d find Christianity to be an utterly repellent entity. Thank goodness there are Christians on all parts of the spectrum who realize this.
I suspect they’re not really arguing that we don’t use Sacred Scripture, but rather that we’re not respecting it as the sole authority in the life of the believer (which is a proposition refuted by Scripture itself).