Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Synod: Christianity not a 'Religion of the Book'
National Catholic Reporter ^ | Oct 8, 2008 | JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

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 afternoon’s 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. He’s a longtime advisor to Pope Benedict XVI; the two men worked closely together, for example, on Pope John Paul II’s 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 isn’t wrong, but it’s 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 shouldn’t 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.”

“It’s 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, it’s critical to present Scripture in its “totality” – meaning that it’s part of a living tradition, which is ultimately aimed at salvation.

Fisichella’s 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 synod’s 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. Quevedo’s 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.”


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Theology
KEYWORDS:
Yesterday saw...a forceful plea from a key papal advisor [Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, the rector of the Lateran University and President of the Pontifical Academy for Life] to reject the idea of Christianity as a “Religion of the Book.”

...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.

1 posted on 10/08/2008 11:33:02 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy
Synod: Christianity not a 'Religion of the Book'

I pray, he is just speaking for the RCC.

Because I know that Yah'shua is the Holy Word of Elohim.

shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
2 posted on 10/08/2008 11:43:10 AM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their ROCK, And the Most High God their Redeemer.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy

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.


3 posted on 10/08/2008 11:43:52 AM PDT by djrakowski
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy

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”.


4 posted on 10/08/2008 11:47:24 AM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy

Seems right to this Catholic.

What do you think?


5 posted on 10/08/2008 11:52:47 AM PDT by prolifefirst
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: XeniaSt
I pray, he is just speaking for the RCC.

Evangelical Christian roger that.

6 posted on 10/08/2008 12:25:34 PM PDT by magslinger (A politician who thinks he is above the law is actually beneath contempt.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy

“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 synod’s 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...:)


7 posted on 10/08/2008 12:35:52 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: magslinger
;-)
shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai

8 posted on 10/08/2008 12:37:38 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their ROCK, And the Most High God their Redeemer.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: XeniaSt

Christianity is not a “religion of the book”. It’s the religion taught, and founded, by a Person, Jesus Christ.


9 posted on 10/08/2008 12:39:57 PM PDT by Campion
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: magslinger

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.


10 posted on 10/08/2008 12:40:32 PM PDT by MrB (0bama supporters: What's the attraction? The Marxism or the Infanticide?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Campion

Conversely, anything claiming to be a “religion of the book” isn’t Christian.


11 posted on 10/08/2008 12:41:02 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy

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.”


12 posted on 10/08/2008 12:43:09 PM PDT by daniel1212 ( Give your sins and life to Him who died your us and rose again. Jesus is Lord.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Campion
Christianity is not a “religion of the book”. It’s the religion taught, and founded, by a Person, Jesus Christ.

It is indeed sad that you Reject the Word of G-d.

See John 1:1

shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
13 posted on 10/08/2008 12:48:13 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their ROCK, And the Most High God their Redeemer.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: XeniaSt

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.


14 posted on 10/08/2008 12:54:03 PM PDT by djrakowski
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: djrakowski

15 posted on 10/08/2008 1:05:16 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their ROCK, And the Most High God their Redeemer.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Campion
Christianity is not a “religion of the book”. It’s the religion taught, and founded, by a Person, Jesus Christ.

Please do not include the followers of the Christ in your RCC statement.

shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach Adonai
16 posted on 10/08/2008 1:07:45 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their ROCK, And the Most High God their Redeemer.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy
I guess you and some of the other posters on this thread did not read this release from Zenit: Cardinal Says Scripture Inseparably United to Tradition

So you see, Catholics do use Holy Scripture as well as the Holy Tradition it is linked to.

17 posted on 10/08/2008 1:11:16 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: XeniaSt

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.


18 posted on 10/08/2008 1:19:22 PM PDT by djrakowski
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: XeniaSt

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.


19 posted on 10/08/2008 1:21:24 PM PDT by djrakowski
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

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).


20 posted on 10/08/2008 1:25:33 PM PDT by djrakowski
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy
“God spoke his Word especially for the sake of the poor.”

Where did the writer get that?

21 posted on 10/08/2008 1:30:12 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: LiteKeeper
Where did the writer get that?

Ron Sider? Jim Wallis? Tony Campolo?

22 posted on 10/08/2008 1:41:02 PM PDT by Alex Murphy (What can I say? It's a gift. And I didn't get a receipt, so I can't exchange it.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: MrB
Someone might want to tell the Mohammadens that might not work so well with two book Christians.


23 posted on 10/08/2008 2:21:53 PM PDT by magslinger (A politician who thinks he is above the law is actually beneath contempt.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: djrakowski
we’re not respecting it as the sole authority in the life of the believer (which is a proposition refuted by Scripture itself).

Chapter & Verse please. This is the first I've heard this!

Does 2 Tim 3:16 not promote sola scriptura?

24 posted on 10/08/2008 2:27:38 PM PDT by MrB (0bama supporters: What's the attraction? The Marxism or the Infanticide?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: djrakowski

Sola Scriptura does not disallow other authority, but requires that all such submit to the Scriptures as the final logos authority, to which the Lord and his apostles themselves appealed, not a mortal man or men who presume that supremacy, and that according to their interpretation, only their interpretation can be right in any conflict.

Sola Scriptura requires that all authoritative teaching must be able to withstand the scrutiny of sound Scriptural exegesis, by which you will not find the perpetual virginity of Mary nor her as a Heavenly object of prayer, etc., supported. Nor even the Perpetuated Petrine papacy of Rome, from whence all this such flows.


25 posted on 10/08/2008 2:30:27 PM PDT by daniel1212 ( Give your sins and life to Him who died your us and rose again. Jesus is Lord.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: MrB

“Does 2 Tim 3:16 not promote sola scriptura”

Not by itself. Catholics will make use of the things Scripture is useful for, and rightly point out that the church itself also is such. But the key words are “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” which is nowhere said of Israel or the church, though they were and she upholds it (1 Tim. 3:15).

It is that which is affirmed to be inspired that enabled the church to be born, as it consists only of souls who are added to it by faith in the Word.

While even if it were possible that some traditions about Christ that are not recorded (Jn. 21:25) were also inspired, it is too late for that, as to hold that tradition is equal to Scripture is essentially adding to a closed canon (which t took 1400+ years and the Reformation for Rome to provide herself with a faulty, but “infallible” conclusion).

Meanwhile, church tradition is virtually a bottomless pit, as there is no certain beginning nor end to it. And that which is shown to contradict Scripture relies upon a self proclaim infallible magisterium. And appealing to Scripture for proof is submitting to sola Scriptura. But according her apologists, laymen cannot know anything for certain from that method, but need to submit first to the doctrine of her infallible magisterium.

But even then they can offer no infallible list of infallible teaching, while much or most of the Bible remains without such by heart (and few western Catholics manifest care for such).

I see the Berean heart and method much better, even with it’s inherent abuses.


26 posted on 10/08/2008 2:57:05 PM PDT by daniel1212 ( Give your sins and life to Him who died your us and rose again. Jesus is Lord.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: XeniaSt
In case you missed it:

“In our language, we shouldn’t 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.”

I think that sums it up. Frankly, I've never understood why the Muslims get a pass on this, since they accept neither the Book nor the Word...but it seems to be standard to accept Islam as being Biblically based. Just shows you what you can do with the Bible when an independent "prophet" gets hold of it and puts his own gloss on it, I guess.

27 posted on 10/08/2008 3:08:43 PM PDT by livius
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: LiteKeeper

He got it from Liberation Theology. In any case, “base communities” are so yesterday. The good bishop needs to get up to speed on this.


28 posted on 10/08/2008 3:10:00 PM PDT by livius
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Campion
Problem is, this might give a green light to wholesale slaughter of Christians in the Middle East. They are only given a measure of protection by being “people of the Book”.

However, given the context of which the synod seems (in this translation) to be speaking, they are right. Even the most fundamentalist Bible only Christian is not a “Religion of the Book” in that there are doctrines that are not explicitly spelled out that all Christians hold. For instance, while the Bible speaks of the Trinity and Incarnation, the details are pretty vague at times. But looking at the Scripture and thinking about it, you can get a better idea. In Islam, that would not be possible.

29 posted on 10/08/2008 6:24:26 PM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: redgolum

To say that the doctrine of the Triunity of God is most certainly Biblically derived and substantiated, and if the born again Christian faith was not that of the Book, and which materially provides pastors, etc., it would simply not exist.

(James 1:18) “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

(Eph 1:13) “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

(Rom 15:4) “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”


30 posted on 10/09/2008 6:55:32 AM PDT by daniel1212 ( Give your sins and life to Him who died your us and rose again. Jesus is Lord.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

To: magslinger
Are there really people that call themselves "Christians" that post obscene photos of weapons, and imply their use against other people on Christian threads?

Something seems seriously askew here.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

31 posted on 10/09/2008 12:44:27 PM PDT by getoffmylawn (What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Campion
It’s the religion taught, and founded, by a Person, Jesus Christ.
"
Jesus did not teach religion!
32 posted on 04/21/2011 6:57:16 PM PDT by presently no screen name
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

LOL! A Cardinal is not a source for God’s Word. Man made traditions nullify God’s Word.

Deception NEEDS to attached itself to something good to survive so of course these RC will ‘try’ to attached itself to God’s Word.

They can say it all they want but GOD’s Word says differently. And HIS WORD is the ONLY WORD that counts as many will learn the hard way.


33 posted on 04/21/2011 7:04:33 PM PDT by presently no screen name
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson