Friday, March 11, 2005

Bible Studies

The topic of bible studies has come up for me recently because a couple of people I know are working on scripture studies for Catholics, manuscripts. I have thought about pening a bible study in the past but it's never quite come together and now I know why. My orientation regarding scripture is very much fundamentalist and the problem has been that I have had a Catholic audience in mind.

In looking closely at Catholic bible studies, the orientation is different: the purpose of studying scripture is to deepen one's Catholic faith. As opposed to . . .? Some might ask. Well, as opposed to studying scripture for scripture's sake. For me, a bible study serves the sole purpose of getting to know the bible better, because it is the hinge of my faith.

The difference in the two orientations is this. Imagine if the Scriptures were largely discredited, to what extent would it affect your faith? For most Catholics, not much, because most Catholic's faith is rooted in the tradition and philosophy of the Church and not directly in Scripture. For me, and fundamentalists, the bottom falls out. (This discrediting has already happened to a certain extent, but that's another post.)

A scripture study, then, serves different functions for the differing orientations. For me, a scripture study helps me get into "the word" more, find out more about what God is saying, gives me more verses to chew on, makes more interconnections between verses, which expands the universe of God's voice. For most Catholics, a scripture study is to show the connections between the meaning of verses and stories and the tenets of the Catholic faith. The words themselves are less an issue than the point of the scripture.

For instance, Ps 50:2 says, "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined." That verse is a gold mine for me and actually was as a fundamentalist. It was one of the rungs on the ladder that got me to believe in Mary as a Catholic-hating fundamentalist. In Catholic circles, that verse probably works best as an antiphon and the meaning is more in the entire Psalm than in the individual verse. That's fine, I just point out the difference.

So in a bible study that I'd do, I would want to correlate that verse with other verses that speak of "Zion" and see what that yields. For instance, Galations 4 speaks of "Zion, which is the mother of us all," and then there's Revelations 12 which speaks of the "woman" with children, and the connections go on and on.

The difference is in utility. The Catholic study seeks utility from scripture, while the fundamentalist, seeks God. I think it is fair to say that what the Eucharist is to Catholics, the bible is to fundamentalist (and for me). And so just as the understanding of the Eucharist for Catholics drives them to devotions such as adoration, so also the belief of fundamentalists drives them to adoration of Scripture. This scriptural "adoration" works in terms of knowledge. The more you know scripture the more you know God. This is why memorizing verses and spending time reading the bible is crucial for fundamentalist. Again, this is not to say scripture is not important for Catholics, but the fact is that you can be a good Catholic with minimal personal involvement with scripture reading.

I am overstating the case of adoration on the fundamentalists side because there is clearly the desire to utilize the lessons of scripture for daily living, nonetheless, one loses the true sense of what the bible means to fundamentalists if we don't get at the root. Also, I use the term fundamentalists loosely as those who see the written word as God's unfiltered word.


Blogger Ambrose said...

For the Catholic and Orthodox emphasis on Eucharist, rather than just the Word alone, is it possibly rooted in that Christ instructed the Apostles to "Do this in Memory of Me." He didn't say, "Read this and recite after me"? There was worship before the Canon?

2:10 AM  
Blogger Ono said...

Funny, I was thinking about something similar the other day. But the contrast is not worship v canon, but worship v scripture. Scripture existed prior to canon and there can be no worship without scripture.

The "memory of me" shows that the foundation of worship is scripture. But as far as read and recite. There is quite a bit in the Hebrew scriptures that ask us to meditate, cogitate, read, recite, repeat, speak, etc the words of God. Ps 1 is an example, also Joshua 1:9 (? or close), there's Ps 119, many verses in Proverbs, Is 55 has some nice verses in this regard.

6:30 PM  
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5:58 PM  
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5:14 PM  

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