instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Getting the Word out

There is, if you'll pardon me saying it, an excellent -- and terrifically important -- discussion going on in the comments of the post below. Well, this particular instantiation of the discussion may not be terrifically important, but the topic of discussion is, and some very good things are being said.

I suspect most Catholics who say that reading the Bible is hard are reading it wrong. That's understandable. The Church is still trying to get the word out (ha!) that it is right and good to read the Bible. How to read the Bible is a follow-on question.

So a good Catholic is likely to read the Bible in much the same way he would read War and Peace, or any other Improving Book: find a quiet spot, open to Page One, and begin. How far is a good Catholic likely to get? We might take a poll; pious little keener that I was, when I started at Page One as a twelve-year-old I made it to the middle of one of the Chronicles before crying, "Enough!" (But then, I was reading the Living Bible, an empty-calorie paraphrase that goes down a lot easier than any of the real translations.)

American Catholics are also likely to read the Bible in much the same way he imagines his Evangelical neighbor would read it, as a sort of textbook or Divine FAQ. This leads to all sorts of difficulties. I recall a man once telling me (I'm not sure why he thought I should know; I think I was helping out with the parish library's book sale at the time) that he had satisfied himself regarding the Biblical basis for every sacrament but Reconciliation. It just doesn't work well Catholic to have a fundamentally different understanding of Scripture than the Church has.