instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, November 17, 2006

A new perspective

I don't like apologetics.

I don't really know the stock moves in Catholic-Protestant debates. I'm not interested in learning them. I'm not interested in watching apologists in action. In fact, I am becoming more confirmed in my opinion that a grave hindrance to the flourishing of the Church in the United States is that too many Catholics understand the Church principally in apologetical terms, rather than as the Church is in herself.

I had a curious experience in the comments at Zippy Catholic this week, trying to discuss the Catholic understanding of the source of the doctrine of the Eucharist with two Protestants. I was, by turns, amused, bemused, and confused at the very different ways we were approaching the question -- even, for that matter, understanding what question was being addressed.

There's little enough there that hasn't already been hashed out ten thousand times, but I did have one thought I, at least, hadn't thought before:

The difference between Catholic and sola Scriptura Protestant understandings of the nature and role of Holy Scripture in the life of a Christian really is a matter of perspective. The Protestant (and forgive me, Dear Protestant Reader, for cutting rhetorical corners here and expressing myself in unabashedly Catholic terms) has, basically, nothing else but the Bible; that's all that's in his field of view. When the Catholic explains that he sees Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church in addition to the Bible, it sounds to the Protestant like the Catholic is reducing the role of the Bible in the Christian's life.

But the Catholic position is not to squeeze the Magisterium and Tradition into the same space the Bible occupies in the eyes of the Protestant. It's rather to increase the space, to zoom out and see the Bible, not as something smaller, but as a part of something greater.