Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Protestant-style" Bible Reading

Last night I had a very interesting discussion. It was suggested that maybe I would like to teach others about how Protestants read the Bible. Protestants surely talk up their Bible reading skills and put down Catholics for theirs, so I guess some Catholics are beginning to believe it. I should also add in this disclaimer; that I did read the Bible a lot when I was Protestant, and I learned much (if not most) of the beliefs I hold today from my time as a Protestant. On the flip side, maybe it isn't fair since Protestants don't have the entire Bible and are missing some books ;) That being said, when asked about Protestant-style Bible Reading, I immediately launched into a lengthy discussion on why I feel Catholic Scripture reading is far superior, perhaps in both quality and quantity (although in all cases Catholic and Protestant, both quality and quantity are up to the individual consumer of Scripture).

Catholics tend to read more of their Bible and critically think about it in ways that Protestants do not get a chance to. This comes from three directions (at least): Mass readings (especially if you include daily mass), the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings), and Lectio Divina. Putting these three things together, I know that I have done more Bible reading (quantity and quality) since I have been Catholic, and I've seen passages and thought about things that never crossed my mind before.

Protestants sometimes read the entire Bible too (our old church did a 1 year read the entire Bible and discuss it on Sunday Morning class once). The problem is that they teach you to read with a certain lense on, you are reading 1) for knowledge and 2) for apologetics material, both of which are important, but there is much more (see section on Catholic prayer below). And, sadly, we are told in Protestant churches that we are all to interpret the Bible for ourselves, but in reality we must come up with the same interpretation as all others on most issues. Finally, the issue of sola scriptura harms Bible reading, because then we are looking for a "pattern in scripture" that tells us everything we need to know. That forces us to draw conclusions or dig into passages for things that aren't really in those passages (because in reality Sacred Tradition or disciplinary decisions by the Church governs those areas).

In contrast, Catholic Bible reading focuses on the prayer and worship aspects of Scripture. As I'm reading the Psalms in the liturgy of the hours, I am praying to God and worshipping him. And, the readings included in the mass (especially the Gospels) draw our mind to Christ. Catholics don't simply pick and choose certain scriptures to read and certain ones to neglect. Our liturgical calendar helps us to read the entirety of the Bible. We also are listening to it as prayer, not filtering it through our rose colored lenses. We don't have to worry about doing that, because the Church is the "Pillar and Foundation of the Truth."

Anyway, after I went on this discussion, it was agreed that I could tell others about more opportunities for reading in the Catholic tradition (like liturgy of the hours and lectio divina) instead of teaching a Protestant style.


Tiber Jumper said...

Great Post. It is impossible to not read our own interpretation onto it. How else could I have ignored the command to eat his body and drink His blood? Because I knew before reading it it must be symbolic!
To have the wisdom of the Church behind us as we read Scripture is tremendous~

~Joseph the Worker said...

absolutely! Thanks for posting. I added your blogs to my list because they are so fascinating.