Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Christianity Biased Toward Book Lovers?

John Piper takes up this question at his blog.

I post the link here because yours truly posted a few comments, some of them in dialogue with another reader.

I reproduce one of my comments below:


Hi Simon, grace and peace to you!
I'm drowning right next to you my brother, and the Bible indeed is a necessary lifeline for each of us. I'd ask you to think critically about this common idea of a "simple faith." The true faith has simple layers, but these layers are always connected with much more complex layers, the way simple addition is connected with calculus. Simple addition is fine, but a mistake at this level is going to mean a mistake at the more complex level as well, even if you are not consciously aware of the presence of this mistake.

My questions were meant to challenge the idea that God put it all in the Bible. I think God put it all in His Church, and over the centuries, the entire deposit of faith has been passed down to us by this Church both in written (Sacred Scripture) and oral (Sacred Tradition) forms. Both of these forms have been protected by a teaching magisterium that is protected by the Holy Spirit in its doctrinal and moral teachings.

The Bible depends on both Tradition and the Magisterium. Tradition tells us what books are supposed to be in the Bible and the MEANING of the Bible. The Magisterium is like the divinely appointed mailman who simply delivers the message without changing it. (With thousands of competing denominations, some people must be changing the message rather than simply delivering it. How do you know that Piper's interpretations are the correct ones?)

I would not deny that if you take the Bible out of its natural (interpretive) Tradition, you can get thousands of possible alternative interpretations, such as some of the newer interpretations that John Piper promotes.

From my perspective, your original statement implicitly speculates on the questions I presented. My questions made explicit that which was implicit in your comment.

I would like to share with you from my own experience that the Bible without Catholic Church makes an incomplete lifeline. The Bible needs to be interpreted, and so when weak Christians like you, me, and everyone else interpret the Bible apart from its interpretive context (Sacred Tradition) and make ourselves the magisterium, we end up holding on to the lifeline of our own weak, fallible interpretations. A lifeline is only as strong as the rock into which it is anchored. St. Augustine himself said that "I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me." (Contra epistolam Manichaei 5, 6: PL 42, 176.)

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