Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bo Giertz on Reading the Bible...

Reading the Bible on your own is no easy undertaking. The beginner is always referred first to the preached Word.... throughout the course of the liturgical year, the beginning is then led systematically through the articles of the Creed.  This is not the end.  Therefore, the Church will prepare in this way [liturgical preaching] every member to read his or her own Bible...

Maybe I am nuts.  Not a few have no doubts about that.  But I would not direct someone curious about Christianity to open up and just start reading the Bible.  I believe it is best to start with the liturgical preaching of Sunday morning and in this way let the Mass be one of the primary sources of catechesis (especially through the liturgy).  I would direct the person to the catechism itself before I would direct them to the Bible.  I would direct them to one or more of the excellent resources beyond the catechism (creedal studies, a good approach like the Why I Am a Lutheran book).  Only after they have sat for a time in the Divine Service and made their way through the catechism and addressed a creedal based study of Christian beliefs would I then direct them to the Bible and then I would certainly given them a direction as to where to begin (say, Matthew) and what to avoid for now (say, Revelation).

I say this not because I do not believe the Spirit can work through the Word alone, I do.  But we live in an age where faith is often equated as individual judgment and not communion in the Word that says nothing novel but yesterday, today, and forever the same message in Christ.  We live in a time when the internet and booksellers put all books on an even par with one another and the orthodox faith competes with individual conscience and reason as well as the next crack pot who thinks he has broken the Bible code.

We too often forget that the Scriptures have been available to the ordinary person only in recent history.  We too often forget that the Scriptures are the Church's book and not the domain of the individual's judgment, reason, or interpretation.  We too often forget that shoving a Bible into the hands of someone outside the faith is like giving them a tool without instructions and almost inviting them to ditch reading the Bible out of complete confusion (and, therefore the faith), come up with some screwy slant or interpretation (on their own or aided by the odd array of things available on the internet or in any bookstore), or give up entirely on the idea that you can know God in any real sense.  It is not that I have no confidence in the Scriptures or in the promise of God to bring back to Him the fruit for which He has sent it forth.  It is only that the Scriptures are read and understood not by any individual gauge of truth but in the context of the Church (the evangelical and catholic faith, that which has been always and everywhere confessed).

Now, all who wish to be saved ought to hear this preaching [of God's Word]. For the preaching and hearing of God's Word are instruments of the Holy Ghost, by, with, and through which He desires to work efficaciously, and to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to do. Formula SD II 52


Anonymous said...

You are really selling the power of
the Holy Spirit short. There are
many people who have to come to faith
in Christ who started reading the
Scriptures on their own. Then they
would ask for a strong Christian to
help explain what they did not
understand. Think of our prisons
where inmates are handed a Bible
and read it from cover to cover.

Anonymous said...

Did he say that? Did he actually say that one could not come to faith by reading the Scriptures only? All the Pastor said was someone curious might be better directed toward the catechism first. Either way it is the Spirit who makes faith and only the Spirit.

Janis Williams said...

I think the misreading that occurs on this blog is more than enough to make Fr. Peter's point. If Americans cannot read uninspired writing (sorry, Fr. Peters), how should we expect them to understand Holy Scripture?

As to the Liturgy, the average person we bring to church with us needs 1. encouragement - we will help them though, tell them when to kneel, stand, etc. 2. allay their fears - those unfamiliar with Liturgy aren't puzzled by it. They are not likely to think it 'dead' orthodoxy. They are generally scared to death of it. (Speaking from experience.)

Anonymous said...

I think a cover to cover reading of the Bible is worthwhile just to see the whole of it in toto. My son and my husband read it together over about a year and a half when my son was about 11-12 years old. He knows all kinds of stuff from the experience. It was a nice father son experience. It is not a replacement for proper instruction but serves as good background knowledge and for familiarity. One of my in laws reads the whole Bible every year in addition to specific studies. He also remembers tons of interesting details and stuff. Very fun to discuss stuff with him.

Chris said...

Reading the Bible outside of the Liturgical context is to invite delusion and/or despair. The Scriptures are the backbone of the Liturgy both in terms of text and also teleologically. If the Scriptures are not first understood this way, then simply giving a Bible as a gift will do nothing.

One must remember that the Scriptures were produced by the church. Protestantism has said that the Scriptures came first and then the Church (which, of course, Christ nor St. Paul NEVER claimed) and such is why there are now over 10,000 Protestant sects out there each claiming to know what the Scriptures say. And most of those 10,000 sects have done away with liturgy so it is easy to see how error has been heaped upon error and multiplied a thousand times over.

Scripture is much more understood with the context of the daily hymns which accompany it.

Anonymous said...

Judaism kept the Scripture within the domain of the church. It was not a private possession but belonged to the community of faith.

Early Christianity likewise kept the Scriptures within the domain of the church but preached the Gospel far and wide. It did not seem to hinder the outreach of the church to do it this way.

No one can keep anyone from reading the Bible. It is so available that it is impossible to control access. What Pr Peters and others seem to be saying is that access to the Scriptures and reading it within the veil of the church are two very different things and not in consequential.

That seems fair.