Sunday, April 1, 2012
Bo Giertz on Reading the 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