Monday, March 2, 2020

Feast of the Word

Apparently Pope Francis has expanded the observance of St. Jerome and turned it into a Feast of the Word.  Anyone who knows St. Jerome, knows how fitting it is to remember him and to urge people to be in the Word of God together on January 26.  That said, it is odd that in so many ways the Word is less central to Roman Catholic worship and piety than it is to, say, Lutheran.  St. Jerome is famous for having said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  Sacred Scripture has a central role in the faith, prayer and lives of believers.  We study the Word not as a quest for information or trivial fact or curiosity but because it speaks of Christ and it is Christ's voice speaking.  The Feast of the Word is not about how we feel about it or even if we agree with it but rather that we are captive to it, as Luther so famously said.  Captive to the Word of God means that the Church and all believers hear the Word of God through the ears of faith, informed by the Holy Spirit but not only informed by the Spirit.  Rather, the Spirit works in and through that Word to bring the dead heart to life by faith, to arouse within that heart the discernment to hear Christ speaking in the Word, and to recognize that the subject of the Word is Christ.

Most distressing is the fact that Protestants have become adept at hearing the Word as general direction while ignoring and dismissing specific words within Scripture.  While we see this most clearly in the acceptance of the LGBTQ+, it is typical in the way that cultural change both informs and trumps the truth of God's Word and its consistent address through the ages.  This radical departure has eviscerated the claim of Protestantism to herald the Word in the face of Roman preoccupation with the Sacraments.  The claim is now rendered hollow and empty by the refusal of most Protestants to let the Word inform them and by their insistence that individual and corporate reason sift the truth of Scripture for the precious ore and for the slag that must be discarded.  At the same time, Roman Catholics had led the way in a renewal of Biblical theology in the past fifty years.  Yet even Rome is not immune from the great temptation to either tailor the Scriptures to fit their pre-existing conclusions or the press of culture against the witness of the faith.  Some in Rome have been adept at accepting historical criticism of Scripture with its inherent skepticism toward the text and the content of the Word.

Finally, something must be said by the trivial use of Scripture.  The plethora of Bible versions and study Bibles directed to individuals and individual circumstance belies the central truth of Scripture that it is one Word with one message and story.  In this way those who often lay claim to being Biblical have betrayed their claim by treating the Scriptures as a curious book of niceties whose appeal is to sentiment more than truth and to the moment more than through the ages.  It is an embarrassment not of riches but of our poverty that you can walk into any book store and see the Scriptures treated as an article of clothing chosen for taste, preference, and fit to the individual.  The variety of opinions about what the Scriptures say only reinforces the idea that its message is not clear or different to different hearers and times or it does not really matter all that much.  It was not without a prescient view toward the future that the Missouri Synod was organized in part to publish orthodox materials and faithful study Bibles.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

As we speak, Rme is up to something again. Pope Francis designated a date this May to have his Vatican meetings with all the major religions of the world. The purpose, as some see it, is to find common ground. Hmmm...common ground? Is the Gospel a place where we all discuss and decide what to retain, and what to dismiss? What is Pope Francis up to this time? Listening to some Christian evangelicals on the radio, there is concern that he is plugging a subtle one world religion concept, something tried over the past by various false teachers and fake Christians to appease the secular worshippers and bring everyone together in a Kum-bay-a moment. Dangerous territory. I for one will never see Rome as concerned about the word of God, when they think tradition and custom carry more weight. May we not fall away, each of us, by embracing these deceptions which are by design leading the foolish down the path of heresy to their own soul's destruction.

Cliff said...

John, You are right, we always need to be sceptical of anything Roman. Their mixed bag of so called dogma contains so much variety that you can pull almost anything you want out of this bag. It is a game they play when they claim they are the one "Universal" Church.

They never come right out and stand on scriptural points. It is similar to the marketing strategy of McDonalds, trying to convince you their product is the best. BEWARE of anything Roman.