The defects of Catholic Scriptural theology

As a rule, Anglophone Catholics have stopped reading Scripture as God’s word. On the one hand this happened because, in response to Protestants, we argued that The Bible demands an authoritative interpreter, which led us to defend a Postmodern account of Scripture as incapable of reliably speaking for itself to the heart of the individual believer. Scripture, we are led to believe, has a dangerous and deadly opacity that God remedies by giving an infallible interpreter. One can’t fall into the error of thinking that the Holy Spirit might speak through revelation (!?!?). But if it comes to this, we’ve simply denied that Scripture is revelation.

On the other hand, we have come to see Scripture as nothing but a narrative of salvation history. Taken in this sense, Scripture is a record of events, and principally a record of covenants. Approaching the book in this way makes most of it superfluous. The books of the law, the Wisdom books, most of the prophets, and vast swaths of the New Testament become wheels that spin without being hooked up to anything. Sure, we should read the covenant with Abraham, but why bother reading the Psalms(!?!?) Again, in reading Scripture only as history, no matter how exalted, we force ourselves to be ashamed of all that we cannot assimilate into a larger body of consistent, known evidence. Of itself, this method can only raise the orthodox believer to the point of seeing that a supposedly divine testimony is believable without ever raising the question of what he should do if he believed it.

Both approaches fall short of reading The Bible as the place where we find the words that God both wants to speak to creation and hear back from it in return. In this context both the magisterial interpreter and the historical critic become a fellow reader with us, though they play an auxiliary role, and are valuable to the extent that they are engaged in fundamentally the same sort of activity as the one who comes to Scripture to listen and learn to speak the language of the Trinity. We come to value the Church less for its declarations about what various passages mean (and what percentage of verses needed pronouncements anyway?) and we start valuing it more as the place where the divine office grew and was nourished, and the Scriptures were read in the liturgy.

1 Comment

  1. GeoffSmith said,

    October 7, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Wonderful post. Thanks.


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