A few weeks back, I gave Jesus a “Web Redemption” ala Daniel Tosh of the Comedy Channel’s show, Tosh.O. Today, I will attempt the same with the bible (aka scripture). Acknowledging that scripture might be an even more sensitive issue than Jesus, however, I will not be donning the superhero persona of The Tosh….but will just be plain old Lauri!
Catholics and the Bible
Unlike Protestant churches whose doctrine is typically derived sola scriptura (meaning the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness), Catholic doctrine is derived from a combination of scripture and tradition. My understanding is that for those raised in Protestant churches, (Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Evangelical, United Church of Christ, Congregational, etc.), scripture is the foundation of their faith formation. They have the opportunity to study scripture, are invited to memorize scripture citations, etc. Growing up Catholic, these opportunities were not the focus of our faith formation. (Vatican II proposed to change this). In fact, my mother’s generation was dissuaded from even attempting to read or comprehend scripture. Only the priest had the proper education, experience and power to read and interpret the Bible. As much as the Catholic Church argues that we have ample exposure to scripture through the mass, through the Catechism and in various offerings of scripture study, and that Vatican II has opened up the doors for us in the pew to learn and understand scripture, the end result is that most Catholics still end up with little knowledge of scripture. In my opinion this is not necessarily a bad thing (but not for the same reasons the Institution may have wanted to keep us in the dark about scripture all those years prior to Vatican II).
The trouble with the Bible and Doctrine
I feel bad for the Bible in a way. Here is this nice little book that is filled with poetry, mythology, historical narratives, wisdom writings, songs and geneaologies all written within certain periods of history to specific audiences written by authors with a specific intention. The problem is that we keep trying to interpret this book through our own personal perspective and then proclaim it to be the absolute truth for everyone. Every generation, every religious tradition, every culture has attempted to interpret the Bible and in doing so have proclaimed, “This is the one truth and the only way to interpret the Bible.” The Catholic Church has done this and every denomination after them. When we examine the vast differences in interpretation of scripture, how are we supposed to know what is true and what is not?
The Bible gets a Web Redemption
The good news is that we can leave the arguments about scripture interpretation to the religious institutions. I suspect these institutions will never come to a consensus in this area and will forever be arguing their respective points of doctrine. The even better news is that scripture is not just a resource for constructing religious doctrine but is a rich source of Divine wisdom, personal guidance, inspiration and healing…..WHEN we approach it through the experience of contemplative/mystical prayer. This contemplative/mystical (and non-doctrinal) approach to scripture is the path that I have found most enriching and the vehicle through which scripture was redeemed in my own eyes. It is this path that I share with my clients, class participants, and now I share this path with you.
Releasing Scripture from the chains of dogma
In the contemplative approach to scripture, we remove scripture from its institutional, doctrinal, dogma-oriented trappings and regard it as simply another source of wisdom literature. Parker Palmer in his book, A Hidden Wholeness, speaks of this approach as The Third Way. From Parker Palmer’s perspective, The Third Way is any vehicle we use that facilitates our connection with truth – specifically, the highest and most authentic truths about ourselves that we keep hidden and locked up deep within our consciousness. Poetry is the vehicle used my Mr. Palmer. In the Christian Contemplative/Mystical tradition, scripture provides the vehicle for accessing that hidden truth. In the coming days, I will share with you various ways in which scripture can be used as a vehicle for receiving Divine guidance, inspiration, healing and knowledge in a deeply personal and intimate way, unencumbered by the limitations of institutional interpretation. In this way, perhaps the Bible can enjoy its own Web Redemption!
What have been your experiences with scripture?
Do you perceive scripture as a valuable or problematic tool (or something in between)?
Where have you seen scripture used in non-loving ways?
How might you be open to perceiving scripture through a new lens?
Authentic Freedom Ministries