Bookmark and Share
My Photo


    Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.


« Father Kocik lectures available online | Main | The Irrational Dogmas of Rational Atheism »

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


MMajor Fan

You raise an important point. This is why I keep harping on the legitimacy of stained glass windows, the stations of the cross, and other art work in Catholic Churches. From the time of Christ until the most recent two centuries, most people of the world could not read at all. The Church thrived because the Word, as transmitted through the Bible, was taught but it was also lived. The saints, the religious, and the laity throughout two thousand years have lived the Word through the examples that have been set forth in the holy scriptures, and also generation after generation of real people having real lives, often in poverty stricken or war torn circumstances. While I am all for literacy and increased Bible reading, I am against the over sanitized view of Bible thumping and personal salvation over the model of Christian community, anchored to the rock of St Peter. One thing I write frequently about is how viewing Christianity as being only of the book actually diminishes some understanding of what is written within, because of the cherry picking that takes place, rather than understanding the Old Covenant to New Covenant transition and reality, which is 95% of what the Bible in its entirety presents, and what Jesus Christ brought, in his own words.


Though the context is Christianity and its relation to a book, to the Book, the Word of God, I do think this is better understood when viewed from a wider perspective. Christianity was before the Book came to be. The Bible is important, uniquely important, but the Bible as we know it was not during the early Church. Those Christians lived a faith that used writings but was not limited to or based upon a literary text. The faith of those Christians was based upon an experience and the faith that results, the faith that is like memory in that it protects, guards, and is nourished by the experience. When we live this faith, we are living the continual re-proposal of the Christ(-ian) event. For more on faith, you can read here.

“Christianity” has been given many definitions, but two believers who really express its core in a way that resonates so much with my experiences and understanding are Pope Benedict XVI and Msgr. Luigi Giussani. Pope Benedict (then-Cardinal Ratzinger) said, “Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism; Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event.” (Funeral Homily for Luigi Giussani) And then a bit later, he said, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Deus Caritas Est) He unpacks these statements to bring out more clearly what he means and what he doesn’t. I suggest you read those documents. As for Giussani, he said, “Christianity is not an ethical, moral impulse, except only as a phenomenon, as a secondary fact. […] Secondary to the truth that Christianity is a new fact in history, a new event in history, irreducible, inevitable. Therefore, Christianity as a presence means an event that is present, an event that one can knock up against, that can be seen: you have to find it and run into it, enter inside it.”

Christianity is not a religion of the book. It is more than that. It is an experience, an event. It is a living out of the event of God’s proclamation to the world that a new possibility has become real: God has become man. Et Incarnatus est. And this God has “made himself available for an encounter, in history, at ‘a moment in time.’” Thus, Christianity is remaining in the Presence of that God, it is a continual is-ing, an event; and the extent to which it is abstracted away from this experiential reality—even if reduced to a book and its intellectual study—it becomes an ideology, a moralism, a rationalism, etc.

The Book is important but Christianity as event seems more important and vital. Perhaps this is one of the meanings of the Ethiopian’s response to Philip’s question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And the Ethiopian said, “How can I, unless someone guides me.” (Acts 8) And then an encounter happened between Philip and the Ethiopian. An event took place. The Ethiopian had some Scriptures, but that was not enough. An encounter was needed. Through Philip, the Ethiopian encountered Christ and sought baptism. Christianity is precisely that. An incarnational experience. Through others, through a communion of sorts, we encounter Christ. Christianity: the event, the experience, the faith, the memory keeping it alive—of the proposal from Christ and our response, of Christ himself who as Gaudium et Spes (22) teaches, “fully reveals man to man himself,” just as the Roman Marius Vittorinus said upon his conversion, “When I encountered Christ, I discovered myself as a man.” Christianity is the event through which all this happens, becomes real.


There is also the irony that Baptists (I was raised a Baptist, so I know this first hand) have traditions that, if disrupted or changed will elicit angry reaction from the flock, but none of these traditions are written down anywhere.

A moment's objective thought would tell us that anyway. Other than the liturgy described in the Apocalypse which is totally Catholic, the New Testament gives us very very sparse description of Christian liturgical practice. What we get from the Gospels and St. Paul is the language and meaning of the Eucharist which is also very Catholic.

But the statement of Denny Burk is simply a re-statement of Sola Scriptura, which is really the foundational doctrine that supports Sola Fide, if you think about it. Sola Scriptura Christians really are a religion of the Book.

If that has led to greater literacy, despite its doctrinal foundation, I think we have to concede that the result is not a bad one, although we might speculate that since the printing press was invented by a Catholic before the Protestant Reformation, if it (the Reformation) had not occurred, literacy might well have been just as it is.


God bless our Baptist brothers and sisters. They love the Book but somehow can't figure out the part about "This is My Body."

Having said that, we Catholics could learn a thing or two from Baptists about catechesis. The average Baptist knows his Bible far better than the average Catholic knows his - assuming the Catholic even owns a Bible. This is why so many Catholics are so easily led astray to Evangelical groups. I'm not sure how to fix it but we need to do something.


To improve Catholic catechesis, we need the Word-made-flesh. As Joseph Ratzinger said in his beautiful gem of a book, Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism:
"On the one hand, the necessity of catechesis follows from the intellectual dimension of the gospel itself [....] Consequently, catechetical instruction also includes a pilgrim fellowship, a gradual familiarization with the new life of Christianity" (56-57). And like W pointed out above: it's in the faces of the 'pilgrim fellowship' that one meets the Word-made-flesh.

Kevin Jones

Isn't "people of the book" a muslim description of Christianity? Was the crusade-preaching St. Bernard responding to Islam in his quotation?


As I read the comments about scripture and tradition i realized the fallacy we are living in understanding how God deals with mankind. We tend to believe that man can run God by just the flip of the tongue.
When you study Christian History you can't help but notice the absence of God in the make up of the churches.
We have council after council hammering out doctrines that in almost every case is so polluted with man's ideas and not God's.
How did God deal with the loss of his teachings in restoring them back to mankind? Did He hold a conference and get the best idea? Did He kill those who were in opposition to His rules? This is what happened in the Christianity following the disappearance of Christ and His apostles. You don't have to believe me research it for yourself.
So, how did God deal with the loss of His truth's to the people? It is called revelation through prophets who re-established the truthes that were lost.
From Adam to Christ we have revelation given to some designated person by God to deliver the messages needed to bring back the truth.
But what have we replaced revelation with? Councils, uninspired men telling the masses what God wants done. And if not done their way or any opposition appears he or she is put to death.
The teaching appears that revelation is no longer necessary because we have the Bible, well, if the Bible is the settle all controversy's Why do we have approximetly 3,800 religions all claiming to be the true representatives of Christ?
Without revelation there is nothing but men fighting over their interpretations of the scriptures.
For instance I challenge anyone to explain the conglomeration of the words in the Anthanasian Creed. Of course this is why the end argument has to be, it is incomprehensible.Because it was Formulated by uninspired men.
Doesn't the scriptures teach that God's house is not the author confusion? (1 Corinthians 14:33) it is unintelligible. But then Jesus taught in John 17:3, THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL, THAT THEY MIGHT KNOW THEE THE ONLY TRUE GOD, AND JESUS CHRIST WHOM THOU HAS SENT. (emphasis mine. So, by this scripture and the Anthanasian Creed we have some problems to resolve. Either we know Him and have eternal life or we don't know him (incomprehensible) and don't have eternal life. You can't have it both ways.
So, my position is what God has done in every dispensation dealing with mankind has come through new prophets called to restore the lost truthes. And since He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, we cannot say modern revelation doesn't exist. Because if it doesn't then God is not the same, yesterday, today, and forever.(Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6)


If people say that the Bible is the true word of God, then why does the Catholic church not listen to it?

" You will not make yourselves an image of any kind" Enough said....

Joseph Paul Adorable

Werner should have done a little research on Church history or read the Catechism of the Catholic Church before making comments. God bless you brother.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ignatius Insight


Ignatius Press

Catholic World Report


Blogs & Sites We Like

June 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad