By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 06, 2005
"Church Stops Believing in the Bible" -- another malicious but entirely predictable headline provoked by the UK Catholic bishops' latest pastoral initiative.
Think about it. How many Catholics in the United Kingdom -- today, in 2005 -- are likely to be in jeopardy of damnation because of an overly literalist belief in the truth of Scripture: Five? Eight? Whatever the number, for each one of these there must be fifty thousand souls whose faith has been seriously weakened by the ambient culture of scoffers and who have only the cloudiest notion that the Bible can guide their lives in the path of salvation.
So why the foray into amateur biblical criticism, which almost always strikes the half-interested as a denial that the Bible is inspired -- as indeed the sensationalist headlines indicate?
The document in question, ironically titled The Gift of Scripture, can't be downloaded from Catholic Truth Society website, and so the only quotes we have to go on are those provided by the journalists. Even allowing for the editorial delight in sowing mischief, the cited specimens are not reassuring.
[The UK bishops] refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.Milords, you have simply exchanged one fundamentalism for another. Until the events described as occurring in the future take place, no one -- not you, not the ordinary reader, not the keenest biblical scholar -- can say which aspects of the account are (exclusively) symbolic and which are not. Sure it's embarrassing when someone decides the Beast of the Apocalypse is Gustavus Adolphus or Henry Kissinger, but no one convinced he has this kind of knowledge is going to listen to you anyway. The answer is not to disparage the prophetic value of Scripture but to quote it more amply.
The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”
Inevitably the bishops will be stung and flustered by the "Dustbin the Bible!" headlines and issue a number of table-thumping counter-testimonies to undue the damage -- making them prey in turn to highbrow anti-Catholics gloating over the fiasco and eager to catch them in contradictions and factual boners.
It's all so unnecessary. If the bishops saw their job as helping souls avoid dangers to damnation the true pastoral needs would be obvious. Issuing apologies for aspects of Catholicism offensive to the lukewarm, on the other hand, requires less courage, less prayer, less work.
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