Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Bible is "a book uniquely inspired by God and addressed to each of the faithful personally"

In an earlier posting I focused on how the Church Fathers stress the intimate relationship between character formation and biblical exegesis.  In the quote below, Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware supplements those insights by noting that the Bible cannot be reduced to just another "collection of historical documents" whose meaning can be authoritatively exhausted by academic scholarship.  Instead, the Bible is the Church's book and its purpose is to bring each of us into a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, the living Word Incarnate.

 ... the Bible is not just a collection of historical documents, but it is the book of the Church, containing God's word.  And so we do not read the Bible as isolated individuals, or in terms of current theories about source, form or redaction criticism.  We read it as members of the Church, in communion with all the other members throughout the ages.  The final criterion for our interpretation of Scripture is the mind of the Church.  And this means keeping constantly in view how the meaning of Scripture is explained and applied in Holy Tradition: that is to say, how the Bible is understood by the Fathers and the saints, and how it is used in liturgical worship.

As we read the Bible, we are all the time gathering information, wrestling with the sense of obscure sentences, comparing and analyzing.  But this is secondary.  The real purpose of Bible study is much more than this - to feed our love for Christ, to kindle our hearts into prayer, and to provide us with guidance in our personal life.  The study of words should give place to an immediate dialogue with the living Word himself.  "Whenever you read the Gospel," says St Tikhon of Zadonsk, "Christ himself is speaking to you.  And while you read, you are praying and talking with him." ...

Approached in a prayerful manner, the Bible is found to be always contemporary - not just writings composed in the distant past but a message addressed directly to me here and now.  "He who is humble in his thoughts and engaged in spiritual work," says St Mark the Monk, "when he reads the Holy Scriptures will apply everything to himself and not to someone else."  As a book uniquely inspired by God and addressed to each of the faithful personally, the Bible possesses sacramental power, transmitting grace to the reader, bringing him to a point of meeting and decisive encounter.  Critical scholarship is by no means excluded, but the true meaning of the Bible will only be apparent to those who study it with their spiritual intellect as well as their reasoning brain.


Rick said...

Good quote, although somewhat surprising to see this from an Orthodox leader. The stressing of the individual is not something I would expect to hear from that group. Protestants emphasize the individual to a fault. He provides a good balance of looking at those who have come before/the communion of saints, and also the individual aspect. Although his take on tradition (Tradition) would be different than the Protestant take, the overall idea is helpful for Prots to hear.

I do wish he would have put something in about the role of the Holy Spirit in such a practice.

Anonymous said...

Timely as always Bryan.