Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Parable of the Bible

Mary rolled over in bed, she didn’t want her husband Roi to see the tears spilling over her face now making a wet spot on her pillow. This was just too much for her. This was the morning she had dreaded for the last three years. Mary had known it was coming, but she just hadn’t really believed it. Roi had been giving her very specific instructions about why he was going and what to do while he was gone, but the last three years she had been praying it wouldn’t actually lead to this..... yet, just as he said, this hour did come. 
She saw the newly polished metals he had received and shoulder board with the five stars against the blue background sitting on their dresser awaiting the moment he would get up and get dressed. Her husband was the General of the US Air Force and she was incredibly proud of him, but she knew this would be a mission that would take him far away and for many, many months without hearing from him. He promised this was his last mission, and he would come back for her and never, ever leave her again.
With his last kiss, he held her and whispered into her ears some of the things he had taught her, reminding her that she would never really be alone, his spirit would be with her, loving her, guiding her. He told her above all else, to keep the family together. 
He had sat the children down the night before and told them that mom was his appointed authority--obey her--just like they would obey him or else when he got back, they would get it.
As the door, the five-star general said a prayer for his family. Then his wife, in her robe, waved good-bye to him from the front door as he disappear into the early morning fog. 
At first, the kids acted like kids and tested their mother to see if she really was now in charge. They had been used to taking orders from dad--he had been the disciplinarian. Now the boundaries had to be tested, but mom proved to be strong and what she said went, period--no arguments.
As the months went by, her two oldest children, twins Charles and Martin, went off to a high school boarding academy for their first semester. Mom wrote down their father’s instructions and placed them in a little book. Even though she had already told them while they were home, she wanted something to remind them.
One afternoon, one of the twins called home and complained about a fight he was having with his brother. 
“Mom, I know the instructions dad sent us said we were supposed to eat healthfully. But tonight is Halloween and I got some candy to hand out and Martin scolded me, grabbed the candy and threw it outside. Come on! He had no right to do that. I don’t think dad meant that we couldn’t eat any candy at all!” Twin Charles said. 
Twin Martin grabbed the phone and yelled, “MOM! He didn’t read instruction number 83. It says we are supposed to eat healthfully. He shouldn’t be giving kids this crap. It is bad for them and I know he’s going to eat whatever is left over. He need to listen to dad and I am not going to allow Charles to just disobey dad.”
The fighting escalated till mother called for some order. 
“Okay, okay.... I don’t think your father meant that no candy could ever be eaten. Your dad ate candy occasionally. He loved chocolate-covered peanuts, so I know he didn’t mean that to be so strict. He just meant that you should try and eat healthfully, “ mom explained.
“BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE WROTE!!! I NEVER EVER SAW DAD EAT CANDY! I think your making that up mom.” Martin returned with fire.
The argument recommenced. Finally, mother broke in and reminded them about rule number three and four. Rule number three is that the family be united and be nice to each other and rule number four was to obey your mother as if she was the General himself.
“But YOU can’t come in and change the rules, mom,”  Martin protested.
“No, honey I am not changing them. You just misunderstood what dad meant by rule 83,” mom was trying to be kind.
I can read what he wrote, mom! It is plain as day.”
“Honey, dad didn’t write that. I DID, to remind you of some of the things he thought were important for us to do while he was gone. He spoke them to me, as your authority, and I wrote it down in my own words. I aught to know best what he meant. I knew him longer, I am his wife, remember.”
The scenario stops here, for as you can guess, this is not a story but a parable. It is the parable of how the Catholics see scripture. This is very different from how Protestants see it. Protestants view scripture as a set of writings God wrote down and handed to his kids when he left. Each kid is then required to obey them independently of one another. 
But the Catholic church sees scripture as part of what Christ whispered in His Bride’s ear and instructed of her while He was with her. She wrote down some,  but not all of what her husband said [2 Thess. 2: 15]. She is the authority and the Bible backs up what she says. She does not instruct against the writings she herself wrote in accordance to her husband’s words. 
When there is a conflict in how some people read scripture and what they see in Catholic teachings, it is not really a conflict, but a matter of how scripture is interpreted.
For Catholics and Protestants to ever communicate, the Catholic and Protestant perception of how we received truth from God and who He ultimate put in charge is fundamental. 
Protestants see scripture as having the ultimate authority. II Tim. 3:16
Catholics see the church as having the ultimate authority. I Tim. 3:15
[Note: Paul writes Timothy giving authority to both scripture AND the church. So the question is which is preeminent when two people have different interpretations of scripture, the person’s opinion or the church’s opinion?]
When we speak to each other, Protestants constantly appeal to scripture and tell Catholics to “prove” what they believe by scripture. Catholics see that as odd, why should they have to when they see themselves as being the ones who wrote it and copied it, translated it, protected it? It is their writings. 
Catholics find it a little presumptuous to use the Bible against the group that it was given to. They believe God whispered truth into the Catholic Church’s ear and when He left, He put her as His bride in charge. (By the way, that is exactly what scripture reveals also. Scriptures do not point to themselves as the final authority, but the church and its leaders.) 
The church Christ left in charge recorded a part of the instructions to her, not all of His instructions, so it confuses a Catholic when you insist everything--all truths--MUST be found in scripture. Protestants accept the Trinity which is not clearly in scripture. Protestant’s accept that marriage is between one man and one woman--which can be confusing in scripture when the Old Testament has many of God’s chosen men having several to many wives.

 [Remember Paul (II Tim. & Titus) insists only church leaders have one wife, the assumption being that the lay people can do otherwise. It is Catholic tradition and authority that made the pronouncement that only one wife for each Christian man. c. 7th century.] 
Going to church on Sunday is a tradition the Catholics started--they claim by Apostolic authority--yet that is not found clearly in scripture. 
So much of what God told the early church is not written in scripture but was told orally to the apostles and was spread orally through those ordained by the Apostles. [II Thess. 2: 15; 3:6] Paul, and the other writers of the New Testament were under no orders to write from God, nor did they believe what they wrote was meant to be taken exhaustively (See John 16:12). The disciples were ordered by God to spread the gospel via spoken word--preaching and teaching.
So with this in mind, Catholics and Protestants need a new dialogue. Protestants need to have the Catholic prove these premises:
Prove the Scriptures are NOT the ultimate authority.
Prove Catholics are the authority.
For the Catholics, the Protestant premises need to be proven:
Prove the Scriptures ARE the ultimate authority (Sola Scriptura).
Prove that the Catholic church is not God’s authority.
Until we start dialoging from an understanding of each other’s perspective, we will never understand each other. The underlying problem is trust. Who can you trust to give you truth? Catholics trust the Word of God as given to the church (both oral and written), Protestants trust the Word of God found exclusively in the Bible (written). Catholics see no discrepancies between having both the Bible as infallible nor the dogmas of the church. They see a perfect unity in the two, like to legs working in unison to walk. Protestants see Catholicism as ignoring the Bible. That is why a real understanding of these two ways of looking at scripture is a must before we start any dialogue.

Parable: Mary is Icon of Church, Roi is El-Roi Old Testament name for God, Charles is Holy Roman Emperor King Charles V and Martin in Martin Luther.