Monday, October 3, 2016

Reading Scripture, or not, and how, if you do

In the weekly email we promised a robust answer to this question. We will do our best to give that to you here. I am always happy to talk about these sorts of things so please – do not hesitate to reach out if you’d like to discuss further.

Honestly speaking, we live in a Protestant country. Yes – officially there is separation of Church and State. Of course, it is abject ridiculousness to understand that this separation is adversarial by its very nature, just as it is abject ridiculousness to understand that faith and science are somehow diametrically opposed. Those would be two good topics for a blog post. But not this blog post. Here we will discuss the Bible and whether and if so how we should read it.

I think my assertion that we live in a Protestant country is in fact really true. Protestants founded this country and have, until quite recently, been the majority here. So they have had a great influence in many areas of our lives here, including that idea of Sola Scriptura is strong in our country. This concept teaches that each person can read and interpret the Scripture for him or herself. In essence this is Luther’s idea. To suggest otherwise, that the Bible is not for personal interpretation, can be a real scandal for many of our friends and neighbors.

So we know we aren’t Protestants. And we know we aren’t Roman Catholics. So what do we do with the Bible?

At this point I can say this: we, Orthodox Christians, wrote the Bible and thus we should read it. Often. Daily. This should be part of our spiritual life. And the Holy Church, as a loving mother, provides us with the schedule for reading the scripture. Check our annual calendar – you will see that each day has a list of the scripture to be read that day. You can also find the weekly reading schedule in our weekly bulletin, “Sunday Reading”. The daily reading takes 5 minutes AT MOST. If you follow that schedule you will read essentially the entire New Testament and a good part of the Old Testament every year. This is a great start! But we should challenge ourselves to do even more. We should read and understand the scripture. Not just in a cursory way, but well. But how? We can’t just read it and make up the meaning – this is not an Orthodox way. If we are the writers of the scripture then we should interpret it appropriately. We need some guidance in some parts. Not all necessarily, but some. And thank God there are more and more materials available in English every day that can help us to understand the scripture from an Orthodox point of view. None of these is perfect, but both the Erdman’s series I, II, and III, and the Ancient Christian Commentary series are really helpful, and there are other good things out there as well (like Chrysostom Press’ limited but outstanding offerings). We are still at the point where we need to piece things together, but this is getting easier and easier for us as English speaking Orthodox Christians. For those of us who are able to read Russian or Greek well there is a wealthy of materials – everything anyone would need in this regard. God-willing we will get to that place in English sometime soon. A huge amount of work has been done, but there is more to do.

Further things that need to be done:

1. Pray that the Lord will continue to guide translators with zeal to provide more and more commentary of the fathers of the Church in English

2. Read these articles on how one should read the scripture:

St. Justin (Popovich): “How to Read the Bible and Why

Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware): “How to Read the Bible

Archpriest John Whiteford: “Sola Scriptura

3. Buy a Bible if you don’t have one. Buy one for each of your children. They are not expensive.

4. Ask Fr. Gregory if you have questions, or post those questions here.

5. Talk to our parish Librarian, John Hill, to find out what we have to borrow that can help you in your understanding of the scriptures.

5. Make it your spiritual habit and struggle to read the scripture every day.

We wrote it – now we need to own it.

Fr. Gregory

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