Thursday, October 06, 2005

Raymond Brown: Voice of the Apostles

The latest document on scripture put out by some Roman Catholic leaders is getting a variety of responses, as should be expected from the Catholic hierarchy's usual ambiguity on such issues. Pedantic Protestant has written on the subject, and so has Steve Hays. Some of the Catholic responses I've seen are valid as far as they go. It's true that the media often distort issues like this one. As soon as I saw the source of the article and noticed the terminology the reporter (Ruth Gledhill) was using at particular points, I knew that some degree of misrepresentation was likely. And I agree with Frank Turk's point about the article repeating a lot of concepts that we've been hearing from Roman Catholicism for a long time.

But, considering the existence of so many different views of scripture within Catholicism, there is some significance in seeing evidence of one group being more prominent than another at a given time. And while the tendency of large segments of Catholicism to take a lower view of scripture isn't news, the choice of what portions of scripture to focus on, such as Matthew 27:25 and eschatological passages, tells us something about where the hierarchy is at this point in time.

I doubt that the Catholic document in question is as bad as some atheists and evolutionists, for example, have made it out to be. But considering Catholicism's leftward drift in its view of the Bible in recent decades, and considering its ecumenical relations with other religious groups, you can't plausibly argue that this latest expression of the Catholic view of the Bible is particularly traditional. I don't think we're hearing the voice of Jesus, Paul, Clement of Rome, or Augustine as much as we're hearing the voice of Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer, with some modifications here and there.

For all we hear from Catholics about their denomination's leadership on issues like abortion, we aren't seeing much leadership on the meaning and reliability of scripture. To the contrary, while Roman Catholicism is different from liberal Protestantism on issues like abortion, there isn't much difference on other issues where there ought to be a difference. The Catholic Church is showing leadership on some issues, but only some. We can get that sort of leadership from a lot of fallible organizations, and some fallible organizations are doing it better than Catholicism.