Open Friday, Especially for Atheists

I’m not a fan of 100-comment threads. First, if it weren’t for Dick and Max, I’d never get them. And two, they are a bother to keep up with on other people’s sites.

I thought I’d start a fresh thread and peel out Max’s comment from last night:

Does the Bible contain the authoritative word of God? Or not?

If yes, which parts are authoritative?

Though the Bible is a library rather than a single book, I’m skeptical on the approach of excising a part and holding it to the lens of inquiry. Max seems to have fixated on the seventeenth verse of Romans 16, but the three that follow give an important context:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good, and guileless in what is evil. The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16: 17-20)

All through the rest of the end of Paul’s letter, he is naming names and sending greetings and affirming good people. He doesn’t name persons in verse 17, but he gives his reasons for avoiding people who tear at the unity of the community and who have committed unnamed offenses.

We have no idea what these sins might be. But it seems they are more serious than merits a sign like, “Get off my lawn.”

Max has cited:

Avoid them.

And if you’re going to break down a Biblical narrative, why stop at two words? Why not just one word:


Is that one word any more authoritative than two? Or a whole paragraph? Or the context of a Biblical unit, like a letter?

My sense is that Biblical authority cannot be boiled down to constituent parts, like a pure chemical element can be broken down into atoms. The Bible is not natural science.

Faith has elements, certainly. Virtues, laws, lived examples, art, history, music, creativity, among others. The person of faith discerns more or less well, and acts in life based on faith. Some Christians delve deep into the constituent parts of the Bible for deeper meaning. I can’t advise that is the wisest course.

My instinct tells me the more one attempts to break the Bible into parts, the more fruitless the search for meaning becomes. I don’t know if that is part of Max’s problem. But I do know he’s going at the Bible in a wrong way, and not just because he’s a self-professed atheist.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Scripture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Open Friday, Especially for Atheists

  1. Liam says:

    There are also metaphysical and epistemological assumptions that surround how one “reads” Scripture. What is “really” “real” – and what do we mean by “real”? And how do we know that – and what does “know” mean? Within these assumptions are other assumptions.

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