Monthly Archives: May 2014

On Reading the Bible (Part VII)

We might also note an obfuscating aspect of the Higher Criticism.

For what the pursuit of the method involves is a set of questions first asked of a text. Thus, one dives into the text through the lens of the inquiry set by the method. (And the method, it should be noted, was born of non-Christian intent; indeed, of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish intent. It was born of explicitly skeptical outlook on religion and from a rationalism.) And this lens, this filter, frequently obfuscates the encounter with the text and the Person narrated therein.

However, the questions which happen to attend the employment of the method, and which are separable from it, can be fruitful. For instance, the method asks about the predominant name given to God, the kind of expressions involved, etc. Thus, one pays close attention to details through asking such questions. Very close attention. And such attention can be wielded by faith, by the believer, for the better reception of the text.

Example, “J” comes from the name Yahweh, which is the name given to God in texts supposed (by the method) to have been products of a certain author named “Yahwist”. Now, if you are paying attention to different names for God and not just running right through the names to the Signified (as in prayer of contemplation) you will note that in Gen 2-3, the Serpent calls God not Yahweh God but just God. And noting that, you could begin to ask why. Well, Yahweh is a name of intimacy. In fact, God publicly reveals his name Yahweh to Moses in Gen 3:14ff, as he is about to establish further the covenant in the law, the old law. Clearly, the Serpent is not in intimate relation with God. This gives us fruit for thought.

But if my focus were only on the “source” at hand, I might not stop to consider why the Serpent would call God only God. I might even treat the text as an “exception” to the rule that the Yahwist calls God Yahweh God. But on the other hand, note that the very questions that are necessary for the Source Critical Method (but also separable from it, thankfully) were the avenues to this further consideration of the text. Thus, there are many “ingredients” in the Higher Criticism that can be employed by a believer in faith, in a properly theological method (and not an improper pagan, rationalist method that fails to consider the text as inspired.)

On Reading the Bible (Part VI)

Do we need the “historical critical method”? Well, this is a complex question.

Simply because faith and right reason are in a harmonious relationship, one must endorse every enterprise of inquiry insofar as that enterprise assists the achievement of truth. Therefore, insofar as the Higher Criticism assists the achievement of truth, it should be embraced. This is a banal truism. We can make some further distinctions.

Pius XII made it very clear that many approaches and disciplines, which people associate with Higher Criticism but which are not inextricably bound thereto, are necessary for an academically adequate reading of the Scriptures. Archeological knowledge, knowledge of texts and history, of languages, of geography, of the plants, foods, habits, modes of thought of the people of the time, etc. All of this is helpful; none of it is inextricably connected to “Higher Criticism.”

Now, let us note the subtlety of Pope Benedict XVI on this matter. As a theologian (and while prefect of the CDF), he contended that the Higher Criticism must itself be criticized. It must allow itself to be questioned and reexamined. But later, again as a theologian (and while Pope Benedict, writing words of a pope and not papal words), he states very positively: “The first point is that the historical-critical method—specifically because of the intrinsic nature of theology and faith—is and remains an indispensable dimension of exegetical work.” Reason? “It is of the very essence of biblical faith to be about real historical events” (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, p. xv). This is one of his most positive statements on the matter. He is of course a very historically-minded theologian. Hence, his appreciation of the importance of tracing the incarnate features of the text of revelation.

Now, we should note three things in this regard. First, this defense of HC points to the relationship of reason and faith. The reason HC is so important is that the Christian faith takes history seriously. So, insofar as a method of rational inquiry can assist towards an accurate appreciation of history, that method is useful and to be prized and employed. (If it is biased against the truth of history, however, it must be critiqued as an ideological obfuscation. On that score, Benedict is at one with Pius X, who denounced the ideology of modernist historicism.)

Second, Benedict goes on, significantly, to contend that the HC method must be contextualized and complemented by other approaches and methods. Many of these were deeply appreciated by the fathers and the medievals and renaissance and post-renaissance theologians. Some have been newly added (more accurate archeology, textual findings, etc.).

Third, Benedict notes a crucial limit to every last aspect of the HC method: “We have to keep in mind the limit of all efforts to know the past: We can never go beyond the domain of hypothesis” (Jesus, xvii). Only a hypothesis. Nothing absolutely founded. Thus, Benedict’s subtlety. Why? It is obvious. Our faith is not a hypothesis. The faith is not fragile, not a suggestion, not a surmise, not an inference, not a probable deduction, not even a certain deduction. The faith is absolutely certain in itself, because God speaks it. Thus, Benedict gives us a notable contrast between any possible achievement of HC method and the absolute certainty of faith.

Consequently, Benedict the theologian’s final suggestion is that an adequate method of exegesis must be grounded in, supervised by, and judged by the faith of the believing exegete. So grounded, directed, and evaluated, one may utilize the HC methods, and one must use the sundry disciplines adjacent to them but separable from them, in order the better to appreciate the historical truth and contour of the events and persons of our faith.

On Reading the Bible (Part V)

Another issue is the so-called “historical critical method”. This is a misnomer and a misunderstood reality. It is a misnomer, for there are in fact several “methods” that are part of this historical-critical approach. It is misunderstood, for there are many adjunct tasks and approaches that are not inextricably part of such methods. I shall explain.

There are three basic methods of which the so-called “historical critical method” is comprised. In fact, we should call this global method “Higher Criticism.”

First of all there is “Source Criticism”. If you can get hold of it, the Anchor Bible Dictionary has a very succinct and clear account of this and the other two methods of Higher Criticism. Source criticism is the effort to discern, in the final text, whether or not there are antecedent underlying sources, oral or written, of the final product. One looks for diverse “lines of thought”, diverse “voices”, diverse “vocabulary”, diverse “styles”, etc. in the final product. If one can isolate such diversity, one then begins to correlate the diversity. Does the diversity “gather” in “groups”? If so, this is a sign that there may have been original texts (or oral traditions) that were distinct but put together by a later compiler.

This leads us to the next discipline, that of “Redaction Criticism”. For if someone or some group “compiled” the original texts, he clearly had to “navigate” their discrepancies or at least put them together within some larger vision. Thus, the “redactor” as he is called narrates an overall unity through this diversity. Discerning this overall vision is the work of redaction criticism, as is discerning the reason that certain “editorial comments” appear to be injected into the narrative. For instance, we might read “At that time, there was much gold in the land”. The Higher Critic finds this proposition naturally to imply that the narrated event was much earlier and that the facts now stand in contrast to that earlier time. All such further comments are considered by Redaction Criticism.

Of a very different kind is Form Criticism. A complex beast, no doubt. One task of Form Criticism is to isolate various “modes of discourse” (in the broader sense, not so much in terms of words and sentences). One gathers the universal or prevailing structures of such modes. One then distinguishes these modes one from the other, and labels them for convenience. Next, one tries to determine what kind of “setting in life” (Sitz im Leben) would be conducive to the reading or hearing of such texts. That is, in what part of Jewish life would such texts have been utilized, and for what purpose? The method is readily applied to the Psalms, where one discovers that many Psalms fall into various universal, or prevailing, patterns, such as Royal (Ps 2), Praise (Ps 150), Thanksgiving (Ps 116), Lament (Ps 22), etc. Of course, some Psalms defy all laws, or you might say, employ all forms. See, e.g., Ps 89.

These are the three main divisions of Higher Criticism. Now, ancillary to such methods, but not inextricably bound to them, are other approaches. For instance, knowledge of the ancient languages is not Higher Criticism. Nor should it be confused with it.

Again, knowledge of other texts of the time, knowledge of ancient architecture, knowledge of geography, knowledge of artifacts, knowledge of linguistics and of its development, etc., — none of this is essentially bound to Higher Criticism. That is to say, all of this is separable from HC. When Pius XII in Divino afflante Spiritu praises the knowledge of such things he is not thereby praising Higher Criticism.

More could be said on Higher Criticism. I will close with one thought, one question. Is there any theological fact, i.e., a truth objectively necessary to believe for our salvation, the knowledge of which we have gained solely through Higher Criticism? If so, what is it?

The Bride’s True Voice vs. Phony Advice

The Bride of Christ has one true voice, to proclaim the Truth. And she has one true medicine, the balm of forgiveness, by which those dead to the divine life, lying like rotting corpses though their bodies glisten and flourish, by which those dead to the divine life can see the evil of their ways, the threat of its eternal completion, and repent. And she can dispense the latter only if she proclaims the former.

Thus, to obstruct the full proclamation of the truth in order to “assuage” a soul that hurts does that soul no true good but true harm. The only exception would be this: If this temporary “assuaging” were simply the non-proclamation of the fullness of the truth, a partial proclamation of nothing but truth, devoid of all deceit, and if this temporary partiality were ordered directly and immediately towards full proclamation.

Why would this count as a legitimate exception? Some sinners cannot bear all the truth at once. They would run towards their certain ruin were you to convey the full truth to them. Their eyes are in darkness. Day comes only from Dawn. Even the stars give forth their light, so that the pilgrim man has not become totally depraved in absolute darkness. But in his weakened state, the sinner needs a gradual disclosure of truth, in patience and kindness. Meanwhile, the sinner is still quite threatened by his own ignorance. The “silence” of an imprudently patient pastor does not a righteous man the sinner make. Thus, the dead patient must be brought round steadily to that full proclamation. What should I say, how much, and when? Is he ready? All these concerns are good. We must be prudent. Yet again, we must be confident in the Spirit. We must not underestimate the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power to illuminate, sustain, and uplift the sinner.

BUT! To tell a person that is Living in Sin that he is as such “ok” is directly to contradict that absolutely necessary order to the full proclamation. It is to leave the sinner in his sins. It is “not to lift a finger” to help the poor sinner carry his burden. For my “magical lie” will not abolish his burden.  For what reason would I think that I should lie to the sinner? Because he is a friend whose human affection I do not want to lose? (But Thomas More rightly stands firm, “Then if you do not want me to do my conscience and so cause the king some discomfort, please come to hell with me when I am condemned for lying, for our fellowship’s sake.”) What could justify the LIE that one who is Living in Sin is “ok”?

There is no justification whatsoever.

Now, the reception of the Holy Eucharist is the act of the spousal soul, receiving the Bridegroom. It is an act of spousal union. It requires love and peace of heart. It requires well being. Unity of mind and heart between the spouses. Just as no spouses would make love well were they not first to be reconciled, after a serious dispute, before embracing each other in this way, so no Catholic should receive the Eucharist in a state of sin. This is to offend the Holy Lord who died for us. This is implicitly to deny that one is in sinful state, needing reconciliation. Such denial will lead to impenitence. And do you not know that God is storing up wrath for your impenitence? His patience is meant for your repentance, not for your “assuaged conscience”.

Now, the sinner is often confused. In fact, all sinners are necessarily confused. For in choosing evil, they say to themselves, “This is right.” “This is ok.” But it is not right. It is not ok. Yet, since the sinner is confused, he often has difficulty in seeing this. Hence, often, another is needed. Especially if the sin is habitual. Especially if he is “living in sin”.

Now, the priest who shepherds souls has a viewpoint more objective than that of the individual struggling with sin. Thus, the priest must shepherd that individual, through his confusion, towards the full truth as quickly as possible. Consoling the disconsolate, the priest must nevertheless NEVER LIE. For the priest has no power to “make just” by a false declaration. Thus, the priest who tells a man that is living in sin “You are ok, because Jesus loves you,” is, regardless of his intent, deceiving the sinner. This would mock God’s justice, usurp God’s authority; it would be an attempt to build a Temple out of human hands by a Pelagian mindset according to which man can, laugh, justify man. Such counsel would be phony advice. If we hear that such advice is given, we should try in charity to think that we do not understand all the facts, or that we misheard something. But as for the truth of good advice (This is something about which we certainly can judge): What the sinner needs is not pious or impious lies, but pious truth. If the fullness of that truth must await patience for a time, this is never an excuse for a lie.

What shall effect a real change in the sinner in the long run. The lie? Or the truth? Truth, every time. Even if it is bluntly stated, the truth, not the lie, gives life.

Compare the plight of a poor sinner deceived by counsel poisonous because false and foolish, compare that with the plight of a sinner coldly, perhaps rudely, awoken from her slumber of sin. We see the latter in the marvelous scene in Brideshead Revisited, by the BBC. Julia and Charles have been having an affair for quite some time. Julia is now confronted by her blunt brother, Bridey. She goes off with Charles and sits beside a fountain. Watch the scene, rent the videos, read the book.

This is the most marvelous scene in 20th century literature. (Or perhaps a related one, quite delicate, from The Moviegoer.) This scene exhibits Catholic piety. Only true Catholic piety can get the sinner to this point antecedent to conversion. Meanwhile, all “warm feelings” are, in the end, but obstacles to this conversion. Yes, warm feelings and fuzzy handshakes and silliness are in the end obstacles. There is a reason people find saints annoying. They remind you that you are dust, o man, and you shall rot into the ground and feed maggots. For in sin you were conceived, and in the dust of death you shall die. How soon have we forgotten that life-giving pronouncement of our Most Holy Lord. How this death, this illness, this limp, this weakness, this forgetfulness — how it all gets in my way. I have plans. I have goals. Let me meet them. Away with those in my way. This is why the saints are annoying. Because they proclaim that all your plans are as a drop in the ocean, compared with what God has in store for you. When you were a youth, you walked like a youth, spoke like a youth, and went about wherever you wanted. But when you grow up, someone will take you where you do not want to go. (But you will go, knowing that He who allows it, is Life.)

The healing wrought by the truth in this marvelous scene has a ripple effect. In other words, truth gives birth to life, and life awakens life in the dead. But wicked pastoral advice, if publicly known, causes scandal and thus leads souls to hell. Woe to the one who offers false advice that covers up the sins of those who need to repent; worse if this advise confuses others. No, we cannot set up this-worldly booths to serve the temple of the world in its progressive movement towards a future of human engineering and too-human hopes. We cannot and we must not. For that world is misguided and deadly.

But woe also to those who let their ears be tickled by false advice. For, God forbid that anyone should think that he has an excuse to sin because a priest has given him false advice. He has no such excuse. False pastoral advice must be shunned by all as diametrically opposed to the Gospel, to the Church’s true voice, to the Holy Lord who instituted his bride the Church, and to the sinner’s eternal welfare.

On Ecclesial Society, Communication, and Audience

An odd title, to be sure. The meaning shall become clear quickly. The Church is a Divine Society. She is a “society” because she consists in many rational persons. She is “divine” because she was instituted by the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Now, every society has a social order. Therefore, the Church has a social order. This order is complex, being both visible and invisible, both earthly and transcendent. The social order of the Church on earth is visible and juridical. For the social order is that unity of persons under their bishops, who are under the Pope in Rome. This is the juridical and visible aspect of the order of the Church on earth. It is crucial to understand the Church in this way. This order was instituted by Christ and has endured to this very day. It is found in only one corporate body of Christians, the Catholic Church. All who have received Baptismal entry into the faith, accept all the Sacraments of the Church as true, profess one faith, and are in hierarchical communion with the Pope (read: Enter the social order of the Church) are members of the Catholic Church, which is the Church of Christ. No one else is a member of the Catholic Church. However, various relations to this one Church do exist. I have treated that in two other posts (first and second).

Of course, the visible and juridical aspects of the Church, intrinsic to the definition of the Church on earth, are for the invisible and spiritual aspects. That is, the hierarchy is for the service of worship according to the universal priesthood. God spoke us into being, and Christ redeemed us, so that we might have life, and have it to the full. This is the whole raison d’être for the Church, the reason she exists. Thus, although the visible and juridical aspects are integral to the definition of the Church, they are by no means the final cause. The final cause is the interior richness of spiritual union with God and neighbor proper to rational being. I should say, such interior communion is the intrinsic final cause of the Church. This is the “social order” of the Church in its most beautiful, in its flourishing state. There is yet another, higher end: The glorification of Almighty God. For we exist for the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Amen.

Now, it is a solace that the Church is defined juridically. It is a solace because it means that the Church is a hospital for sinners. The Church on earth, that is. For we are sinners, all. And the Church is for us. The Church was not instituted for the righteous, but for sinners, so that they might be made righteous (Rom 5) and serve him, holy and righteous, without fear, all the days of their life (Luke 1).

Alright. We have seen that the purpose of the visible and juridical aspect of the Church is the spiritual and invisible flourishing of the members. Indeed, of the whole human race. What does any of this have to do with “Audience” and “Communication”? Everything.

This flourishing cannot take place unless men learn that their thoughts are confused, even erroneous, that their ways are floundering, even rebellious, and that they must repent of their evil. In other words, they must hear the Gospel. For the Gospel comes with the clarion announcement of Repentance. It is no Gospel if it has not this message. If there is anything lost in this message, then men cannot make their pilgrim way to the desired land of joy in a human manner.

Survey after survey reveals that a horrible job has been done in announcing this message with its clarity and contour to all people. Many people are confused about many truths of our faith. Many people have forgotten many truths of our faith.

How could this be? There are of course many reasons. If each of us aimed more and more to achieve God’s will in the concrete details of our lives, we might now and again substitute the beer and cigar on the back porch with a reading of the Catechism or Scripture. Thus, we would be better informed about our faith. Or we might substitute watching the game with contacting and instructing someone who is ready or at least open to learning more about the faith. Etc.

This problem can be remedied quickly if we have the will, leaning on God’s grace. I recall a situation in Laredo. I was just about to utter the following sentence, and was “interrupted” by a strange prophetic-like person who utter his statement while I was still speaking. I shall type the sentences distinctly. But note that he began speaking in the midst of my statement. My statement: “When will this New [he begins now] Evangelization ever come about?” His statement: “The moment you give your life to Christ.” He may have finished before I finished. And right he was. Thus, the “blame” for this problem is largely our own, my own.

There is yet another cause, one that I think is become well nigh systemic. It is, I suggest, the failure of communication in the Church. A specific kind of such failure. Every society has its own internal order. And every society is faced with other societies. Thus, every society has its own internal order to maintain, and it has proper order to maintain with other societies. Neglect of either of these realms of order can entail defect in the practical life of the society. If the bowling society thinks of nothing but itself, it may well schedule a bowling game on July 4th during the Fireworks display. Or during Sunday’s Mass. Or during the funeral of the captain’s wife. The society must pay attention to other societies. Conversely, it must pay attention to itself. For it cannot maintain itself unless it attends to its own needs.

Similarly, the Church has two realms with which she must concern herself. First, she must attend to her own social order. Second, she must pay attention to other societies. I suggest that in the past 50 years, the Church has paid excellent attention to other societies but has neglected to attend to her own social order. I suggest that this mistake is acutely noticed in the focus of the Magisterial utterances in the past decades as well. That is, the Church has issued many statements with an eye precisely to their potential reception by the eyes of the world. How will this come off in the press? How will non-Christians hear this? How will non-Catholics hear this? Is the world ready to hear this now? How will it affect dialogue with non-believers? With Jewish believers? With Protestants? With Orthodox?

In the past 50 years, the Magisterium has gone to great lengths to articulate the faith of the Church in words that are as accessible, as sensitively expressed as possible. This is in itself a virtue, no doubt. However, there are some hard truths in the Gospel. There are some hard truths in the Catholic faith. Of course, all truth gives life; falsity and ignorance do not give life. Nevertheless, some truths are, no doubt, “very hard to hear” (Jn 6). Thus, as though wracked by sadness over the potential rebellion of those who might “walk away” in rejection (Jn 6:66) or else laugh us to scorn (Acts 17), the Magisterium has sometimes been silent on matters of faith.

This silence has been taken by some rebels within the Church as tacit admission that such matters of faith are false and no longer to be believed. But to the contrary! What has been taught infallibly once must be held or believed forever. Thus, no one is without excuse who begins to reject what the Catholic Church has taught infallibly but about which the Magisterium is recently silent. Silence does not imply denial. The infallible pronouncements of the Magisterium remain forever in the archives of being, because they articulate the very truth of God and man.

Examples could be given. Vatican II did not teach that Mary was “Co-Redemptrix” in so many words. The reason was that such an expression might be difficult for Protestants to hear. This is an understandable cause of restraint. However, when some theologians began to say that Vatican II rejected these concepts and ideas about Mary. One wrote, “The idea of Mary as ‘co-redemptrix’ is gone now, as is the idea of Mary as ‘mediatrix of all graces’”. (The reader can look up that expression on Google if we wishes to find out who authored it. But do not fear. The man who uttered that was not Pope at the time. Further, even a Pope can err when he states his personal thought and does not exercise the teaching authority to bind the whole flock.) But this venerable theologian who at the time of the Council held a number of views he later came to reject (for while Pope he defended that Mary was mediatrix of all graces). We all make mistakes. Nevertheless, some theologians not only made mistakes but got caught up in a revolutionary movement that watered down the teachings of the faith. This is an egregious crime against the immaculate spouse of the Son of God.

Another example: Theologians began to say that the Scripture is not inerrant in all its parts, just because Vatican II did not repeat the claim. But this conclusion is false, for we are bound to hold what Leo XIII decreed, and Pius X, and Benedict XV, and Pius XII. Scriptures are inspired and inerrant in all their parts.

Another example: Theologians began to say that the Church has at Vatican II rejected the traditional teaching on Church and state. They said this even though the Council itself taught exactly the opposite in Art. 2 of the relevant document, Dignitias humanae, about which see the five parts of this post on the topic.

Another example is the way some have read John Paul II’s document on ecumenism, Ut unum sint. In that document, John Paul speaks of Tradition not in terms of doctrinal content but simply in terms of a necessary help for exegesis. What John Paul wrote was true, Tradition is such a necessary help. However, we believe more about Tradition. We even believe that it has content. Indeed, we believe that Tradition contains all the content of the deposit of faith. Thus, there is no revealed truth that is not found in Tradition. And what document clearly announces this is none other than Vatican II’s Dei verbum! Thus, the latest examples of this erosion of memory regarding the faith are the excuses that people make by their false appeals to post-conciliar papal utterances. Of course, John Paul would never have wanted people to understand his teaching in this way. He was being a gentle father to Protestants. He was not prescribing forgetfulness of doctrine. But forgetfulness of doctrine is the heresy we now have.

Thus, the rebels have used the very silence of the extraordinary conciliar and ordinary papal Magisterium on a number of points to argue that Catholics do not hold these truths any longer. Or, teachers continue the silence. The silence of the everyday episcopal magisterium also adds to this situation.

The situation is very problematic. For the Catholic flock needs to hear the “whole truth”. Thus, the practice of uttering only those truths that the world can hear, or that one thinks the world can hear presently, is in fact a neglect of the internal social order of the Church. That order is breaking down in its lived expression – i.e. in the lives of Catholics.

The difficult is exacerbated nowadays because of the communications media. Whenever the Magisterium speaks, the world broadcasts those parts that it wants to broadcast. Other parts it leaves in silence. The world does this to achieve its own ends, not God’s ends.

The internal social order must be supported by, at the very least, an everyday episcopal magisterium that proclaims the full truth on all the matters of faith. Help from the ordinary papal Magisterium would be very beneficial as well.

In short, we must recover our “internal audience” so that we do not neglect our first task, to instruct our own members. For it will be by our own having “one mind” in lived expression that there will emerge the possibility of our having “one will and love” in our apostolate. And if we have “one will and love” then the world will see our good deeds and believe. But that they do not see our good deeds and are not believing is a sign that we must emend our internal practices. We must recover the Catholic audience as the Magisterium’s chief audience.

On Reading the Bible (Part IV)

nother thing to keep in mind when reading the bible is the kind of reader I must be. What kind of reader is it that the bible demands. For the bible demands a good reader. Clearly, one who is in touch with the Holy Spirit, that is, one who is in the state of grace. Further, since the bible so towers above mortal man, one must read under the constant care of the Church founded by Christ as a rock of interpretation of his religion.

Let me give one example of the need to be in the state of grace, loving God and believing his Word. After sinning and being judged guilty by God, Adam and Eve are subsequently “kicked out” of the garden. The scene reads:

And he said: Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now, therefore, lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken. And he cast out Adam; and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims, and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (DR, Gen 3:22f)

There is a thought process narrated here. God’s thought process, as it were. What we are not told is why God does not want them to live forever. We are told that they would live forever if they were able to eat of this tree of life, and that God prevents such eating and so such life.

Why would God do that? No answer. Is it because he is jealous? Envious? Afraid? If so, then the serpent was twice right! For he said, You will be like gods, with eyes open. Well, as the Scripture narrates, their eyes were opened. And is God then afraid that they would be like him? Is there a power struggle between man and God? If so, the chief thing we want from God is to get free from this punishment, these constraints. We seek him for his goods. For his declaration of acquittal, whereby we escape punishment. But such is the life of a slave. Of a hypocrite, who serves at the Temple in order to escape wrath, but goes on extorting neighbor through the wicked practice of exorbitant loans, etc.

Or is there some other reason? Perhaps God knows that a life without end in the state of alienation would be absolute misery, hell on earth. Perhaps that is why he kicked us out of the garden. And then, through a life of physical alienation and suffering, we could rediscover the true calling of our high nature – life with God. Through our suffering, we would be made desirous of his grace. Through his grace, we would be turned towards him in faith and hope and love. And through these, we would walk towards him lovingly, as sons (Rom 8).

This great decision – who is God, and why did he kick us out – commences our reading of the entire history of salvation. Thus, God demands a certain reader. And depending on what kind of reader we are, so shall our reading be colored.

On Reading the Bible (Part III)

Next, we must see that the division into proper and improper literal sense has an application broader than to individual words. Whole sentences can be in the improper literal sense. Further, whole passages can be in the improper literal sense.

And the improper literal sense obtains in various ways. With regard to individual words, there are such noteworthy literary devices as metaphor, hyperbole, synecdoche (part standing for the whole), and metonymy (container standing for contents, cause for effect, and vice-versa).

With regard to sentences and passages, there are such devices as parable, etc. A parable is not intended to signify that the narrated event historically happened. Rather, it is intended to signify an event that could happen, that is intelligible and credible, and in which one can perceive universal truths, especially moral truths, and the various relationships that man has to such truths. The beauty of a parable is (a) the universally applicable lesson hammered out with meticulous care by the Poet through whom the universe was made – For the Father, through the Artistry of his Word, in the Breath of the Spirit, spoke and it came to be – and (b) the non-threatening way this meticulously crafted scene is set down beside the reader. The reader can gaze at it. Evaluate the players. Judge their responses. And then, sit silently with this judgment.

Because being resonates with being, in the elements of this parable, I see myself therein. I see what I have done, and what I have failed to do, what I have thought in my heart, and what I have said with my tongue. I read myself under the light of the judgment I have pronounced on the various characters in the parable. I was able to judge this parable because the True Light that Enlightens every man coming into the world illuminated my own heart with a true instinct for what is right and decent and with repugnance for what is foul, false, and fetid.

Thus, since he who crafted the parable is he through whom the world was made, now become man, therefore, the parable rings down the ages awakening man to an examination of self.

Thus, although in a manner of speaking the parable is not spoken in the “proper literal sense”, it is of the weightiest import for the reader. Nor is it mere myth. Its lessons are true universally. It is no allegory of, say, a cave. It is a credible portrait of human events, chosen with exquisite care and with an analogous flexibility that time shall never outrun.

Let us Praise the Lord who gave us these parables, as well as the countless riches of the Divine and Inspired and Inerrant Books of Holy Writ – for all these are inspired and inerrant in all their parts.