Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Plain Meaning of Scripture

Do Catholics or protestants follow the plain meaning of scripture more closely? YIM Catholic has an old essay that argues Catholics do. Actually when I first heard that asserted it seemed odd to me. There were some protestant proof texts that seemed like they needed explanation. Things like Rom 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." or maybe Rom 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". But even those when read in context, without a protestant pounding the pulpit, those passages do not contradict Catholic theology in their plain meaning. But there are many that contradict protestant theology in their plain meaning. He  goes through quite a few. I could think of dozens more he could have used.

This is why in every protestant church you will have just a few verses of scripture read and a long sermon. A Catholic mass will have much more scripture and much less sermonizing. It is not needed. The plain meaning of scripture is fine. Sure a priest can add a few insights but a typical Catholic homily is not nearly as long and not nearly as dominating as a protestant sermon. So the plain meaning of the text is much less the focus in a protestant service.

The other thing protestants can do is simply never preach on certain passages, like the second half of John 6. Catholic priests don't have that option. They don't need it. All of scripture is consistent with Catholic theology. If a priest does not want to talk about hell he can't avoid the passages where it is explicitly mentioned. They will be read. The plain meaning is pretty strong. If a pastor doesn't want to talk about hell then he does not have to. He might even avoid important topics accidentally. He is in full control.

So who is following scripture and who is nullifying scripture with human traditions?

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