Last post, I asked something of my readers. I asked them to ask their pastor about their church’s stance on some hard issues.
To do this, we must start with he last item, which is truly the first item! Inspired Scripture. If we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that it is without error, then we stand on one side. If we believe that the Bible is a collection of stories that are meant to loosely guide us through life, you are on another side. The first side is traditional Christianity, which does come with some responsibilities and obligations, the latter side is modern religion, which comes with little responsibility and no obligations. Strangely enough, most Christians fall in-between these two sides.
We look at scripture, and lets take a particularly provocative verse, like:
1 Corinthians 14:34 34 the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says
Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (1 Co 14:34). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
There we have it, women are not allowed to speak in church, end of story. How do we deal with this? Those that believe that scripture is the Word of God must deal with this verse, those who believe the Bible is a collection of stories will say that Paul (who wrote the letter to the Corinthians) was simply a misogynist, as were many men of that time, and we should ignore certain parts of his “ranting”. Both of these explanations are kind of hard to deal with, so many of us take a middle road; we just chose not to deal with this verse. Lets pretend it’s not in the Bible, lets not read it at home, lets make certain this verse is not in our lectionary, and for heavens sake lets not read it in church!
It’s plain to see then, if we take the middle or “storybook” side for an approach to scripture, we have no real take on the hard topics in the Bible, we just ignore them. Therefore, no amount of writing I do in explanation of these hard issues will do any meaningful good, as if you don’t listen to God, you certainly won’t listen to me! My bet is that most in the middle are not comfortable, they have this feeling that ignoring these hard questions is not right; all the while recognizing them is too difficult to comprehend. What to do? Lets start with the catechism.
CCC 138 The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.
Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 38). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.
CCC105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”
Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 31). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.
The Bible IS the Word of God. Lets start here. There were times in my childhood that my parents said things I didn’t like nor did I understand, now that I am older, I understand and am thankful that my parents were there to guide me. God is our Father, He is guiding us through life, ,most Christians could not imagine a day without Him. So we start with “I don’t understand”. God inspired Paul to write what he did about women in the church, it is the Word of God, I don’t like what it says on face value, but I must deal with it, as it is the Word of God. This is the process we must adopt when reading scripture.
So lets put that to practice. Paul tells women to be quiet in church. This is the Word of God. We have some questions, no doubt. Look first to the saints and scholars, what does the Church Catholic say about this verse?
The universal Church is also present in gatherings of the faithful, most especially at celebrations of the Eucharist: “This Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called churches in the New Testament” (Lumen gentium, 26). This explains why St Paul is particularly keen on ensuring that at liturgical gatherings everything should make for the edification of the faithful (v. 26) and be done “decently and in order” (v. 40).
Saint Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians. (2005). (p. 107). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.
We learn here that St. Paul is simply trying to gather the church in good order, making it possible for all to hear and participate in worship. Have you ever been to mass where the person next to you insists on providing emphases to the pastors sermon? Or his prayers? Many will find the need to groan or say “uh huh” to every word the pastor says…it’s very disconcerting and distracting! We can start to see that possibly Paul is speaking to specific women here in Corinth, not all come, we begin to see that Pauls concern is with good order in mass, not in silencing women.
We should not get side tracked here, I cannot go through the entire proof of what Paul is doing in this verse, but please take my word for it, he is not telling all women to be silent in church. What should we take from this exercise? Running away from scripture that strikes us as “problematic” or “objectionable” is a bad practice. We miss so much of God’s word and truth when we do this. We confront it, just as scripture confronts us! We study, we ask our pastor, we deal with God’s Word!
But what happens if the results of our diligence does not end up as satisfying as the one we just wrestled with from Paul? Then we have a decision; change our life, or change God. We may have to change our practices, our voting habits, our views on issues, and yes, maybe even our own ways of living. It’s hard. This is why so many opt for changing God. Ridiculous you say? Nobody could change God you say? Of course you are right, God is unchangeable, but people will change the god they worship in a heartbeat. They redesign and reform their religion to suit them. If I worship a god of my own making, who do I worship? Myself.
In the coming weeks we will be looking at hard issues. I we do not stand on Scripture and the tradition and teaching of the Church, then what? Lets get our minds ready to here the words of our Father. Let us be ready to say “yes sir” to His bidding.