Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Archbishop of Armagh: 'Bibliolatry' danger to the church

[...] The physical and perceptual impediment to disclosure, the boulder, was removed for Mary Magdalene by God. The impediments, the boulders of our day, take different and conceivably more formidable forms.

There is, for example, the impediment or boulder of Bibliolatry: the business of mistaking the Word of God for a mere text.

The sublime evangelist St John makes clear from the very beginning of his testimony that the Word of God is incarnate and personified. “The Word” is “He”, not “It”.

The words of the scriptures describe and explore the experience of human witnesses in their attempts to set down what each has known and seen of the action of God in the world. Those written words include, pre-eminently, accounts of the experience and understanding of those who walked the roads of Palestine with Jesus himself. The Gospels are pre-eminent in informing our encounter with the living truth of Jesus Christ. Thus it is “He”, the incarnate Word of God, He alone who is worthy of worship, not the text, which tells of the experience of those who knew, loved and came to worship Him.

The Word of God is not only living, He is dynamic, that is endued with power, and his work continues. John, the Gospeller, concluded his gospel with these words:

There are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were to be written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

In other words, the activity and therefore the unfolding revelation of God go on beyond the written text. Such activity includes the actions of those who, in Paul’s words and theology constitute “the Body of Christ”, the Spirit filled entity, changing and deepening its experience of the love of God over 20 centuries.

They also include direct actions of grace, the prevenient action of the living God, forging ahead, calling into new experiences of the Way, the Truth and the Life those who are the contemporary agents of incarnation, that is to say, the People of God, the Church.

Bibliolatry is a boulder threatening to obscure the dynamic and contemporary truth of the resurrection. It is also the mother of dogmatic fundamentalism. Love for the scriptures is tainted when scripture and not God becomes the object of worship.

A second boulder, which the grace and power of God alone can remove, is division and disunity within the Body. Read more

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1 comment:

Revd John P Richardson said...

The 'text', as the Archbishop calls it, is, according to the Thirty-Nine Articles (which he affirms, and requires everyone he ordains to affirm), God's word written, holy Scripture which is the measure even of the Creeds we recite, sufficient for salvation and the sole source of those things which we are required to believe or to do.

To summarize it as "attempts to set down what" human witnesses have "known and seen of the action of God in the world" is to demean Scripture below what Anglicans believe it to be.

To say that "the unfolding revelation of God" goes on "beyond the written text" via 'the Body of Christ' as a "Spirit filled entity" is to go beyond the Anglican understanding of revelation.

The original second part of Article 19 stands against this view: "they are not to be hearkened unto, who affirm that Holy Scripture is given only to the weak, and do boast themselves continually of the Spirit, of whom they say they have learned such things as they teach, although the same be most evidently repugnant to the Holy Scripture."