bishops-bibleSometimes things are just puzzling.

You explain to someone that no one is worshipping images and that they are aids to worship and they respond “how does a crown on a baby help worship christ?” All one can do is say “no one is worshipping the image of the baby with a crown on it” and leave it there, adding that in the presence of either invincible ignorance or sheer refusal to read what is written, there is nothing more that can be done.

When someone writes:

but if i were smart and listened to the cathols that i would know that god really said to make as many statues and images as possible and get down on my knees face first to the ground befor them

all one can do is to be sad that someone who claims to be “saved” resorts to lies, for make no mistake, there is no Catholic who has ever told anyone to make as many images of statues as possible or to worship them. The motives that drive someone to make a statement they must know to be palpably false may be various, but they cannot be of Christ.

There are those here who ask why it is worth persevering with those such as Bosco who manifestly act in ill-faith? Part of the answer is that their misunderstandings are common ones. The extent of the problem is sometimes amazing.

So when Bosco writes: “first, mary didnt give her permission to have the baby, neither was she asked,” he commits the most dreadful blasphemy, in effect accusing God of rape. This point has been answered at length here. Quite how anyone can believe that God is a rapist and still claim to worship Him passes belief. But Bosco is almost irrelevant here, it is his methodology, which is common, which is of wider concern.

Although much of the debate about images concerns art, at root it concerns making anything an idol, and the central problem with the sort of mentality exemplified by Bosco is that it makes the Bible an idol. The Bible is not an instruction manual. It is not self-defining. There is no “contents” page to it, despite Bosco’s statement: “hi good brother. the books in the bible are listed in the table of contents.” It was the Church which decided which books were to be included as “scripture”, and if we take that seriously, to imply that the Church is not authorised to know how to read what it tells us is “scripture” is, to put it mildly, illogical. We see the same lack of logic here:

“as you admit mary is a handmaid of the lord. one of the lowest positions someone could have. how many handmaids are given golden crowns in jolly old england?”

As an exercise in missing the point, this is superb. What is it we read in the Magnificat?

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed

The whole point is that, from the beginning of the Incarnation, God confounds our expectations. It is not one of the mighty of this earth whom He chooses to be the mother of Jesus, but a lowly maiden; it is not some aristocrat who is the finest of us all, it is Mary of Nazareth.

What Bosco’s method or reasoning shows, alas, is where we can end up if we think that we are the infallible interpreter of Scripture. Here, some wise words from Austin Farrer are helpful: “We cannot hear the voice of God in Christ’s words … unless we have an ear attuned.” We can read the text, we can read the commentaries, we can read the scholarship, but as Farrer reminds us: “there is still something to be done, and that is the most important thing of all: to use our spiritual ears.”

That does not equate to “when we read the text God inspires us to understand it correctly.” God founded a Church and it is through that Church, that is through the whole organised body of Christian minds down the ages to help guide us aright. This is an important point. Biblolatry ties itself into knots trying to say that St Luke’s dates or St Paul’s views on astronomy are beyond criticism, or that the world really was created in six days, as though these are the things that matter and as though, if they are not literally true, all else collapses. It does not matter, God teaches us those things necessary for our salvation in spite of any human imperfections in the text as we have received it.

The idea of inspiration does not mean mean that every word is guaranteed, but it does mean that the Church recognises what is needful for our salvation. There is no part of Scripture that does not illuminate God’s Word to us, but not all parts are equally important. We read aright through the Tradition of the Church, and unless our reasoning faculties work with that, as well as with our own ear of faith attuned to God’s voice, what we think we are taking out of the text is usually little more than we put in. We can listen to the voice of God as it comes to us through His Church with the best tuning we have and the best understanding of which we are capable. Or we can decide we know it all via some unmediated, privileged understanding. This last has a name, Gnosticism. Those who need to look it up will not, I suspect, accept they are Gnostics.