Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Protestants & the Bible

Protestants know the bible more than Catholics. But why is this? Do they read the bible more than Catholics? Yea, I think so. But that's not why they know it more. How many Protestants have read the bible all the way through or any more than just a few devotional passages at a time? I'd say not many. I'd wager that there are as many or nearly as many Catholics that have done the same and even if not, a small number may be twice another small number but they're both still small.

I think the place Protestants learn the Bible (I know this is true for me although I have read it cover to cover a couple times) is on Sunday morning. No, not Sunday school - I mean the worship service. Since most Protestant pastors arbitrarily choose their own message, they can (and often do) set up series of sermons. This sets up a storyline: part 1 this Sunday, part 2 the next and so on.

Human memory and comprehension, I think, (again, true for me I know; I think it's true for others) is highly contingent upon chronology because the memory has an uncanny ability to repeat in sequence. Many people can sing hundreds of songs from start to finish but maybe only a few that they could sing starting from the middle.

So when you have a series of chronological sermons on say, Joshua's conquest of Canaan, you end up with a clear picture of what happened and how. When you hear a sermon that references a portion of an OT passage as allegory to a gospel passage (not usually in chronological order), it would be pretty difficult to piece this puzzle together.

I think this is more of a reason why Protestants know the Bible better than Catholics rather than private reading. Could be wrong. Any thoughts?


George Weis said...

I would have to say a resounding YES to your thoughts. The sheer detail given in a Protestant Sermon (depending on the teacher) can be quite in depth. I know in the PCA they tend to be that way, and at our current place of worship the Senior Pastor is wonderful with His historical, geographical, theological connections. These elements draw me in and illuminate the passages.

A few things that also give aid... Christian Schooling, which at least in my case had Bible class, and the High School version of that was extremely excellent. I recall having Sword drills as early as first grade, to locate a passage of scripture.

Also, Sunday School as I knew it was quite full of Biblical lessons. I received a thorough overview and with the combined effort of school, I had to memorize scripture and the books of the Bible.


Ashley Weis said...

Yeah, I agree. Which is why if I were ever Catholic I'd still want to listen to protestant sermons. But I think it's more than that. And I don't know what. :)

Honestly, I think if we tallied RC and P sides, both would be pretty similar in terms of knowing the Bible.

On both sides I think love of Christ needs to grow, grow, grow. If we love Him insatiably a hunger for His Word is born and it seems impossible and often dreadful to put it down.

But I don't necessarily think P know the Bible more than RC. Just seems that way sometimes. I also think RCers tend to flip through the Catechism more often than the Bible, but that could be my assumption and I'm willing to say I'm wrong on that one. Just what seems to be the case.

Rene'e said...

I think most practicing Catholics know the Bible as well as Protestants. Because some Catholics refrain from speaking of scripture to those outside of the Catholic Church, they may leave some with the impression that we do not emphasize the importantance of Scripture or the truths that are contained within Scripture. When much of the reason Catholics refrain I believe is because of the various different interpretations of scripture found within Christianity. For Catholics it can be confusing to know just how a non-Catholic interprets a particular passage. This could inadvertently lead to misunderstandings and debates. I personally try to avoid this from happening, so I prefer to discuss scripture with Catholics only and a few Christians (aka. George). I have the advantage before hand of knowing how they interpret the meaning and therefore I gain more than I would if it evolved into a disagreement.

In regards to Ashley’s comment on the Catechism. If you would ask some non-Catholics, they would say Catholics blindly follow the Church and only stay Catholic because they do not know any better and do not know what the Church really teaches. Then on the opposite hand you have non-Catholics who say Catholics follow only the Church and focus on the Catechism and not Jesus.

Neither is correct.

Gretchen said...

Hmmmm. Just my anecdotal evidence, but as a Protestant I read the Bible much more than I have as a Catholic. Since entering the Church I've been so delighted with the Church Fathers and the saints that I've neglected Scripture a bit. Also, we get a systematic read-through of Scripture at Mass; and if you attend Mass a couple of times weekly, you get a lot of Scripture. Another thing, there's a lot of Scripture in my devotions, whether it's Magnificat or some other writings. One more thing--I'm in a weekly Bible study and we systematically move through Scripture (we're on Revelation right now). So, while I don't do as much private reading of Scripture as I used to, I would never want to put away the Pope's encylicals or the Church Fathers, or any other such treasure that I've discovered!

George Weis said...

One thing I enjoy about the RCC is the "devotion" to the Saints ( I don't feel comfy with the word devotion). What I mean is that through reflecting on these other great Christian Lives, we can be directed to Christ, and seek to live a more set-apart life.

The Apostle Paul said "Follow Me" In other words "hey, take my example and follow hard after Christ".

I enjoy Tim's little saint of the day there on the side bar. I enjoy learning about these early Christians. I admit, this is one of the things that I really enjoy.


Milehimama said...

I disagree. I am married to a Southern Baptist and have heard my share of Evangelical sermons. Most concentrate on one or maybe two verses at a time.

I DON'T think that Protestants over all have a more thorough knowledge of Scripture, but they may know some VERSES better than Catholics. It is a more compartmentalized knowledge that is easier to recall quickly.

I think it is because, lacking the fullness of Truth, they hang on to what they have, so to speak. They do not have the Sacraments to fill them, so they snack on what they DO have - the Word of God.

Also, at many churches the "good" Christians are the involved Christians. Where many Catholic churches place an emphasis on the corporal works of mercy as a demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit, many Evangelical churches place an emphasis on "having the right answers" and attending Bible studies faithfully. Where Catholic school children memorize prayers, the catechism, etc., "Bible Only" Christians tend to encourage their children to memorize Scripture passages.

There is also a fundamental difference in devotions. A Catholic sets aside time for devotion, and may spend that time praying the rosary or attending Adoration. An Evangelical might have a devotion - meaning a spiritual book, inspirational message, or podcast.

This is purely MHO and based on my own limited experience.

Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

It mainly has to do with you have.

The Protestants threw away the sacraments when they decided to leave. Specialy the Eucharist which is the summit of the of Christian worship.

There was need to fill that void. So Scripture took its place, also the "pastors" could no longer rely on people coming to them because of their Holy Orders, they came to them to hear them preach.

The Catholic view of scripture is rather complex, first the word (Scripture) then the realization of the word (Eucharist) then the manifestation of the word (The Sacraments) then the obedience of the word (The Saints). Parallel to this one must consider the source of the word (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) The institution in charge of spreading the word (The Church).

The Protestant need only consider two things, The word of God and his own mind or concience.

Rene'e said...

Would it be accurate to say that this Protestant knows the Bible more accurately than Catholics?

Simply "knowing" the Bible is not enough and can lead to error in many ways.

Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

Rene that is the point, Protestants may know what it says in the Bible but they do not understand what is in the Bible. If they did they would be Catholic.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Renee - I can't comment on that video without being in sin!

Rene'e said...

It is hard to believe that he is a Pastor and that was his biblical message/sermon to his congregation that day.

I prefer a short homily at Mass over a Pastor's long sermon on what 'he' thinks the bible is saying.

The Catholic Journeyman said...

Whats is being talked around here in the combox but not yet directly hit is akin to Tims other post about Homileticly (?) challenged Priests.

My exposure to the "driven" Protestants who are perceived as knowing Scripture better than most, ...where they quote the Bible as though they wrote their unadvertised but closely held belief that their Pastor has discerned the real meaning of a Passage for Sermon and Study directly from Divine Inspiration. In advocacy, why wouldnt I (as a theoretcial P) believe anyone in such a position not have a greater access to the real meaning of Scripture? As George stated "...these elements draw me in and illuminate the passages." I have enjoyed and endured a fair share of such illumination.
In my experience (or in my comprehension ability) the Protestant predominate microscopic focus on some passages in a long span of study can work against keeping the main thing the main thing.

There are practical application Protestant Operators out there who "get this", as Alistair Begg once said:

"here's your inpsired Sermon for today:
Read the Bible and do what it says, see you next Sunday"


Carolina Cannonball said...

well since to prots the Bible is there only source for Christian authority they spend more time on it. Ask any Catholic what they're reading and chances are it some writing of the saints or Church Fathers.

If all I had was one book I suspect over time I'd be just as well versed.