Online Edition – May 2006
Vol. XII, No. 3
Pope Benedict XVI
Scripture as the Place of God’s Hope-Instilling Power
Today even Catholics frequently use Scripture as a weapon against the Church
Faith is obedience; it means that we relearn the essential form of our being — our nature as creatures — and in this way become authentic. It means that we recognize the relationship of responsibility as the basic form of our lives and that as a result, power changes from being a threat and a danger to hope.
This obedience is directed to God Himself — on the one hand it presupposes an attentive and vital relationship with God, and on the other hand it makes this possible, for only the obedient person perceives God. To ensure, however, that our obedience becomes concrete and is not inadvertently equated with the projections of our own desires, God has made Himself concrete in many different ways — to begin with, in His words.
Thus obedience to God is a relationship of obedience to His Word. We have to enter into a relationship of awe and obedience toward the Bible, which nowadays is frequently in danger of being lost. If individuals or different groups continually create their own Bible by means of separating the sources and criticizing the tradition, and then place this Bible in opposition to the unity of Scripture and the Church, this is no longer obedience to God’s Word. It is rather an apotheosis of their own position with the help of a text-montage whose selection and omissions are ultimately based on the positions they want.
Historical-critical exegesis can be a wonderful means for a deeper understanding of the Bible if its instruments are used with that reverent love which seeks to know God’s gift in the most exact and careful way possible. It does not, however, achieve its purpose when it is no longer a path to more careful listening, but keeps the text on tenterhooks, so to speak, in order to coerce answers from it that it withholds.…
Are we not treating [Scripture] as we treat matter in the laboratory? Do we not, indeed, turn it into a dead thing that we assemble and disassemble at our pleasure? And where in this process is the essence of interpretation that views the words not only as a dead collection of texts, but hears the living Speaker Himself in them? …
Must we not, once again, develop methods that respect this inner self-transcending of the words into the Word of God; methods that are open to grasping the experiences of the saints with this Word — those people who not only read the Word but lived it to the full? …
Today even Catholics frequently use Scripture as a weapon against the Church. As the Word of God, it certainly does stand above the Church, which must constantly let herself be judged and purified by it. But it does not stand apart from the Body of Christ — a privatized reading can never penetrate the core of Scripture.
Proper reading of Scripture presupposes that we read it where it has made and still makes history, where it is not witness to the past, but the vital strength of the present: in the Church of the Lord and with her eyes, the eyes of faith.
In this sense, obedience to Scripture is always obedience to the Church; this obedience becomes abstract if we try to remove the Church from the Bible, or even try to play her off against it. Scripture alive in the living Church is also God’s present power in the world today — a power which remains an inexhaustible source of hope throughout all generations.
From “God’s Power Our Hope”, Chapter 3 in A New Song for the Lord Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today (New York: Crossroad 1996)