Catholic apologist Gary Michuta was on The Journey Home (8/6/07). Marianne from Pennsylvania called in and described her method of Bible study: she opens the Bible to any page, and then gets layers of meaning from the text. She wanted to know if this was a normal method of Biblical reading and interpretation. Here is the clip:
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Gary responds that it is okay to engage the Scriptures in such fashion, and yes, there are layers of meaning one can glean from the sacred text. One can read a passage through the virtues of faith, hope, or love (note, the practice of the medieval exegetes found four layers of meaning for each verse). He also notes you can consult authorities, and of course, the ultimate authority is the Catholic Church.
If anyone in my adult Sunday School class asked this question, they would be held after class. Gary’s answer would not be the answer I would give. His response is indeed a blueprint for anarchy, prompting the host, Marcus Grodi to quickly add that one must check context and actually be careful. Gary likewise has to add to his answer.
Grodi though proceeds to take a shot at sola scriptura, as if adherents of sola scriptura would advocate the approach Marianne uses! The actual understanding and application of sola scriptura is completely misunderstood by The Journey Home. Grodi wants to make sure that Marianne, though allowed to come up with her own layers of meaning, consults the Roman Catholic Church or the early church fathers. With the later, one will be hard pressed to find total unanimity on particular passages of Scripture. With the former, Grodi goes on to point out that the Roman Catholic Church has only defined the meaning of a handful of passages.
Marianne is left with a bit of a dilemma. Her choice are:
1. Come up with her own layers of meaning
2. Consult a magisterium that isn’t doing its job as an infallible interpreter
3. Navigate through the differing opinions of the early church fathers
Rather, I would offer Marianne a different solution. I would instruct her to become a student of the Bible. I would first explain to her what the term exegesis means. It is “to lead the native meaning out from the words.” Then I would walk her through the rules of exegesis, noting such things like author, audience, historical setting, grammar, lexicography, and so on. But most of all, I would impress upon her the holiness of God, and the holiness of His Word. It is not something to be taken lightly. If she savingly believes in Christ, the words of Scripture will be the food that sustains her. Catholics can often caricature sola scriptura as a blueprint for anarchy. I ask, is not the real blueprint for anarchy the answers given by Mr. Michuta and Mr. Grodi?