JULY 18 2010, Vol 60, No 14

In its entirety, the Bible communicates the self-revelation of God. Some people pick and choose what they will believe about the Bible, inviting nagging doubt. Good preparation for prayerful Bible reading includes studying the ancient culture from which the biblical experiences of God arose and asking: How might God want to enlighten and touch me today through reading the Bible? The Bible teaches faith, not science

WHAT IS IT about the Bible that confirms some people in their unbelief, prompts others to pick and choose what they want to hear and brings some others closer to Christ?

I first seriously faced the question many years ago when I read a book by Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology. He quoted what he called “the grandiose commandment”, that “you shall love your neighbour as yourself”, and he asked, “Why should I do so? How can it be possible?”

“If I am to love someone,” Freud continued, “he must deserve it in some way. But so many men don’t”. He ended by saying that if the commandment stated, “love your neighbour as your neighbour loves you”, he would not take exception to it. But as the commandment stood, he found it false, unreasonable and impossible to fulfil.

IS THE BIBLE the “whole” truth? Unequivocally, Catholic Christians must answer no. God alone is the fullness of truth. One of the most insidious forms of idolatry is to love the Bible more than God, to “have faith in the Bible” rather than the living God who alone is worthy of worship and trusting obedience.

It is important not to silence God’s ongoing “speech” through the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church.

Jesus Christ is the incarnate word revealing the God of truth. The Scriptures comprise privileged testimony to the experience of this living God among our Israelite and early Christian forebears.

Through proclamation of and reflection on the Bible, especially in the liturgy, God converses in human language with the Church in every age.

The Bible is the Church’s book; the community created the books, collected them and canonised this set of books as normative for the life of faith.
IS THE BIBLE TRUE? Yes, in the sense that in its entirety it communicates the self-revelation of God. It is more than factual and conceptual truth; reading it is meant to be a faith experience of the divine presence and action here and now.

To say the Bible is true does not mean every statement in it is historically factual, scientifically correct or morally applicable. Nor does it mean that everything in the Bible is equally inspiring.

Rather, the self-communication of the divine mystery in Scripture is shaped by human experience and human understanding, which are always affected by limited and particular historical, social and cultural circumstances, no matter how inspired.

Bible Sunday falls on Jul 11 this year. Daniel Tay explores “The Great Adventure: The Bible Timeline” – a bible study programme that has gained popularity among parishes in the archdiocese.

“THE GREAT ADVENTURE: The Bible Timeline” is a Catholic bible study system developed by Jeff Cavins, a former Protestant pastor of 12 years. He holds an M.A. in Theology with Catechetical Certification from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The Great Adventure teaches the story of salvation history by going through 14 narrative books of the Bible. A Bible Timeline chart breaks the story down into sections for reference when used together with the study kit and reading plan.

Of the 31 churches in the archdiocese, 15 have used the 24-week Great Adventure programme or its related resources.

Most parishes begin with an introductory programme titled “A Quick Journey Through The Bible”, which comprises eight half-hour talks complemented by group discussion questions, maps and charts, and brief assignments for home study.

Groups that complete the above two programmes go on to conduct related programmes in the Great Adventure series, including bible studies in Matthew, Acts, Revelation, Exodus, First Corinthians, and James. There is even a version for teenagers.

Andrew Neo, a pastoral worker at Blessed Sacrament Church, was surprised to find that the youths in his parish took to the programme like fish to water. When he conducted the Quick Journey for Confirmation-level children, he was astonished that “for the eight lessons, I didn’t even have a single absentee”. What was “frightening” was that “they actually carried their workbook along!” he exclaimed.

HAVE YOU EVER sat in an overcrowded flimsy boat? Even just imagining it is enough to create anxiety. How desperate does a person have to be to get on such a boat? Does anyone remember the mass exodus of refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War in the late 70s and early 80s? Ever since, the term “boat people” has described those who, driven by despair, cross the sea in overloaded craft often unfit for travel. They risk their lives to find security and freedom from violence, repression and poverty.

Today there are still boat people; it is just the faces and nationalities that have changed. They are women and men from Africa who see no future in their war-torn, impoverished surroundings.

Falling prey to human smugglers, they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea, setting out from Morocco or Libya. Among today’s boat people are the Rohingya, a stateless minority from Burma, denied citizenship by their home country and protection by host countries. Many don’t survive the journey. The lucky ones, who do, are often either pushed back and prevented from landing or detained on arrival and sometimes refused access to asylum.