The Purpose of Scripture

Just thought I'd drop you a line to let you know that I've been enjoying your web presentation this afternoon. I appreciate the honest and open dialog that you welcome. I read with interest especially your discussion of Carl Sagan. I enjoyed his Cosmos series, but pretty much ignored his atheistic leanings.

As a Christian first, but also an individual that respects science and the search for truth, I get turned off by debates that end with atheistic scientists that claim that if you can't weigh it or see it, then it doesn't exist, and also well-meaning Christians that say "Well, you just gotta' believe." I even have some Christian friends that claim that dinosaurs are a hoax (because they're not mentioned in the Bible) and that the Earth is only several thousand (maybe tens of thousands) of years old (counting back generations to Adam). I prefer the logical treatment that you appear to offer.

On the science issues (e.g., evolution) have you considered evaluating 2 Tim. 3:16. Many of my more fundamental Christian friends use this verse to claim the inerrancy of the Bible. On close examination, however, I think that it is a clear statement as to the purpose of the Scriptures: doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. I believe that the Bible is complete in it's purpose as stated. It provides all we need to guide man's relationship to God and man's relationship to man. It is not intended to be a science book. Having said that, I personally believe that everything stated in the Bible is true. You start down a slippery slope if you start deciding what you choose to count as truth and what is fable. Where I can't reconcile physics or biology (e.g., the virgin birth), I fall on the side of Biblical accounts. Natural birth to me is a miracle with all the things that have to happen sequentially with the chemistry at just the right amounts and timing (e.g., the differentiation of cells). Just because it happens so often is no reason to discount it as natural.

Well, my major purpose is to let you know that I've enjoyed your site. I hope to examine it more fully in the future.

Lee Beck, Senior Project Engineer
MD-63, Atmospheric Protection Branch
Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Research Triangle Park, NC 27711


Dear Lee,

Good to hear from you - and thank you for your kind words. The Catechism, citing Vatican II, says pretty much the same thing about the Bible as you. Here is the pertinent section:

II. INSPIRATION AND TRUTH OF SACRED SCRIPTURE 105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."[69]

"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."[70]

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."[71]

107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."[72]

108 Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book". Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living".[73] If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."[74]

III. THE HOLY SPIRIT, INTERPRETER OF SCRIPTURE 109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.[75]

110 In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression."[76]

111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."[77]

The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.[78]

112 Be especially attentive "to the content and unity of the whole Scripture". Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God's plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.[79]

The phrase "heart of Christ" can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.[80]

113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"[81]).

114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.[82] By "analogy of faith" we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.

Again, thanks for writing. It is always encouraging when someone combines a scientific background with the gift of faith. God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom

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