The other day, I blogged about lecturing to a class at Iowa State. It was a great experience for me in overcoming fears and such. I did have a slight annoyance at a fundamentalist that asked the predetermined "Catholics are not a Bible church" question. I say it was predetermined because it really didn't follow from what I had just said to him at all. He asked why the Catholic Church revers Mary and I said because Mary was 1. Jesus' mother who 2. kept things about him in her heart, and was 3 the faithful disciple who stayed with him even to the point of watching him die on the cross. I even 4. cited the magnificat in which the disciple says to Mary, "all generations will call you blessed." I'd say an answer that involved four direct referances to the Bible could be considered fairly well based on the Bible. But, not according to this lad. He had his point and, by god, he was going to make it! He asked if I could see that we weren't a Bible church so I tried to point out to the lad that several aspects of Christianity were developed outside of the Bible but I could tell that this kid hadn't heard a word I said the entire 80 minute presentation. So why should he start now?
As I read over the Pope's Wednesday audience on Ignatius of Antioch (a spiritual hero of mine!), it occurred to me that this is a huge difference between the catholic church and fundamentalist evangelicals. The difference is that Jesus didn't give us a book on which we are individually "thrown to the wolves" in order to interpret and understand it. Christ, a human, handed on the faith to other humans who, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, handed it on to others. The Bible becomes the only way to understand God in the life of an evangelical. And, even though I believe that this is, of itself, contradictory to their central criticism that Catholicism is a man-made religion, I will save that for another day. The more central criticism is that this attitude denies the historical presence of a God who "did not deem equality with God something at which to be grasped" but denied himself and became fully human. This very human Jesus remained present in the church so it is important not to just understand the portrait of Jesus in the Bible but the portrait of Jesus still working through the apostles and their successors to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
This is at the heart of the message of the Catholic Church. History doesn't end with the death of Jesus and pick up again, rather arrogantly, at my interest. In order to be fully a Christian, we must listen to the sage wisdom of the breadth of Christian history, not just one book, even one as important as the Bible.