It seems a little strange to believe that there is a difference between ”Scripture” and the “Bible,” but my experience as a convert from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism has made me think twice about it.
With the release of the latest Lectio program – Dr. Tim Gray using lectio divina to teach about prayer – I realized that we’re having trouble communicating the Lectio series to Catholics. While our advertising clearly references Scripture as part of the teaching, many Catholics don’t understand that the Lectio series is useful as a “Bible Study.” What’s the difference?
In my experience as an Evangelical Protestant, the word “Scripture” was the more formal way to talk about the Bible. “Scripture” was used in flowery language, or to evoke something ancient or prophetic, or to suggest a deep reference. The “Bible,” on the other hand, was more earthy and practical. It’s what we carried around and used in our devotional lives, it was the thing we sang about (“Jesus loves the little children… the Bible tells me so…”) and put into our proclamations (“I’m a Bible-believing Christian”). It evoked that Old Time Religion and the essentials of a “real faith” (as opposed to some hoity-toity theological pretense). We had Bible studies, not Scripture studies.
My theory for the Catholic community is that the “Bible” has become property of the Protestants. Author and publisher Frank Sheed noted in Sidelights On The Catholic Revival (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1940) that Biblical attacks on Catholic doctrine may not have destroyed “Catholic attachment to the dogmas; but it sensibly weakened Catholic attachment to the Bible. A man can never feel quite the same about the nicest book if he has just been beaten around the head with it.”
I remember a conversation with a Catholic recently who insisted that the “the Bible” is a Protestant phrase and “Holy Scriptures” is a Catholic phrase. Even if wrong, the sensibility rings true. Certain words and phrases have faded into near-invisibility, if not from over-use, but from a lack of meaning. We see “Church Tradition,” “New Evangelization” and “Scripture” – you can make a list of your own – and they no longer resonate in our consciousness. We slide over them in the Missal or when we see them in our writings and advertising and our brains don’t engage their meaning.
How do we reinvigorate the meanings of important words and phrases? At the Augustine Institute, we think the best way is to remind people of the meaning, not merely through a definition, but by showing what it is. We can talk about Baptism, but we chose to show its meaning through beauty and experience in our Reborn video series. We can talk about Marriage, but it takes a Beloved to help make the Church’s teaching real.