Ammunition for the Catholic Bible Brigade
BY Mark Dittman
April 1-7, 2000 Issue | Posted 4/1/00 at 2:00 PM
Catholics don't know the Bible, and many Catholic beliefs are man-made traditions that have no biblical basis.
Bible Basics is Steve Kellmeyer's attempt to answer these common claims against the Church. He addresses both head-on — the first, by offering Catholics a chance to improve their biblical literacy; the second, by debunking the myth.
Kellmeyer, a director of adult faith formation when he's not writing for various Catholic publications, presents an apologetics textbook that is a timely and substantial contribution to the present renaissance in that category of Catholic witness.
It's a renaissance long overdue. Many have been confronted by an evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant rattling off Bible passages that seem to refute Catholic doctrine. Next comes a pointed challenge to defend Catholic teachings — and anything less than a chapter-and-verse quote from the Bible draws an exasperated roll of the eyes. Bible Basics won't make such exchanges any less annoying, but it can arm you well enough to turn the tables and do more pro-active witnessing than reactive defending.
Each major section (the Triune God, creation as sacrament, Scripture, the Church, the sacraments, sacramentals, salvation, Mary and prayer) provides a summary of Church teaching, often citing the Catechism. Frequently challenged doctrines are carefully spelled out, illustrated and reinforced with generous excerpts from Scripture and theological exegesis. In many cases, excerpts from Church documents, such as those written at the Council of Trent, are included; the point is to show how the Church has come to interpret the Scripture in question (and, by inference, to refute the claim that Scripture interprets itself).
Bible Basics: An Introductory Study Guide to the Catholic Faith by Steve Kellmeyer Basilica Press, 2000 302 pages, $19.95
In a theme from his introduction to the book's second section on Scripture, which is reflective of the entire book, Kellmeyer tells us: “Scripture is crucial revelation, but the plan revealed by Scripture can be known only through the Church. Indeed, that is why Christ established the Church, to reveal the structure and plan of salvation.”
Kellmeyer ably addresses such Protestant hot-button topics as sola scriptura and sola fide, as well as the canon of Scripture, papal authority, divorce, birth control, Mary and women's ordination. Readers will find strong scriptural support for many other Catholic beliefs and practices: the relics of saints, the scriptural basis for the Mass, calling priests “father,” purgatory and indulgences.
His section on Mary is exhaustive. Revealed here are many scriptural threads, all showing how firmly rooted in Scripture are Catholic teachings on Mary. Kellmeyer even includes quotes from Martin Luther, displaying Luther's devotion and veneration for the Mother of God.
Most heartening is the analysis and scriptural support presented for many traditional Catholic prayers, including the rosary, the Memorare, the Hail, Holy Queen and the Liturgy of the Hours. There's also a deep walk through the Our Father, blending the commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas with that of the Catechism. “The Our Father is the summary of the Gospel Jesus taught; it is essential for us,” writes Kellmeyer in this section's introduction.
The book reads fairly easily, but, thanks to its broad scope and scholarly depth, it works best as a reference tool — maybe even a Bible-study course book.
Bible Basics convincingly illustrates how inextricably linked are the Catholic faith and sacred Scripture. Steve Kellmeyer has done a masterful job showing that you not only can be a Catholic who knows and loves the Bible, but that you are called to be nothing less.
Mark Dittman writes from
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