Protestants Need to Do Penance (for their Use of the Bible)

Protestants Need to Do Penance (for their Use of the Bible) January 6, 2013

Dănuț Mănăstireanu shared this quotation from Richard Rohr:

…Protestants need to do penance. Their shout of “sola Scriptura” (only Scripture) has left them at the mercy of their own cultures, their own limited education, their own prejudices, and their own selective reading of some texts while avoiding others. Partly as a result, slavery, racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and homophobia have lasted authoritatively into our time—by people who claim to love Jesus!I think they need to do penance for what they have often done with the Bible! They largely interpreted the Bible in a very individualistic and otherworldly way. It was “an evacuation plan for the next world” to use Brian McLaren’s phrase—and just for their group. Most of Evangelical Protestantism has no cosmic message, no social message, and little sense of social justice or care for the outsider.

From Richard's Daily Meditation.


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  • The solution is not less reliance on the Bible, but more appreciation of the fact that it testifies to our Lord Jesus Christ – and, consequently, a greater reliance upon it.

    • Ian

      Reminds me of a quote by Vorjack – “One of the most annoying things about dealing with Protestants is their insistence on Biblical authority paired with their inability to agree on what the Bible says. “

      • Fortunately, Jesus was not so put off by the quarrels between Pharisees and Sadducees that He gave up having a high view of Scripture.

  • Pam Garrud
    • Thanks so much! I’ve gone back and added a link into the original post above, too.

  • Beth

    He starts by critiquing all Protestants but ends about evangelical Protestants? And I’m not sure his list of ills is any better in the Catholic Church so is it really a sola scriptura problem or perhaps the way that Christianity has been a hierarchical religion suited for those wanting power?

    • Pam Garrud

      If you read the original post, he starts by criticizing Catholics for their ignoring of scripture and then moves on to criticizing Protestants for their ignoring of tradition. Richard Rohr’s theology is very much a “both/and” approach; if you know his approach to faith, he actively resists dualism.

      I also quoted this excerpt this morning. Because I am a Protestant. Had I been a Catholic, I would have quoted his criticism of the Catholic approach which is also true.

      • Grace

        Yes a FB friend of mine posted just the second part. It caused one particular protestant to get very personally offended.

      • Wonder

         I have both Catholic and Protestant roots, so I appreciate this

  • arcseconds

    It seems to me that he’s painting with a pretty broad brush here, which only starts to look accurate with the restriction to evangelical protestantism.

    I don’t think I’d say either Anglicans or Lutherans (for example) are particularly otherworldly and individualistic, either; at least, no more so than Catholics. European protestants, especially the Lutheran church, were just as involved in setting up the social systems in those countries as Catholics were.

    (I wonder what his views on the Orthodox churches are?)

  • uggla

    I am a Protestant and a progressive Democrat. This statement is as offensive and uncarefully thought out as statements from the radical right. I am Lutheran and proud to be Lutheran.

  • Sheri

    If only your blog had accurately reflected the whole cloth of what Father Rohr said. He was not pointing fingers at Protestants but was pointing out the ways in which the Bible is misused, one Catholic and one Protestant. To just present one side here is merely being inflammatory.

    • I am a Protestand and quoted the part I found most personally relevant and challenging, which I found quoted on another Protestant’s blog who felt similarly. I provided a link so that anyone interested could read the whole context. If there is anyone guilty of being inflammatory, it is those who judged Rohr without bothering to read the entirety of what he wrote.

  • m8lsem

    Possibly he means Fundamentalists who read the Bible as if written yesterday in English by an American newspaper reporter who is something of a history buff.

    • Wonder

       I think that might be what he meant. These seem the be dominant form of Protestantism in operation in the US of late.