Haile wedded Love … by thee
Founded in Reason, Loyal, Just, and Pure,
Relations dear, and all the Charities
Of Father, Son, and Brother first were known.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me how Sacred Scripture should be interpreted in daily life. He wanted to know if there are any norms for identifying which ideas from Scripture apply in “black-and-white” to life today and which need to be contextualised for contemporary culture or for a specific situation.
In a moment of inspiration, I hit upon what seemed to be an apt analogy. My interlocutor was married, so I recalled to him that he had made solemn marriage vows when he was joined to his wife. Those vows are foundational in their life together and present them with a kind of blueprint for their marriage. Now, this does not mean that when they encounter a difficulty in their relationship that there will be a tidy solution contained somewhere in the formula of their vows. It does not mean that when they need to make an important decision about their life together that the answer can be found by going back and watching their wedding video. What the vows provide, rather, are the essential principles of marriage―fidelity, permanency, the procreation and education of children, and so on. When a married couple needs to resolve an argument or make a decision, their vows provide a foundation on which to ground themselves and from which to make concrete choices in the here and now, but it does not exonerate them from discernment in the here and now.
This is not a perfect analogy for the role of Sacred Scripture, but it is at least a useful parallel. The Bible is a record of the foundational moments in the relationship between God and his people and it articulates the principles of this relationship. When today we have moral or vocational questions, Sacred Scripture is the privileged source for rediscovering the principles by which they can be answered. But of course, answers to specific questions will not be found therein. In the same way that spouses must turn to speak with one another after remembering their vows, so the Christian must turn from his Bible to converse with the spouse of his soul, the Lord. For just as the marriage vows cannot be mistaken for the married life itself, neither can simply reading the Bible substitute for prayer and real Christian living.