Should Catholics Go to Non-Denominational Bible Studies? (an article)

This writer discourages Catholics from attending because of the attitudes and beliefs in operation in such groups.
This is at www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/should-catholics-go-to-non-denominational-bible-studies

Thanks for showing this article! Yes, generally Catholics should not go to such “Bible studies” for the simple fact these “Bible studies” are severely lacking in many of the Truths that Catholics have easily available. The worst part is, most Catholics who attend are so ignorant of their own Catholic faith that they will end up falling for much error. So Protestant “bible studies” are indeed dangerous and not for Catholics.

I wouldn’t say that I have bible studies with friends, so much as discussions. I am the only Catholic, and I see these as an opportunity to explain why we believe what we do as Catholics. While not every time, I have had success in helping my friends see our perspective on various matters. Even when I am unsuccessful, it helps to understand reservations or reasons for the differing beliefs so that I can talk to my pastor about how to address them the next time. This is of course, not something I would recommend if you do not solidly agree with the Church!

I went to a non-denominational Bible study last semester- my only advice is to only go if you know your Bible (and the true, Catholic interpretation) well enough to defend it, and to leave if they start attempting to convert you. I actually really enjoyed my Bible study. I was able to share authentic interpretations and even had a few girls accept my invitation to mass!

This is pretty much me. Some of my favorite religion discussions I’ve had have actually been between me and one of my Lutheran friends at college. But I second this notion that you should really only go into them if you solidly agree with and understand Church teachings

I can certainly understand the desire to warn people away from Bible studies that are barely disguised attempts at Protestant evangelization, but I wonder where the author draws the line.

It strikes me that today, serious Bible study is an ecumenical effort.

For example, a number of Catholic seminaries are members of ecumenical theological unions.

Two examples:

[LIST]
*]The Graduate Theological Union in California includes a number of non-Catholic seminaries but also the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Franciscan School of Theology, and the Jesuit School of Theology;
*]The Boston Theological Institute includes a number of non-Catholic seminaries but also the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, the Boston College Theology Department, and Saint John’s Seminary
[/LIST]
Other seminaries may not belong to an ecumenical union, but still have non-Catholic instructors.

The *CCC *specifically permits developing Bible translations in collaboration with non-Catholic scholars (in fact, both the earlier NAB and the current NABRE have non-Catholic scholars as members of the translation committee; and of course the NRSV was an ecumenical effort), etc.

Some prominent members of the Catholic Biblical Association are non-Catholics; there are articles in its journals by non-Catholics etc. There are non-Catholics who have authored volumes in the well-known Catholic commentary series Sacra Pagina and Berit Olam.

As a specific example, I would imagine that someone who was serious about Biblical studies would make an effort to learn Hebrew and Greek; instructors for such courses are not necessarily Catholic.

The same is true historically as well. Thomas Aquinas certainly made a serious study of non-Catholics including Aristotle(!), Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, etc., and references them in Summa Theologiae; Jerome learned Hebrew from Jewish teachers; etc.

So, there may be a problem with specific instances of “ecumenical Bible studies,” but serious Bible studies almost always involve interaction with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, etc.

In my senior year of high school, I went to a non-denominational Bible study/Christian group. There was no converting or anything of the sort and we united as brethren in Christ which is what we are and always will be.

It depends on the group. Some have nice people who want to study the Bible and others have people who are interested in twisting verses to bash the CC. Just be careful the first few studies so you can get a feel for what the group is really about.

I went to a Christian Reformed bible study for four years, and it was generally nice. There were other Catholics at the study, because they couldn’t find a Catholic study group.

The leaders made a point of reminding everybody that I was Catholic, just so that they knew.

After 4 years, I asked a question, a direct question, about this church’s rule about people especially dressing up for Sunday service. That was never answered, as a CR guy jumped me for the audacity of asking a direct question, and retaliated by berating the Catholic belief in purgatory. I never returned.

Mind you, this church sent out invitations to everyone in the community to go there. So, at least at the top, the people knew that there was going to be a mixed group, to say the least. But, it fell apart after four years.

There was a Catholic lady who attended for only one meeting. She felt the hostility of the group rather quickly.

I think it depends on whether they try to convert you or not and whether its one where you can debate. I’ve been to quite a few non denomoninational bible studies and most were okay, though I will say they were lacking in truth. However, I never was converted or shunned because of my faith.

Sadly one member did try, but I kept refuting him. Granted we became friends but we just avoided the subject of faith.

There’s a difference between reading ancient philosophers and Jewish rabbi’s (any theologians worth their salt would try to understand the Jewish roots of christianity.)
But what can studying Calvin or Luther teach as catholic about his faith?
As a former protestant, I was taught that bible studies were to deepen your understanding
about the bible and why your church teaches what it teaches.
I found nothing wrong or inflammatory in what the author wrote as a matter of fact,
as a convert I can see where he’s coming from.
One last thing, it takes a catholic/christian of tremendous maturity,spirituality, and
knowledge to find out the information needed to be a better catholic by studying other
faith’s.(kinda like Thomas Aquinas.)
We stand on the shoulders of giants.

I find an interesting notion when I have discussions with non-Catholic groups. I certainly want to be able to answer their questions, but I’m not upset when I can’t. I don’t conform to their belief system, because I understand that the theologians of the Church understand much more than I do, and I know we have an answer. Because of this, when I am found at a lack of explanation, I am almost eager to start researching the solution. I see the discussions as both an opportunity for me to help others, and a way for me to see where I lack understanding. It isn’t until we leave our comfort zone that we really find out how solid our footing is.

The question of whether Catholics should go to non-denominational (or another ecclesial community’s) Bible study can go either way, I think. In some circumstances, it’s highly inadvisable, such as:

  • You don’t know your faith or the Bible very well.
  • You feel drawn to another faith and away from Catholic Church.
  • You know that the group is going to be actively hostile towards the Church and Her teachings.
  • Your opportunity for having a say in a Protestant or non-Catholic environment is going to be severely limited or not present at all.

However, in other cases, I would say that going could provide an opportunity for both ecumenism and evangelisation, especially if:

  • You know your faith and the Bible very well.
  • You are strong in your faith.
  • You know that the group is not hostile towards the Church or is at least open to hear different opinions on Scripture.
  • You will have some opportunity to present the Church’s take on the Bible.

I went to a Baptist church Bible study group long before the Catholic parishes had them. For a few evenings it was ok but not really eventful. Then two other people joined the study group, and all they wanted to do is preach hellfire and damnation. I took it for 3 sessions thinking they would eventually wear out, but they didn’t so I didn’t return.

I don’t know if they knew I was Catholic or not, I was never asked and I didn’t say.
We had a weak leader who didn’t know how to control the discussions which also didn’t help.

Just a thought.

Some quick clues to the type of Bible Study.

  1. Does it use only one translation?
  2. Is the aim of the study exegesis or eisegesis?
  3. Are the attendees given time to address issues raised in the lesson?
  4. Is the study for a specific group?
  5. Have others complained of the way they were treated in the group?
  6. Is your denominational input welcomed, encouraged, and respected?

In the first case, regardless of the translation chosen, it becomes the study of a Bible rather than a Bible study. I have heard KJV-onliests proclaim that the KJV contians its own dictionary, so it is complete and self-contained. Unfortunately for them, every other translation does the same thing. We may not grasp something until we have heard is said in several different ways, or until we have heard it a number of times. Using one Bible version makes breakthroughs less likely.

Eisegeisis generally involves finding verses to support a pre-existing conclusion, rather than letting the text speak for itself. As history has shown, such and approach to the Bible is counterproductive.

Indoctrination needs little input from the attendees, and in some circles, such input is seen as prideful. An immediate one one’s spiritual maturity and aims in the class is inevitable. This is often where Catholic-bashing begins (or Lutheran-bashing, or Methodist bashing, fill in your own beliefs here.)

While one needs to consider the level of education, religious experience, and maturity in lesson planning, when the group is advertised as Bible Study for Left-handers Taller than Six Feet, or some such, there is likely little true study going on.

Any group will experience conflict at some level. Sometimes people have clashes in personality or histories outside the group that are brought into it. It is the job of the leaders of the group to control these occurrences. Also, the leaders should deflect any attacks on others because of religious or other differences. If I disagree with you because on the Virgin Birth because of the difference in translating Isaiah in the Masoretic and the Septuagint, that is one thing, but if it is because I call you and ignorant Catholic, that is way out of bounds. If a member does it, the leaders should call it immediately. If a leader does it, it is time to knock the dust from your sandals.

Finally, to understand each other and to be brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to understand how others see things. What you bring to the group is your background. If you are not conversant with it, you need to study and not be afraid to say that you are unclear on a certain item. If you do say this, it is incumbent on you to find the answer and bring it back to the group. If the group does not encourage such exchanges or uses them to castigate you, it is time to dust off those sandals. Your time and talents will be of more use elsewhere.

Absolutely, that’s what I always say.

Catholics maybe could profit by going to Bible studies with other Christians who are Bible scholars or who at least have open minds.

But a lot of times a “Bible study” is just trying to preach one group’s preconceived teachings in an effort to get someone to join.

Maybe I’m just going to really informal Bible studies because I’m a young adult in California, but* most* of the ones I’ve been to have been along the lines of “let’s all read this passage from the Bible and then talk about how we can apply the teachings to our everyday life” rather than a more serious study where disputes between denominations come up often. I think the STYLE of Bible study is important in deciding whether or not to attend.

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