Monday, March 4, 2013

7 Questions: Brandon Vogt

Brandon Vogt is a blogger, speaker, and author of the excellent book The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops who Tweet.  I am grateful that he took the time to participate in this edition of "7 Questions" which I know you will enjoy.

1) I wanted to start off with a question about your personal involvement with Sacred Scripture. How has Scripture played an important role in your spiritual life? Has it always been that way?
For the first eighteen years of my life, Scripture was a lifeless, dusty old book, and one I rarely opened. But then I entered college and fell in with a Men's Bible Study and everything changed. I started reading the Gospels for myself, and I encountered Jesus in a personal way. The more I studied, the more I learned, the more Jesus intrigued me. Eventually, I made a personal commitment to the Lord and since then Scripture has been the core of my spiritual life.
Once I became Catholic, I began slowly drifting from my daily Bible reading. After all, there were so many books and commentaries I was discovering that went previously unnoticed (why read the Gospel of Mark for the sixth time when I could read Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth for the first?) But in recent months, I've recommitted myself to that routine. It's such a powerful way to ground your day.

2) You are a convert to the faith from Protestantism. How, if at all, has your reading of the Bible changed since becoming Catholic?
Once I became Catholic in 2008, I knew I had to read Scripture through a new lens--"in the heart of the Church." I began studying Scripture in light of Tradition, the Church fathers, the saints, the liturgy, the sacraments, and more, and all of that gave it new color and life.

I also came to view Scripture as part of a larger deposit of Faith. Once I stopped squeezing the Bible into some presupposed Protestant grid, which was required when I considered it the "sole authority" of faith, I allowed it to speak as an important piece of a much larger puzzle.
Finally, I've especially come to appreciate the allegorical reading of Scripture, which I discovered in many of the Church fathers. They've helped me plumb the Biblical depths like never before. Mark Shea's excellent book, Making Senses Out of Scriptures, was a huge help in this regard.

3) What role do you think the Bible will play in the New Evangelization, particularly here in the United States?
The Bible is absolutely crucial to the New Evangelization. If St. Jerome was right, that "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ", then we have to know Scripture in order to propose Christ. Our Pope-emeritus, Benedict XVI, knew this better than anyone. He was both a biblical pope and an evangelistic pope. His apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, makes it clear that the Bible is crucial to the Church, and specifically to evangelization. He later convoked a Synod on the New Evangelization which concluded the same thing:
“The frequent reading of the Sacred Scriptures – illuminated by the Tradition of the Church who hands them over to us and is their authentic interpreter – is not only necessary for knowing the very content of the Gospel...[it] also helps us to discover opportunities to encounter Jesus, truly evangelical approaches rooted in the fundamental dimensions of human life."

On this topic, I'd encourage readers to study Verbum Domini as well as Frank Matera's recent paper, available free online, titled "The Use of Scripture in the New Evangelization."

4) In this new digital landscape that we are all a part of, in what ways is the Church doing a good job in proclaiming the Gospel and in what ways would you say there is room for improvement?
In terms of the good, I turn to people like Fr. Robert Barron. His work on YouTube is a model for the rest of the Church: find the seeds of the Gospel in popular culture, then use new media to connect them to Christ. Other Catholics are using Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and blogs to great success, sharing the Gospel with "new ardor, new methods, and new expressions."
In terms of improvement, the larger Church just needs to move past her fears. There's always a fear of the unknown, and most of these tools are unfamiliar to Church leaders. But like Fulton Sheen, once we recognize and tap their extraordinary potential, the fear gives way to the undeniable fruits. One way to help overcome these fears is to have the Catholics who excel at these tools to share their expertise with parishes and dioceses. That was the goal of my Church and New Media book: to connect the excited experts with the fearful novices.

5) A major focus of the Catholic Bibles Blog is to highlight the various Catholic Bibles and study tools that are available for Catholics to utilize in their faith journey, both print and digital. Yet, when we look at how Bibles, and their supporting materials, are produced and marketing in Protestant circles, Catholics seem to be way behind in this. What do you think Catholic publishers could learn from Protestants in this area?
The main thing publishers should know is that people hunger for solid Bible resources. The sales don't lie. Study Bibles and biblical curriculum continues to sell, both for Protestants and Catholics. We're starting to see many specialty Catholic Bibles, including Bibles filled with commentary from the saints or Church fathers, and that's one way to promote great biblical materials. But we need more.
That said, I think the burden falls mostly on parishes rather than publishers. We need parishes that encourage Catholics to regularly read Scripture, especially in the context of liturgy and small-group communities. In my experience as a Protestant, that last element was key. Meeting and studying the Bible weekly provided accountability to read Scripture each day. And it was through that group, with its discussion and accountability, that I learned to love the Bible.

6) Do you have some favorite Bible-related resources that you utilize for your own devotional or study of the Scriptures?
Yes! I have several. First, my go-to paper sources include the Ignatius Bible (RSV-2CE) along with the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible - New Testament. I also use biblical commentaries fairly often. My two favorites are the Ancient Christian Commentary Series, which give you line-by-line commentary from the Church fathers, and the Daily Study Bible Series by William Barclay. Barclay was a Scottish biblical scholar, and a favorite of Fulton Sheen, who is exceptionally strong on first-century Jewish culture. He's also a phenomenal story-teller. His commentaries are perfect for any preacher or Bible teacher.

In terms of digital resources, my favorite by far is the new Logos Verbum software which is mind-boggingly powerful. I've written about it several times (see "The Most Powerful Bible Resource Ever Available"). Nothing is better at helping you read Scripture in light of Tradition.

Finally, the Divine Office app is always helpful as it allows me to pray Scripture through the Liturgy of the Hours. Putting Scripture in the context of prayer, music, and worship bathes it in new light.

(For more digital Bible resources, see those recommended by Scripture scholar Dr. Michael Barber in the interview we did on Scripture and new media.)

7) Finally, do you have a favorite passage or verse from the Bible?
As a Protestant, my favorite verse was always John 10:10: "I've come so that they might have life and have it to the full." Then I became Catholic and discovered St. Irenaeus' famous extension: "The glory of God is man fully alive!"
Both passages affirm to me that God is not some oppressive tyrant, bent on making my life miserable, and he's not a competitor to my happiness. He's the key to its flourishing. He's the source of all joy, life, and love. So while living in a cynical, disenchanted world I'm always encouraged by John 10:10.


Hans said...

Very nice! Thank you for doing this.


Hans said...

Very nice! Thanks for posting this.