What is bugging me is that I really don't have a good reason for my filtering other than "I don't like that" or "That can't be taken literally" or "That obviously doesn't apply today". And whenever I leave myself to be the subjective judge of things with no rhyme or reason beyond preference for my decisions I am usually wrong.
Now, the obvious answer is that I need help in my exegesis beyond "Scripture interprets Scripture". And perhaps I do, because the Scripture passages given to interpret other Scripture passages often seem quite weak to me (but not as weak as the Scripture passages used to support some parts of the catechism, which often seems to stretch to the worst forms of prooftexting). So where are we to turn for help?
Well, first, of course, is to your pastor. He (or she - but not in my denomination, unfortunately) is a trained professional, often with a graduate degree or more in understanding just such things. He (or she, etc.) may speak and read Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic in order to get right down to what it really says. He is supposed to edify us every week with a sermon picking apart passages in the Bible and explaining what they mean and should mean in our lives. Except there's a problem with this model, I think. First is the fact that the part of the Bible I need explaining right now may not be on the lectionary rotation for a while. I can, of course, call the pastor or go see him for a talk, but he's a busy man and I feel guilty doing so (and the few times I have I have walked out feeling dissatisfied, like I was "answered" but not "educated").
The second issue is just how much that service costs me. [Following is one of the reasons I keep my church anonymous, so I can speak freely.] At my church we will pay $91,560 in 2008 for our senior pastor's salary and benefits. We will also pay $37,367 salary and benefits for a part-time associate pastor (and that's actually better value for our money, because from what I can tell he works pretty close to full-time, even though he's really in "working retirement"). The church directory says there are 353 families in our church. Assuming we're all tithing, and just for "back of the envelope" calculation purposes assuming that we're all paying equally, that means that for pastoral services I am paying $365 a year (a dollar a day - how convenient! "Why, for only a dollar a day..."). Of which some of that is providing those regularly scheduled sermons and Sunday School Bible explications, and some can be seen as a "retainer" upon which I can draw for individual instruction on particularly tricky passages. Hmmm...OK.
And of course I can also go and buy books on various things in the Bible. I can buy books about single Bible books. I can buy books about specific Bible passages. I can buy books about themes in the Bible. I can buy books about people in the Bible. I can buy Biblical dictionaries and concordances. In fact, I bet that if I had the money I could buy eight shelf feet of books on any single random thing I chose out of the Bible. And yet after some period of time of buying these books and reading them I've come to notice something. They still don't explain the Bible. Because if they did, you'd only need one of them on any topic, eh? But of course we don't have one book on Romans - we have a library full. All that produced from studying a single letter from a single man to a single church. Huh. And none of them agree with each other because they'd be obviously redundant and useless if they did, and besides what's our religion without schism and conflict?
One of the outcomes of the Protestant Reformation, thanks to Luther, Tyndale (a hero of mine, actually), et al., is the translation of the Bible into a myriad of languages. In fact, we don't have the Bible in English now - we have dozens of different translations into English. Oh, and those don't agree with each other, either, and all have some sort of editorial agenda. So we're taught we each can (and should) read the Bible for ourselves, except obviously we can't, can we? Because if we could and we could decide what it means for ourselves then why would I need to pay someone trained in the classical languages and exegesis? Why would I need shelves (plural) in my library of other books telling me what the Good Book says in case my pastor has no clue? What about when the books disagree with the pastor? Or my denomination? What about when they disagree with each other? Obviously I am too stupid to pick God's plan out of the Bible without the help of an entire hierarchy of church workers and an industry of experts. So maybe the Catholics were right - keep it locked in a "sacred" language and only dole out the good parts we hoi polloi can understand in our small brains. Maybe we mere mortals are here solely to be passive vessels with heads to be filled by the "clerical staff".
Because otherwise aren't we being scammed into making more of it than is really there? I mean, what if the Bible says exactly what it says, no more and no less? What if God's crazy plan is that we are to follow what Jesus said to do, and what He said pretty clearly at that? Where's the justification for a $35,000 audio/visual system in that?