2.2. What kind of god do we have?

The Israelites were not the first to believe in a higher power

Many ancient civilizations are worthy of study, and I hope you have time to learn about them. The reason a Catholic university wants you to learn about the Israelites is because our tradition believes they were right. They had true insights into God, who we are as human beings, and what God expects us to do. Christians do not accept everything they said, but do consider the questions they asked and the points they made worthy of consideration. Why should we trust them?

Christians differ on the details, but to begin we can say that all Christians believe that the Israelites lived in a special relationship with God and received revelation from God. Some Christians imagine God dictating the entire Bible word for word to humans who passed it on without change. Catholic Christianity understands God’s role in the production of the Bible as more complex, incorporating human language, expressions, literary devices, and other cultural assumptions. Catholicism teaches that the Bible is revelatory. God is revealed through the Bible. Sometimes revelation means prophecy in the sense of God speaking to humans. Other times, truths are made known to us through our own reason, our families and teachers, and the created world around us. The Israelites grappled with truth in the same basic set of ways that we do. The Bible did not just fall out of the sky and hit them on the head. They spent hundreds of years working on the ideas and articulation of the biblical books. The Catholic tradition holds that they did a particularly good job, with God’s help. Their questions and insights have been passed down to us for our consideration. Catholicism considers the Bible a reliable guide for understanding the central points of God’s desire for our salvation, but the human expression relies on ancient language, culture, historical and scientific assumptions that can be incomplete, flawed, or just plain wrong. (más…)