Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the Jan. 13, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. Can you or anyone else say the Bible, I mean all of it, is infallible? Since it is the Word of God it must be infallible because God would not try to deceive us. Why would he do that? Thereís nothing in the world I trust more than the Word of God. Thatís what you should be telling.
A. We had better define our terms. Some Bible fundamentalists have tripped over words and phrases and lost their balance.
If the Bible contains divine information from the God we know to some other God we donít know every word must be infallible because thereís no possibility for divine error between two infallible beings.
That raises a question. What information could a supremely informed God need from any other source, divine or not?
If the Bible contains information from our God intended for people like us, however, we can expect human errors because we make mistakes whenever we leave our fingerprints on anything.
The Bible, completely re-touched, re-viewed and re-written by people competent and incompetent, contains multiple mistakes in history, dates, science, duplications, padded additions, omissions, scrambled sequences, and fanciful allegories. That narrows the range considerably and your faith will not suffer relapse if you stay within those limits.
If there is one principle that is absolutely essential to understanding the Bible it must be this: Context, context, context. When you quote a sentence, go back and read the whole paragraph. Go back again and read the whole page. If youíre serious, go back once more and read the chapter. Then youíve got a handle on it.
Q. When a person has lived a good clean life but at the very last minute commits just one serious sin will that person be judged and sentenced to hell for eternity? Just asking. Does that seem right?
A. Theoretically, yes, itís possible. Psychologically, no, it wonít happen.
Persons with lifetime good habits usually do not abandon their lifetime virtues in their final minute of life. The opposite, about lifetime bad habits, is also true.
Your question gives the Q.B. scrivener reason to insert this fine quote from C.S. Lewis. ďA silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who resist temptation know how strong it is. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.Ē
Back to your question. It may be interesting speculation but thatís all it is. We can dabble in all kinds of hypotheses but itís not our call. We would like to play God if it were possible and some people find it difficult to admit the impossibility.
Q. Before this I had never heard of any priest postponing anyoneís baptism when at least one parent keeps the Catholic tradition with good example. Regardless, at least their child has received baptism. Who is losing anything if you just baptize the child?
A. Baptism is the introductory sacrament for all the sacraments that follow, both privileges and responsibilities, for the rest of the childís life. We must be guardedly optimistic.
For instance, an important requirement of the Catholic faith is that a marriage is a sacrament. Years later, when that little child is a mature adult unaware of the churchís doctrine, gets married in a civil ceremony and finds himself in an invalid marriage, outside the Catholic faith without knowing how it happened and perhaps not caring either.
Every diocesan marriage tribunal has a backlog of cases like that where people were baptized, neglected in the Catholic faith, married outside the Catholic church they did not know, perhaps divorced and re-married and now want to return to the faith of their parents.
ďHome is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.Ē Thereís a homing instinct in those people and Mother Church is ready to re-claim them with joy.