Why do we believe in a book (the Bible) with things we would view as morally wrong? 

Question:Why are we instructed to believe in a book that contains things we would view in today’s society as morally wrong? 

There is a distinction here between believing in the Bible and believing in the God that is revealed in the Bible through Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we affirm that the Bible contains sacred scripture, which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but that “in sacred scripture, God speaks through human beings in human fashion.” (Dei Verbum, Vatican II)

The Bible was written and compiled over more than a one thousand-year period with influences from cultures very foreign to our own. Human culture and societies have developed and changed since then. So although slavery and the treatment of women as property rather than persons is abhorrent to us in United States and many other parts of the world in the year 2013, it must be understood that such institutions were simply accepted as part of the culture of the biblical writers of their day. They were writing “as human beings, in human fashion,” and recognizing this reminds us we aren’t asked to put blind faith in accepting everything in the Bible literally. Rather, the Church instructs us that the goal of scripture is “that we may come to know the ineffable loving kindness of God.” The God who is life-giving, who does not tread upon our free will, who relates to us each as unique individuals and worthy of dignity, is the God we are invited to believe in.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.