Catholics/God's voice


QUESTION: In the Old Testament God spoke to people and the Prophets could actually hear Him speak with a human voice. That is how I read the texts. We seldom hear of such things happening nowadays. Maybe it''s because there are no Prophets nowadays. If Pope Francis told people that God spoke to him and told him certain thing people would be sceptical. I would. If Pope Feancis said that God spoke to him in the conscience it would be easier to accept. Story of Abraham hearing a voice is really strange. I also wonder how much that voice was understood with Abrahams cultural background.
What does the Church teach on thus?

ANSWER: The Catholic church teaches that the books of the bible must be understood primarily as theology. Whether a statement in the bible is literally true or not is sort of beside the point.  When you read the Psalms, you recognize figurative language; when you read the story of Adam and Eve, only the strictest fundamentalist would say it is literally true; even the early church fathers like Augustine did not believe that everything in the bible is accurate historically or scientifically.  Thomas Aquinas said that there could only be one truth, and if it seemed as though the bible contradicted something we know to be true because of our senses (science) then we must get to the work of figuring out what the bible story really meant.  
That being said, there are a few ideas about why God spoke so clearly to the prophets in the OT and doesn't speak like that today.  The first is that, as above, these are theological stories, not meant to be taken literally.  The second which is more intriguing and to which I subscribe, is that God got very involved with the Jewish people and their ancestors (like Abraham) because he was preparing them to be the environment into which he would come and take on flesh.  Once Jesus became man and suffered, died, and rose again, God had said all he intended to say to the human race -- Jesus is the Word of God.  In the New Testament, the last time God speaks to the human race directly is at the Transfiguration, when he says, "This is my beloved son, hear him."  We Catholics believe that Jesus lives in his church and the scriptures, as well as in the Eucharist.  So Jesus remains with us speaking to us what God wants us to hear.  
There is also an interesting theory that the human brain used to be wired differently than it is today.  The whole world was "schizophrenic" and when our right brain communicated with our left brain, we heard voices.  Somewhere around the time cities began to be developed it became evolutionarily disadvantageous to hear voices, so people who were not impelled by voices and could act "rationally" had an advantage.  For a long time both kinds of people coexisted; today there are very few left who are wired that old way, some of whom are in mental hospitals.  Perhaps the pyramids were built beacause although most of the population were hearing voices, the ones who weren't learned to manipulate those who were.  Perhaps that was why Saul became so despondent; there were people all around him hearing God's voice, but he never did, and concluded that God hated him.  
Hope this helps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Mental illness? I didn't really get what you were trying to say.
Anywat, can we really be sure that Abraham or Moses heard a voice speaking to them like a human person would speak to them? Could it be that we read the OT in the wrong way? Doesn't God speak to us in our conscience? St Thomas Aquinas talks about the natural law. Isn't that how God speak to most people?

That is how God speaks to us most of the time.  I was just giving you some theories as to how some people interpret the old testament.  And the "schizophrenic" was put in italics because the point is not that they were mentally ill, but that all human beings at some time in the past operated in this way.  It seems clear that most mammals do this, and the theory is that some schizophrenia is related to the way we used to operate back in the time of Abraham and before.  The short answer is that we can't really say what Abraham and Moses experienced.  


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Donald Higby


Most any question about Catholic teachings, the structure of the Church, issues related to Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage; I also know a lot about biblical foundations for Catholic teaching, and apologetics. As a scientist and a deacon, I am conversant with the dialogue between science and religion.


Deacon, 13 years; Religion minor, Catholic University of America. Self study.

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Diaconal Formation, four years (college level courses) Catholic University of America, religion minor, philosophy minor. (AB)

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