“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) Anyone with a close familiarity of Scripture knows John's comment to be true. Even today false teachers abound in nearly every church – regardless of its label. They begin subtly with the insidious introduction of doubt regarding the authorship of various Biblical books. They teach, for example, in the classroom or from the pulpit Moses didn’t write the five books attributed to him. Isaiah didn’t write the one with his name. The physician Luke did not write Acts. And on it goes. Next come the indirect digs at the authority of Scripture. "How can what was written two to four millennia ago speak to the problems faced by 21st century people?" Of course, in asking that, they reject the idea that God’s word transcends time and place and culture and language and nation. They reject as fallacious God’s promise that the Scriptures are “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) When the religious leaders asked Jesus where He got His authority from, He responded with His own question:
"I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Matthew 21:24-27) In the same way, we must decide if God’s word – the one we hold in our hands, the one we bring with us to church, of whose words we read at Mass – we must decide if it is literally (not figuratively), literally God’s words to us inspired by the Holy Spirit – or are those words just the words of men inspired by their own minds? If it is NOT the fully inspired and infallible and transcendent word of God, then we have the liberty to pick and choose what we will believe and what we will reject. But if it IS God’s fully inspired and infallible and transcendent word of God telling us the eternal truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment – then we are fully responsible to obey its commands.