Is the Bible really God's Word?
We believe that the Bible is God's Word, but we recognize also that it is a human word as well. Perhaps the best way to say it is that the Bible is a word both of God and of the human beings who wrote it. The easy part to explain is that the Bible contains human words. In fact, we know a lot about some of the actual human beings who wrote (and edited) many of the books contained in the Bible. We know who they were, where and when they lived, as well as why they wrote about certain topics that were important during their lifetime. The harder part to explain is how we understand the words written by those human beings to also be the word of God. The Church uses the term "inspiration" to refer to the fact that the human authors of the Bible were open to and acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the process of composing the sacred books of the Bible. Although the human authors were limited in their knowledge and understanding of what they wrote (for example, some of their writings contain mistakes about history or geography), nonetheless under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they were able to convey a word that truly came from God. Despite the limitations of the human authors and of their human words, God's eternal truth has been conveyed to people of faith by means of what is written in the Bible. We believe this so deeply that each time we read the Bible at Mass, the reader ends by announcing that what has just been proclaimed is truly God's word--to which the assembly responds, "Thanks be to God."
Did God really create the world like it says in the Bible?
Some people are surprised when they open the Book of Genesis and discover there are two different versions of how God created the world (cf. Genesis 1:1-2:4 & 2:5-25). Although similar, those two stories of creation have some details that--if taken literally--are different and difficult to reconcile from a scientific point of view as physical descriptions of exactly what happened at creation. In that sense, then, the Church does not teach that God literally created the world "just like it says" in the Bible. However, we do believe that the point of the Genesis stories of creation is absolutely true--namely that God is the author of creation, the "Creator of heaven and earth," as the Creed says, and the source of all that exists in the entire cosmos. Catholics are not bound to believe any particular scientific theory of how creation happened--whether it is a form of the "big bang" theory, evolution, or some other scientific approach. What we are bound to believe is that God's power--and love--is the ultimate source of all that exists. That is the religious truth (as opposed to scientific truth) which our faith embraces as correct when reading the Bible. So, if you are talking about the religious truth of the story of creation, then the answer is "yes" -- it happened just like the Bible says.
Is God really a part of me?
There are several senses in which we can understand that God is a "part of" us in a very real and profound way. In the first place, we believe that God has created us and that we are held in existence by God. Without God's being present to us and sustaining us in existence, we would cease to be. Hence, we can see ourselves as existing in the mind of God and in that way God is "part of" us every moment of our life. Another way in which this is true has to do with the Bible's teaching that we are made "in the image" of God. The Church understands this as a reference to our immortal soul, the fact that there is a spiritual principle within us that makes us who we are and that comes to us from God. This is a second way in which we can understand God as being "part of us". The final way in which this is true has to do with God's decision to give us a special share in his own divine life. We speak of the Holy Spirit being poured out in our hearts or of the life of grace that we have been given at baptism. These expressions capture the profound mystery that God has in some real and wonderful way allowed us to share his own divine life. And this is the deepest way in which we can say that God is "part of us."
Are we saved?
In the Book of Genesis, the Bible tells the story of how the human race sinned from the very beginning, and how the fallen (sinful) human condition has been passed on to all of the descendants of Adam and Eve. The Bible also shows how humans in every age have continued to sin against God, and how we are in need of God's forgiveness if we are to be able to live forever with God in heaven. We Catholic Christians believe that God sent Jesus to rescue every human being from the effects of sin--our own personal sins, and the effects of all of the accumulated evils that have been passed down to us as a result of Original Sin. We believe that by being perfectly obedient to God's will, Jesus (who combined in one person both a human nature and a divine nature) has won forgiveness for the whole human race. By his death on the cross and his resurrection to new life, Jesus has won salvation for every human being. That is why we say that "we are saved"--because now forgiveness for our sins is available through Jesus, and through the gift of his Spirit we can live a new life of grace and holiness. The sacraments are important ways that this grace/love/forgiveness/salvation is made available to us as disciples of Jesus who belong to the Church. But we Catholics also believe that even those who have not been able to come to faith in Jesus through the Christian Church can still receive God's salvation--a salvation won for us through Jesus--as long as they follow what their conscience tells them is good.