“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Use the Bible to Divine the Future?”

Q: Is praying to God then opening the Bible and reading the first passage you read divination (bibliomancy)? – K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There is nothing wrong with praying to God and opening the Bible and reading the first passage your eye comes upon. What could be problematic is our intention and our expectation. But let’s review a few points first.

“Divination” is a word usually used for recourse to demonic spirits. The Catechism in No. 2116 says, “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.”

One definition of bibliomancy is “foretelling the future by interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book, especially the Bible.” When bibliomancy involves Scripture, it certainly isn’t turning to demonic powers. But it can border on presumption.

True, God can speak to us in a special way by our coming across a passage of the Bible, seemingly at random. But to open the Bible and read the first passage we find, and to assume that it is telling us something definite about the future, can be to expect too much from God — as if he responds instantaneously to our curiosity. In fact, God has a way of responding in his own time and in his own way.

The better path is to pray and read the Bible in a spirit of humility. The idea here is that we need to be open to what the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach us — which can be something quite unexpected at times.

For information about the time-honored tradition of lectio divina, click HERE.

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