Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Taking The Bible Literally?

  • 30% of Americans read the Bible literally, as word-for-word truth (Down from 40% in 1980 to 1984 period).
  • 49% of Americans believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally.
  • 17% believe the Bible to be a book of fables and legends.
Source - Gallup Poll

David Lose, a Bible scholar and published author, wrote a reaction to this. He highlighted four reasons why Christians should not be taking the Bible literally.

1) Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant. The closest we get is, 2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Just because it is inspired, does not mean it is without error, it is after all largely persuasive writing by early Christians.

2) Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness. The Gospels confess faith rather than day-by-day record history, an example given being the Cleansing of the Temple. 

3) Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally. St Augustine struggled with taking the Bible literally until it was explained by St Ambrose that interpreting it in an allegorical way may help. Early Christians did not need subscribe to the idea that for "something to be true it had to be factually accurate".

4) Reading the Bible literally undermines a chief confession of the Bible about God. Many of our Bible 'heroes' are not exactly ideal. As Lose cites, "Abraham passes his wife off as his sister -- twice! -- in order to save his skin. Moses is a murderer. David sleeps around. Peter denies Jesus three times."

Lose does not address the question as to why many Christians, particularly in America, do still read the Bible literally. Is it easier to read it literally? It is necessary in Christian churches that do not have other doctrine (as opposed to the Catholic Church)? What difficulties do Christians have when following it word for word?

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