Literally: The Bible

And here is that question we’ve all had asked us, “Do you believe the Earth was created 6000 years ago?” Give or take for whatever smug resource our questioner is using. And the question is always a gotcha question, no matter what you say, the one asking it will ridicule you. Not that that matters, we should expect little else from unbelievers, although we should engage them, always trying to help them to see. But Glenn T. Stanton, in yesterday’s Federalist, went through the whole thing, and very well too.

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Why? It’s quite simple: Literally no one takes the Bible literally. NO ONE. But otherwise intelligent pollsters and journalists continue to ask the question as a gauge for who really takes the Bible seriously—or too seriously. And Christians continue to play along.

Here, here and here are just a few examples of this. It all shows an embarrassing ignorance of how billions of Christians and Jews approach this important and world-changing book hermeneutically. This is unacceptable.

I’ll Prove It in Ten Seconds

All one need do is open a Bible to any random page. I’ve just slipped my thumb into my closed Bible as I write this and aimlessly opened to Ecclesiastes 10:2, where we read: “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.”

If I say I take Scripture literally, then I must believe my heart—this four-chambered, muscular organ beating in my chest—physically inclines to the left part of my chest cavity because I’m a fool. If I were ever to become wise, it will physically shift toward the right side. My cardiologist would be amazed.

However, if I take these words as true, authoritative, and reliable, rather than literally, they mean my internal self—who I really am—is inclined in a direction exactly opposite of one who is wise. Scripture’s lesson for me? Being wise or a fool has dramatic and polar opposite consequences and affects us internally and externally, right down to our deepest depths.

Let’s do it again for confirmation. I randomly flip over a few books and find myself in Psalm 62. I read here, in verse two, that God is my rock, my salvation, and my fortress. This is good news indeed.

Taken literally, it raises the question as to what kind of rock God is: igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic? God says he’s my fortress. Is he stone, wooden, or steel? How tall are his walls? What’s his configuration? Am I being disrespectful with such questions?  It seems like it, and that’s the point. If anyone actually took the Bible literally, these would be perfectly reasonable questions for any serious student.

What People Really Mean by the Question

Of course, when we answer “Do you take the Bible literally?” we are simply taking it as short-hand for “Do you take the Bible as truth?” But the faithful student should have long ago dispelled such misinformed assumptions, correcting the questioner with, “You don’t really understand much about Christianity or the Bible, do you?” The serious student of Dante or Shakespeare wouldn’t tolerate such ignorance of their beloved texts. We shouldn’t either.

And that is the right answer, as it always has been. And one thing you’ll usually find is that the question wasn’t asked in good faith, anyway. That is sad, but it is.

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8 Responses to Literally: The Bible

  1. Indeed the Bible or Holy Scripture has itself different Genre’s, and Literal is often one of them, but many times the literal is itself sandwiched within other Genre’s also. And this is itself part of Hermeneutics. And btw, NO ONE knows the age of the earth or creation! I am myself an Old Earth Creationist, however, I could be wrong, and it could be a Young Earth? Humility in biblical exegesis is a must!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      That’s the thing, isn’t it? I was involved in a discussion last week that highlighted how different Genesis 1 is from Genesis 2, they read completely differently. Just like I have no real problem with evolution, although humans are a categorical difference, but just can’t get to something coming from nothing, somebody started the whole thing going.

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      • To my mind the difference between Genesis 1 & 2 is theological rather than historical! And Darwinian evolution is a no go for me, see Hebrews 11: 3. And humanity surely is a categorical difference in Creation!

        I am an Ex nihilo (Latin) – “out of nothing” guy, i.e. creatio ex nihilo: “creation (by God) out of nothing”. And I still respect the Young Earth position, we really just don’t know? The whole is of course a question of faith! And always faith means “we” just don’t know?

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          And that’s the real point for us all. We all have theories that make sense to us – but we don’t know, and won’t in this life.

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        • Amen! I have learned the hard way to take my wee, and sometimes weak faith over my mere intellect! And God has given me my will and mind, but it is always leaky! 😉 So often I must simply trust what I cannot understand or prove! And here I say, to God be the Glory! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Indeed so! 🙂

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  2. the unit says:

    Some folks I know don’t even take one’s ignorance of literary greats lightly. 🙂
    https://www.google.com/search?q=stupid+is+as+stupid+does+gif&oq=stupid+is&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0l5.13867j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Indeed 🙂

      Like

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