Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Literalism

I ran across it again.

The condemnation of those who take the Bible literally.

It's getting quite old, you know.

For whatever reason, it seems like those who have a more "liberal" view of the interpretation of scripture love to bash those who have a more "conservative" view of the interpretation of scripture by referring to them as biblical literalists.

It's a bit hypocritical.

The fact of the matter is, no Christian takes the teachings of the Bible literally in a complete fashion.  If that were the case, no Christian would own property (Luke 14:33).  Many Christians would be walking around without feet, eyes, and hands (Mark 9:43-47).  Women would be coming to church with heads covered (1 Corinthians 11:5).  And a whole host of other such things which the majority of Christians simply do not do.

Yet, no Christian interprets the Bible on a completely figurative basis either.  Have you ever heard of a Christian who says, "I don't try to love my neighbor as I love myself because you aren't supposed to take the Bible literally."?  Jesus meant what He said here.  Further, when Jesus instructed His disciples that they should care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, and sick because they were taking care of Him, He meant that too.  Those who deride "conservatives" for their literal biblical interpretation latch onto this teaching of Jesus as if there is no wiggle room at all.  And, of course, I would be remiss in pointing out that it is quite absurd to condemn literalists with the literal interpretation of "judge not lest you be judged."  (Matthew 7:1)

It is quite obvious that there are many instances in scripture where a literal interpretation is not only justified but warranted.  And it it quite obvious there are many instances in scripture where a literal interpretation is quite asinine.  There are times when the Bible uses metaphor to make a point, and it forces us to engage our imaginations and our minds.  There are times when the Bible is straight forward and little to no interpretation is needed.

I personally get frustrated when people pull the "literalism" card whenever they are confronted with a text which makes them uncomfortable.  The Bible should make us uncomfortable at times.  If we were not made uncomfortable, we would think we are following Christ perfectly.  There would be no need for grace.  There would be no need for the cross.  The Bible reveals to us our sin, and instead of explaining it away with cries of literalism, perhaps we should take time to allow it to drive us to the Gospel.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

No 2 people will ever agree on the interpretation -- literal or figurative -- of every piece of Scripture. That is not the issue. The issue is that Martin Luther interpreted Matthew 16:18 to mean that the Pope is not head of the church. The Pope and the Magisterium do not have the authority to interpret scripture for the church. Now, of course, Mark Hanson and some liberal clergy members have the authority to interpret scripture for the church. Hasta la vista, iglesia luterana! Judge not lest ye be judged.