New picture of world religions: 12-18-12
Defining who we are: 12-20-12

Biblical literalism 2.0: 12-19-12

As my regular readers know, I am not a biblical literalist. I believe one can take the Bible literally or one can take it seriously, but not both.

Bible-stackI still hold to that after reading this intriguing piece about a way to understand the literalists. The anthropology professor who wrote it suggests that "a commitment to the literal truth of the Bible can be an intensely creative process."

He has been studying people who describe themselves as evangelical Christians and he finds some who, even while being literalists, think imaginatively about God in ways that other evangelicals avoid for fear of misunderstanding God.

As he says, for many of the former group of evangelicals "'literally' often means 'keep what’s there and add details to make it vivid.'”

In some ways this is additional evidence that there really are very few strict literalists, though for sure there are some who hold that God created the world in six literal days and that the entire world was flooded at the time of Noah, who literally put two of each species on his ark and so on.

But it turns out that lots of other self-proclaimed literalists -- either intentionally or without really acknowledging what they're doing -- make room for metaphor, poetry and a variety of personal interpretations of the text.

Somehow I find that reassuring.

* * *


I continue to be appalled at the many easy answers offered to explain why the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre happened. It happened, says the myopic James Dobson, because "we have turned our back on God." Others offer equally inane answers reeking with false certitude, including Fred Phelps and his malignant Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. The truth is we don't yet know why this happened, and may never. But if we ever do piece together an answer it will have nothing to do with turning our back on God or God wanting 20 beautiful children dead.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)