Fact Checker: Do Faithful Christians Take the Bible Literally?

by Glenn T. Stanton

literallyOne of the things I enjoy most in my work at Focus on the Family is the opportunity to speak at secular university campuses and to organizations that are indifferent or opposed to orthodox Christianity. Most of my colleagues are sane enough to avoid such invitations, but I relish them because they allow me to mix with folks who see the world very differently and it’s intellectually and rhetorically stimulating to interact with them in a meaningful way. I also get the opportunity to correct lots of misunderstandings about what Christians actually believe.

One of these common misunderstandings is not even presented as a question, but an assumption. It typically goes something like this: “So Mr. Stanton, taking a literal view of the Bible as you do, please explain to me . . .”

I usually answer my questioner, to their great surprise:  “Well no, I don’t take the Bible literally.” I then pause for effect, both for the sake of the non-faithful as well as for the Christians in the audience.

Reading the faces of the cynics in the audience like a book, I see that unmistakable gaze of, “Oh, what a pleasant surprise. He’s not one of those.”

Then I clear up the obvious confusion. “I don’t take the Bible literally, but I do believe everything in the Bible as true.”

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Some get this important distinction immediately, while others have one confusion simply replaced by another. But this is a very important point, especially for those who are committed to defending and advocating for the truth and integrity of God’s Word.

First, we must understand that the phrase “take the Bible literally” is primarily a litmus test—and a silly one at that—for “do you really believe the Bible?” This is why so many Christians hold to this myth—they want to be counted among the Bible-believers. But this is not faithful to God’s Word.

I know of no serious, Bible-believing Christian who actually takes the Bible literally. I doubt you do either. And if there were any at our Bible-studies or Sunday schools, all would look at them as either an uninformed simpleton or mentally unstable…


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