I Don’t Take The Bible Literally, And Neither Does Anyone Else

By Glenn T. Stanton

A recent report from Pew tells us that only 39 percent of Christians take the Bible literally. This is very bad news for believers’ fidelity to Scripture, but not for the reason you might think. It’s also a poor reflection on the good folks at Pew.

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…

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I Don’t Take The Bible Literally, And Neither Does Anyone Else