Do You LITERALLY Take the Bible Literally?
by Alisa Childers
In the purest sense of the word, literally no one takes the Bible literally. No one.
Don’t get me wrong—most Evangelicals would probably say they do, in fact, read the Bible literally. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 41% of Protestants make that claim, but I suspect it all comes down to what they mean by the word “literal.” If someone asked me if I read the Bible literally, I would answer, “Yes. But to read it literally doesn’t mean I take everything in it literally.”
This is why I’m always a little stunned when skeptics and progressive Christians demean Evangelicals by characterizing them as “literalists.” I always wonder—”What do they think that means?” Is it just another way of saying “fundamentalist”?
For example, if you google “Take the Bible literally,” the first article that pops up is a piece written for the Huffington Post by “Spiritual Teacher” Steve McSwain. In it, he asserts that Fundamentalist Christians do not, in fact, take the Bible literally as they typically claim. He cites the fact that Christians no longer stone disobedient children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) or kill people for the worship of false gods (Leviticus 20), even though the Old Testament law prescribes those punishments for those crimes. In a particularly odd and breathtaking display of ignorance regarding basic hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) and, well, grammar, McSwain claims that if we take the Bible literally, we should pray to Satan to kill Christians who are living in sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). His main point is that because Christians don’t take these particular passages “literally,” we are simply picking and choosing which ones we obey, which makes the whole concept of biblical authority a “charade.”
Here are four things to consider when reading the Bible…