Taking It Literally

So I had occasion to talk with a feller — well-educated Christian and all — who was a bit unsure about various Old Testament miracles — Joshua’s long day and so on. It got me to thinking.

As I observed in another post earlier this year, allegorizing your way over the first eleven chapters of Genesis at 30,000 feet is downright common. Once you get past the flood, most people who would think of themselves as theological conservatives settle down and swallow the supernatural texts. There are some Red Sea doubters and like that, but it’s pretty uncommon among self-professed conservatives.

By the time we get to Jesus feeding the 5,000 or doing miraculous healings, pretty much everybody has landed the plane and is prepared to take the supernatural doings quite literally. And of course, you have to land the plane sometime before the resurrection and ascension in order to remain a Christian in any meaningful sense.

But if you have the sort of sensibilities that are offended by miracles, the resurrection is just as much an offense as any other supernatural text. Once you’ve conceded the need to land the plane, is there any reason not to land it earlier? Why is the resurrection of Jesus plausible, but turning water into wine is not? Why are Jesus’ miracles plausible, but Joshua’s miracles suspect? Why believe the Red Sea crossing, but doubt the Flood? Why believe John 1’s account of creation, but doubt Genesis 1’s account of it?

If you’re going to swallow the resurrection, what’s so hard about reading the whole Story as sober history from end to end?

This is far from the only area in which we balk at the Bible because it offends our sensibilities in some way. I have begun to feel generally that taking it literally — far from being a bonehead hermeneutical move — is in fact badly underrated.

I hope to explore this idea more in upcoming posts.

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3 Responses to Taking It Literally

  1. Trolly Ho! says:

    If I were your friend, I’d be afraid that a personal conversation might turn into an angry blog-post that bashes my opinions. #howtolosefriends

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    Wow. I’m sorry you don’t know how to read a different opinion, clearly stated, without hearing anger. That must be quite a struggle for you.

    In reality, you’d have nothing to worry about. We have these conversations in person, over a cup of coffee or a pint of beer, and we remain friends at the end.

  3. Trolly Ho! says:

    Never fear! Troll king also delights in drinking a cup of Joe with all sorts of people with different backgrounds and opinions!

    The problem is your opinion stated at the expense of a “feller–well-educated Christian and all . . .”

    I’m sorry you don’t know how to read a simple statement and “take it literally,” nor are you able to admit, or see past, your own anger. That must be a real struggle for you!

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