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.