Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

unreasonable literalism

1/1/19

 

 

The prevalent insistence on a literal interpretation or understanding of the Bible is hard to reconcile with the biblical use of symbolism, parables, poetry, emotionally charged laments, and prophetic or apocalyptic language. Within these various literary styles, the interpretation becomes a subjective effort because the words attempt meaning beyond their literal definition, a meaning which develops from a largely personal perspective. All attempts to convey profound abstract concepts and their associated emotional/spiritual content invariably find normal prose and its literalism to be completely inadequate.

 

The very idea that the Bible contains divine wisdom should suggest that its message can only be expressed in a very limited way with human language. If God is a being vastly beyond human experience, as many believe, then insisting on a literal understanding of the one book which describes God cannot be very effective. The fact that the Bible employs so much language which is difficult or impossible to understand literally simply demonstrates that the subject matter cannot be presented in any straightforward, matter of fact sense. Otherwise, why not just do so.

 

My conclusion in the matter is that the literal understanding misses the biblical point much more often than not. The insistence on literalism is just Orthodoxy’s attempt to support their dogmatic position that everyone must understand the scriptures the same. This has never happened and definitely can’t happen given the obscurity and paradoxical nature of scripture.

 

If the Bible is God’s word in any sense, there is no reason at all to believe that a simplistic understanding of mere words will reveal its message. Divine wisdom is beyond words, and the tenor of the Bible reflects that fact throughout.