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Biblical literalism

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For it is so written in

The Bible

I speak to them in parables
Some guy who didn't know the Bible was meant to be taken literally

Biblical literalism is the theological view that the contents of the Bible should be seen as literally true, as opposed to being interpreted as allegory, literature, or mythology. Literalism is the basis of several different pseudoscientific positions, such as young Earth creationism, deluge theory and the geocentrism.

A belief in biblical literalism requires one to ignore huge amounts of modern science and its supporting evidence, and to replace provable, rational explanations with various versions of Goddidit. Insistence on simple literal meaning also obscures the larger points that the scriptures convey, such as moral lessons or evidence of God's mercy.

There has been at least one case in the United States when a child died because her parents and their online faith community believed prayer rather than medicine is what the Bible literally teaches. Biblical Literalism Kills — Literally, see faith healing. This community rejects modern medicine but accepts computers and the Internet.


[edit] Literalism, inerrancy and infallibility

It is important to distinguish between the related, but separate concepts of biblical literalism, biblical inerrancy, and biblical infallibility. Some are used interchangeably depending on who you ask. But going by strict definitions for reasons of precision, however, they are different — many doctrinal bases or confessions for churches and organised sects require adherents to view the Bible as "inerrant" but do not support literalistic interpretations like creationism.

  • Self-interpretation. The most extreme form, this argues that there is a singular true meaning which will be made evident to any "real" believer by simply reading the text. This typically forms an excessively text-literal reading which treats the text as though it were scientific data; all apparent contradictions will be held to be factual and "harmonised" with this in mind. This attitude may regard a specific translation as the only correct one (for example, Jack Chick regards only the King James Bible as truthful). It is often criticised by less insane literalists as worshipping the Bible instead of God.
  • Biblical literalism. A literalist approach means that one reads the Bible in a plain and straightforward manner, attempting to discern the author, or authors' original intent. Biblical literalists believe that the original authors of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit and drafted scripture in various literary genres and styles of the period. Thus, biblical literalists accept that, for example, poetry and allegory in the Bible are literally true but may not necessarily be written as a historical document. They examine the circumstances of scripture to determine how it should be understood.
  • Biblical inerrancy. This is the basis that the Bible simply doesn't contain any errors. There is a subtle but important difference between this and historical accuracy, as stories can be interpreted as allegorical, but their meanings remain true.
  • Biblical infallibility is the least radical position. It holds that the Bible is an infallible source regarding questions of faith and redemption, but not on questions of science and history. These people may be willing to accept scientific facts like evolution as true.

The actual interpretation of these questions further depends on the various denominations and theological schools of thought.

[edit] Biblical literalists

People who adhere to literalism do not question their religion, tending towards a simplistic acceptance of what they are told. Though frequently literalists claim to have read the Bible, upon questioning it is clear they have rarely thought through the various positions proffered in it, including myriad inconsistencies or evidence that their God is capricious and violent.[citation needed] To hold such a position either requires an extremely low IQ or an overly developed reliance on cognitive dissonance.

One reason for biblical literalism is the need for consistency to protect ideas that are central to a religious ideology. For example, if one were to take the story of Genesis, as being allegorical, then what is to stop that person from taking the words of Jesus and the Ten Commandments as being allegorical, and not the direct word of God? People thinking this way also tend to be the ones who try to find one single flaw in scientific theories such as evolution and declare that the single fault invalidates the entire system (which is a pure Achilles Heel fallacy).

[edit] Other Christian views

Some Christians would argue that it is a necessary fact of life that doubting one's own religion and all the things one learned from one's family is the most important step one can take to living the life of a model Christian. Many educated Christians who do not believe in biblical literalism would maintain that interpreting the Bible literally, and therefore giving the genocidal tendencies of the Old Testament precedence over the love and compassion of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, is fundamentally wrong. Some would go even further to say that the center of one's faith should be Jesus Christ, as illuminated by the Bible. Making the Bible the center of one's faith, rather than Jesus and his commands to love and care for humanity, is therefore a form of idolatry, and deeply sinful.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

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