Biblical literalism

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For it is so written in

The Bible

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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 Flat Earth Theory. [1] 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.

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[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.

  • Biblical literalism. A literalist position insists that every word must be taken as literally true and treats everything as either a historical document or literal prophecy. This, of course, has problems because of translation issues, but in practice it usually focuses on convenient and (relatively) modern translations such as with the King James Only movement.
  • Biblical inerrancy. This is the basis that the Bible simply doesn't contain any errors. There is subtle but important difference between this and it being historically accurate as stories can still be interpreted as allegorical, but that their meaning is still 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. 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 belief that if one were to take, perhaps the story of Genesis, as being allegorical, then one might take the words of Jesus and the Ten Commandments as being allegorical, and not the direct word of God; although Jesus himself, apparently, was quite happy to use allegory with his parables. This 'all or nothing' view tends to be seen in other facets of life, such as saying that you should not ever tell your children that Santa or the Easter Bunny exist, for when they learn that they were deceived then, then they might doubt the existence of Jesus and, as such, become atheistic Evilutionists and go on a shooting spree. People holding this view 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 therefor a form of idolatry, and deeply sinful.

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[edit] Footnotes

  1. There was 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.
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