A literalist would NOT hold that:
- Every word has only one meaning.
- Every passage can only be taken as presenting hard facts.
- Every sentence must be taken as redemptive truth.
- There are no passages with allegorical or figurative meanings.
A literalist WOULD hold that:
- Every word of God is pure.
- We are not to "add" to or "delete" anything from the text.
- We are to revere and respect the text.
- We are to study and obey the text.
- We are to embrace the text's historicity, authenticity, accuracy, and authority.
Such a position would mean that a literalist would accept the words of Genesis as historically accurate. That would mean that God created a "good" universe, and that the creation of the universe is recent. That would also mean that "progressive" and/or "evolutionary" creation is not taught by the words of Scripture.
How would a creationist worldview affect one's view of the text?
John S says:
Another aspect of this, in my view, is the continuity/discontinutiy between OT and NT (or Old Covenant and New Covenant). Many if not most of the OT laws are to keep God's people in an earthly kingdom distinct/holy from the surrounding idolatrous nations. Hence the decrees to kill the other nations completely, women and children. If allowed to integrate with God's people they would soon choose their idols, as their history bears out. So God was protecting His people. And those killed did not get injustice, they got justice for spurning the true God and his laws for idols. Certainly Israel was not perfect before God either but they got mercy.
Anyway, the laws and punishments were enforced by a Holy God thru an earthly kingdom, a theocracy of sorts I think is the correct term. However Christians today do not take them 'literally', or say they should be applied because now we, God's people, are no longer distinct as an earthly kingdom (like the nation of Israel) rather God's people are a Spiritual kingdom. So we are to render to Ceasar, to respect the authorities in whatever country we live, but our real 'citizenship is in heaven'. At least that's one reason why I am not a proponent of the OT enforcements today. I'm not interested in an earthly kingdom, though I desire laws to promote righteousness and punish guilty people, I'm interested in the life of God in the hearts of men - the true Israel.
I think one's view of the text affects one's worldview. I am a creationist BECAUSE I believe the text to be literal. I do not believe in a literal text because I am a creationist. One has to start with believing the Bible to be 100% true, whether we understand it or not, otherwise we will be like the man in James 1:8, A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
The more and the longer I read the Bible I find that it is very clear in whether things are to be taken literally or when something is prophesy, or poetry etc. There are things in there that we will never find out. Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. A lot of things we can only know if we have the Spirit of God, because God shows them to us by His Spirit and they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor.2), but the text of Genesis 1-11 can be understood and be taken literally by all men. If we don't, we diminish the power of God. If we cannot believe God created the universe in six literal days, how can we believe that one rose from the dead? What else in the Bible cannot be taken literally, then?
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
"Literal interpretation" has such a negative connotation and is so wrongly understood, it is almost a pejorative term nowadays. Natural interpretation or historical-grammatical interpretation are better terms. We consider the context, the intent of the author, the expectation of the original audience, and the philology of the words. History should be interpreted as history, poetry as poetry as poetry, and prophecy as prophecy. Many of the issues raised can be explained with a proper understanding of dispensationalism (or covenant theology, if that is your taste).
Chris, interesting comment about dispensations and covenant theology. I do enjoy both systems and enjoy RC Sproul who is covenant as well as Charles Ryrie. For me I side with Ryrie concerning Israel and the Church. That being said, Augustine of Hippo had much to do with allegorical and symbolic interpretations related to the Old Testament. We still have difficulties in this area today. When I taught an adult Sunday school class on Genesis, there were people who insisted on taking a symbolic approach to numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 so that literal years are not to be understood, e.g. Genesis 5:5, Adam is not really 930 years old when he died. I suspect we have many problems in Genesis 1-11 chapters in the churches than appears on Sunday mornings because many churches simply do not teach or cover many parts of the Bible today, especially Genesis and Revelation.
Answering YOM question at the end of this post, I feel a creationist worldview will not read Genesis chapters 1-11 as symbolic or poetry. We have a real problem in many churches today concerning the authority of Scripture. One of the battle cries of the Reformation under Martin Luther was 'sola Scriptura'. Just how can we stand on the authority of the Bible if much of the record is symbolic and poetry, not to be understood in the plain, historical, grammatical sense? Here are some examples of how Jesus Christ viewed the Scripture and its historical teachings. Does it seem like Jesus took a symbolic approach to these historical passages?
Historical examples Jesus used in teaching from the Old Testament include Adam and Eve – Matthew 19:4-6; Abel – Luke 11:51; Noah and the Flood – Matthew 24:37-39; Abraham – John 8:56-58; Sodom and Gomorrah – Matthew 10:15; Lot and his wife – Luke 17:28-32; Isaac and Jacob – Mathew 8:11, Luke 13:28; Manna – John 6:31-33; Moses lifting up the serpent – John 3:14; Jonah – Matthew 12:39-41; the queen of Sheba during Solomon reign – Matthew 12:42; the prophet Daniel – Matthew 24:15. Bible critics and many scholars claim these biblical accounts are myth or legend and not inspired by God (contradicting Jesus plain teaching), thus we have an errant history in the Old Testament containing numerous legends and myths.
Jesus came to do the will of the Father – John 5:30 and John 6:38. As an ABR article makes clear concerning some spiritual leaders’ views of biblical inspiration and inerrancy today in the churches “Jesus obeyed the Word of God, not man. He was subject to it. If some leaders’ views of inspiration were true, Jesus was subject to an errant, rather casually thrown-together ‘Word of Man.’ Jesus would have been subject, then, to the will of man, not the will of God.” Christians who profess to believe the Bible should ponder such a statement and how they approach the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture. Does it uphold the scripture the same as Jesus did during the 1st Advent? ABR reference - Jesus Christ on the Inerrancy of Scripture, Bible and Spade 23(1):14-17, 2010
Robert Byers says:
She's good looking but, this time, it doesn't make her right.
First there was not evil punishments for things in the bible.
It's from God and he's right. In fact these punishments are the reason we all were threatened with hell and needed a redeemer.
The bible is beyond clear in its intent to plant in the readers mind this or that is a fact.
Those who would say it doesn't mean what it said or meant the reader to think so must go a long way.
Anti-literialists must earn their spurs before their opinions are seriously entertained.
The bible is full of facts and means to be a fact teller.
Genesis is fine and criticisms of it are not done well.