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Biblical Literalism?


mike rhodes
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Hey everyone! I consider myself a progressive christian. I understand the Bible as a collection of books that chronicle a people group's experiences with, and understanding of, God. I do not take the Bible literally, but I do think it contains truth.

 

Recently an atheist pointed out to me that this view is incompatible with what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1: 20-21. "Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet's own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God."

 

So I have to kind of think....yeah, this basically lays out a take it or leave it approach that doesn't really allow me to think it is a book driven by human understanding at all.

 

What do you all think of this? How do you all interpret this? I am interested in all opinions on this. Thanks!!!

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I would agree with your first sentence Mike.

 

A lot of fundamentals use that writing you reference. One has only to look at the history of the formation of what we now call the Bible and its many versions and translations . It seems doubtful to me that we can trust a church organization to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It seems to me, Jesus certainly didn't trust the church system of his time. :)

Joseph

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I would have to agree with your position. In my experience most fundamentalists Christians appear to indicate that one either believes the lot or nothing, this clearly requires NO intellectual engagement by the participant. See my other post: http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/3567-the-inspired-word/

Edited by apexcone
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How do you guys interpret what Peter was saying? That every word is from God, or that God inspired the people to write it - but since people wrote it - it is still somewhat human? Is this passage saying, "you have to take this entire book literally" or is it saying, "there is truth in this book that comes from God's inspiration, we didn't just make it up". I tend to think this latter version is what was meant - not that every word is literal.

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I guess to start with I'd be struggling with "every" Surely the issue is, just because God inspired someone to write it, doesn't mean its written by God, it isn't, it's written by man and therefore subject to mans cultural dynamics, interpretation and world view.

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2 Peter 1: 20-21. "Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet's own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God."

 

If the Bible was written with by the Holy Spirit then the people who are interpreting it literally with their intellect are wrong. I would say it is written in code, which is only interpreted by the format it was written in which would be spirit.

 

 

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 11"For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." 12"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." 13"These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual." 14"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

 

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Also one might consider that when 2 Peter was written, he must have been speaking of the Old Testament only since the NT as it exists didn't come into being for some time after. Secondly it was a letter to some followers of Jesus near and around Asia, Galatia, etc.. and we have no claim by him that he was writing anything more than a letter exhorting those of faith never mind sacred scripture as it is claimed to be today.

 

Joseph

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I think your point Joe is crucial. When a letter is written it is usually written to a person or group of people at a certain time and in a certain culture, therefore to assume that this letter has significance to people 100s of years later without making cultural adjustments is very unwise.

 

Its also crucial to remember that 2 Peter was almost certainly NOT written by Peter. Even more reason why the Bible should be taken literally.

Edited by apexcone
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Also one might consider that when 2 Peter was written, he must have been speaking of the Old Testament only since the NT as it exists didn't come into being for some time after. Secondly it was a letter to some followers of Jesus near and around Asia, Galatia, etc.. and we have no claim by him that he was writing anything more than a letter exhorting those of faith never mind sacred scripture as it is claimed to be today.

 

Joseph

 

This is the key. We have writers, prophets, historians for important leaders addressing their contemporaries. Like, regarding homosexuality. I'm willing to accept that within those contexts, it was sinful. Context being trying to grow a people, pedophilia, prostitution, and adultery. However, we have a loving context for same sex relationships today. I don't believe those laws apply to our modern day.

 

And as far as the "certainty" of who wrote what, I do not accept that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt. I've read the arguments, and I'm not convinced 100%, that Peter, John, Matthew, James weren't eye witness...disciples of Jesus or at LEAST were written by scribes for the original eye witnesses. I am, however, convinceds that Paul did not write Collosians, Ephesians, 2nd Epistle of Thesalonians, and Hebrews...thought, still, can't be 100% certain.

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I don't see you view as incompatible - you don't take the bible literally and so perhaps don't take the verse in Peter literally either. There are truths in all manner of books we read, fiction and non-fiction alike, that doesn't mean we believe every other single word in them. I see the bible as no different - a collection of books from a variety of authors, spanning hundreds and hundreds of years, which accounts for their contradictory views about God and spirituality (not to mention laws and tribal customs). Some things may be true, others subject to opinion. Take what works for you and throw away the other baggage I reckon.

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I would totally agree, however don't you think that the majority of evangelicals would have a problem with the pick and mix concept you are talking about, I don't as I also see that truth (what ever that is) on the pages of all books.

Edited by apexcone
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What does an evengelical do with this if not pick and choose?

 

Leviticus

 

18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Edited by fatherman
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As I have said on another thread, a lot of fundamentals try to deal with these 'icky' passages by suggesting "the times were different then", or "they needed these laws because of their state at that time", or "girls didn't mind being raped in those days" (I joke about the last but I have heard Christians more politely try to suggest that forcibly taking a woman as a wife after having killed her husband somehow has a noble connotation!).

 

One has no option but to pull apart the bible and recognise that it is in no way consistent when it comes to God's attributes (as they are written throughout the bible). The only other choice is to convince ones-self that we just don't understand why it looks so bad and we need to have 'faith' that it somehow does actually fit together. Good luck with that I say.

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