First, none of us REALLY interpret the Bible literally. We all pick and choose when and where to do so. And perhaps we even pick and choose with good reason sometimes! Maybe we have evidence suggesting we should not assume allegory, metaphor, hyperbole, etc. in some places, and that’s fine. Other times we might interpret some passages literally and other passages as not literal because we were taught to, regardless of the unintentional inconsistencies. But either way, even on our absolute best attempts to interpret Scripture, none of us ACTUALLY interpret it literally word for word.
“If you are sick, go to the elders and let them anoint you with oil.”… but we don’t do this and we do go to the doctor.
“Let the dead bury the dead.”… but we don’t assume zombies conduct funeral services.
“If your eye offends you, cut it out.”… Admittedly, I did hear of this one before. But he was the exception.
“Women should be silent in the gathering.” … but they sing, speak in Bible class, and tell their kids to sit still even in our most “conservative’ churches.
I could go on literally all day, maybe longer, but my point is, none of us ACTUALLY interpret Scripture literally word for word. Nor do we believe that God forced every word to be written as if it was directly from his mouth. If that were the case, God must of had dementia in 1 Cor. 1 because Paul couldn’t remember who all he baptized! Did God inspire it? If you are a Christian like I am the answer is “Of course!” Is Scripture our best tool for doctrine and understanding regarding God’s story and intentions? No doubt! But none of us ACTUALLY interpret literally word for word.
Now, I’ve ranted on all of this and it’s not even my main main point. I do that a lot. Lol …Here’s my main point:
It’s interesting to me how many atheists and agnostics unwittingly play the same song in a different key when it comes to morality and/or Scriptural debates. It’s not intentional. It’s not an intellectual problem. It’s a teaching problem and a “unlearning in order to relearn” problem. Many in the socially “woke” culture are practicing a new form of legalism. It’s just the same ultra-conservatism in different clothes. So judgemental! And many in the “new atheist” culture are interpreting Scripture like a legalistic pharisee. No nuance, no context, no human elements of inspiration.
But how can we blame them? They are acting in a way and interpreting in a way that most evangelicals were taught. The paradigm doesn’t work for Christian consistency and it sure doesn’t work for the agnostic and atheist.
But what better opportunity is there for us who are Christians to reexamine ourselves, how we understand Scripture, how we “do” church, and how we love one another? Let’s not only show Christians that there is a better way, a Jesus way, but let’s show our friends and family around us that there is so much more to Jesus than the modernist worldview ever gave Him credit for. – Jesse
See also: De/Reconstruction and Healing