You Can’t Have Your Scroll and Eat It, Too.

More than a couple of Christian fundamentalists have called me a  convenient relativist, usually after I’ve suggested  that it might make sense to read  parts of the Bible metaphorically and not literally.  Their arguments  go something like this: “Well, where do you draw the line, then? How do you know which parts of scripture to read metaphorically and which parts to take as fact? You might as well throw the whole Bible out as being nothing more than a collection of fairy tales.”

I was talking to Bev about this and she made a pretty good point;  if the  Biblical literalists are really so hung up on taking the Bible at face value and eschewing metaphor then they must know precisely where Hell is – in a garbage pit outside of Jerusalem.

Hey, you can’t have your scroll and eat it too.

  1. #1 by Jim Thornber on August 31, 2009 - 6:34 pm

    I believe in the fundamentals of Biblical interpretation, but I wouldn’t call myself a fundamentalist. There are certain areas of Scripture that are metaphorical, allegorical, poetical, etc. To ignore these truths is to show the true extent of one’s ignorance.

    When these arguments inevitably arise, I’m reminded of Proverbs 26:4-5. REMEMBER: these verses follow one right after another. “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” So, when talking to a fool, do you or do you not answer him? What is the “literal” answer? When you know that, write me. It’s bothered me for years!!



    • #2 by Christian Beyer on August 31, 2009 - 8:22 pm

      Hey, Jim. Welcome.

      The problem I face is that, going into the discussion, I now realize that the fool is inevitably me. Not that the other guy isn’t also a fool. It’s just that many of these arguments are just so doggone foolish. Takes us away from what is really important. Maybe that’s the point of those proverbs.


  2. #3 by zoelavie on August 31, 2009 - 7:59 pm

    Let’s not forget the command to pluck your eye out. I also wonder what Fundamentals would say about real presence in Communion: “This is my body…”

    • #4 by Christian Beyer on August 31, 2009 - 8:26 pm

      Right. And there are so many others. But the example of communion is a good one. I’ve heard many ridicule Roman Catholics for believing in Transubstantiation. But if you are a literalist….? Besides, perhaps Protestants are denying the magnificence and omnipotence of God by saying that the Catholics are wrong. I mean, if God can do anything, he certainly can, in some way, be physically present in the elements of the Eucharist, right?

      Thanks, zoelavie. Appreciate your input.

  3. #5 by Janice on August 31, 2009 - 8:48 pm

    You are so refreshing! 🙂

  4. #6 by Ben Currin (TheoPoet) on August 31, 2009 - 9:50 pm

    Yes I have arisen from my metaphorical grave…ha! Interesting post Christian—reminds me of Origen taking a certain verse literally…ahem…

  5. #7 by logioetc. on September 1, 2009 - 6:49 pm

    Just look at the kind of literature–history is history, metaphor is metaphor, and Chris is Chris.

    The contents determine the interpretation.

    BTW Chris, I am writing direct from my genuine Ivory Tower Office (which I share with 483 other adjuncts).

    • #8 by Christian Beyer on September 1, 2009 - 6:57 pm

      I thought I detected a whiff of smug superiority. More than usual, I mean. 😉

      Anyway I don’t get it? Chris is Chris? What does that mean? How do you unpack that? Is this some kind of anti-deconstructive rhetorical screen? (See, I do pay attention to you)

  6. #9 by ambrosia on September 2, 2009 - 7:17 pm

    In other words, read the Bible as you would read any other similar genres.

    For example, when reading Chronicles or Kings, read it as you would read any historical text. It doesn’t mean to read it unvetted, but read the obvious for the obvious.

    No screen here.

    And to Jim, what is a “fundemental of biblical interpretation”?

    I sat in evangelical/fundy churches for more than 25 years, and I never discovered such a thing. Do you mean a Dallas Seminary interpretation? Or a Chuck Smith interpretation? Or a Warren Wiersbe Interpretation?

    What say ye, Man?

    • #10 by Christian Beyer on September 2, 2009 - 8:34 pm

      It feels strange saying this, but I agree with you, Old Man.

      I thought Chuck Smith was the Warner Brothers animator. You know, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck etc.

  7. #11 by ambrosia on September 2, 2009 - 9:00 pm


    You’ve gotta go to, the world’s most high-tech web site, and check out come Chuck Smith followers.

  8. #12 by ambrosia on September 2, 2009 - 9:01 pm

    That’s Chuck JONES, Mr. Boyer.

  9. #13 by Christian Beyer on September 2, 2009 - 11:11 pm

    Call me Charles, si vous plait. Never Chuck.

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