7/23/15 Willie, Tim about 50, 30
There is a big difference between taking the Bible literally and taking the Bible seriously. In fact, I would argue that they are mutually exclusive. If we take the Bible seriously, we would read and study it for ourselves so that we are able to recognize the passages we should or should not take it literally. There are parts, such as the parables of Jesus or the symbolism of Revelations – that should not be taken literally but should definitely be taken seriously. There are those who just lazily take everything literally to the point of foolishness, and they give believers a bad reputation. But there are also those who take nothing literally to the same level of foolishness.
Let me illustrate. Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation at a McDonald’s with a man named Willie. He is a faithful church attender, probably because he is the church organist. Willie doesn’t read the Bible for himself but relies on what he hears at church and what he sees on the internet to form his opinions. He doesn’t take the Bible seriously, and as we talked I began to see he doesn’t take much of it literally either. He believes there is a scientific explanation for every miracle described in the Bible, such as the parting of the Red Sea. Though they are described as miracles, he relies on scientists to explain how they might have occurred naturally or by coincidence. This approach extends to his view of theological teaching. Despite the many passages on judgment and hell, for example, he doesn’t believe they exist. Though he believes in Jesus, he sees no need for the cross. His refusal to take the Bible seriously is causing him to miss out on the great truths that lead to salvation.
Today I reached out to another man, Tim, at an outdoor café. Tim believes in reincarnation, hoping he will come back in the next life as a cat. Yet he thinks his belief in reincarnation is compatible with the Bible. A lack of literal belief is causing him to be blind to blatant contradictions no matter how obvious they might be. If he would take the Bible seriously, he would read it for himself and see the foolishness of believing in contradictory beliefs. Let’s take the Bible seriously enough to read it for ourselves, and let’s also take it seriously enough to literally follow what it teaches!