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 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally 
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Post 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
OK believers - have at it...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-los ... 19345.html

Quote:
4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
by David Lose
Author, 'Making Sense of Scripture'

Cards on the table: 1) I read the Bible -- not as much as I should, I'm sure, but still pretty regularly. Moreover, I get paid to talk about the Bible with folks all across the country and have written a popular book to help people read the Bible with more confidence and enjoyment. So, you could say, I'm a pretty big fan of the good book. 2) I was a little shocked to discover that three in ten Americans read the Bible literally. That is, about a third of the American populace takes everything the Bible says at face value, reading as they would a history or science textbook. 3) I don't read the Bible this way, and can't imagine doing so. Here are four reasons why:

1) Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant.

That's right. At no place in its more than 30,000 verses does the Bible claim that it is factually accurate in terms of history, science, geography and all other matters (the technical definition of inerrancy). "Inerrant" itself is not a word found in the Bible or even known to Christian theologians for most of history. Rather, the word was coined in the middle of the 19th century as a defensive counter measure to the increased popularity of reading the Bible as one would other historical documents and the discovery of manifold internal inconsistencies and external inaccuracies.

The signature verse most literalists point to is 2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." But one can confess that Scripture is inspired by God without resorting to claims that it contains no factual errors. We normally use the language of inspiration in just this way, describing a painting, a performance of Chopin, or even a good lecture as inspired. What binds the various and sundry texts found in the Bible together may be precisely that they are all inspired by the authors' experience of the living God. There is no hint that the authors of the Bible imagined that what they were writing was somehow supernaturally guaranteed to be factually accurate. Rather, biblical authors wrote in order to be persuasive, hoping that by reading their witness you would come to believe as they did (see John 20:30-31).

2) Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness.

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus drives the moneychangers out of the Jerusalem Temple in the days immediately preceding his crucifixion. In the Gospel of John, he does this near the beginning of his ministry, two years before his death. Similarly, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the day Jesus is crucified is named as the Passover, while in John it is the Day of Preparation; that is, the day before Passover. Inconsistencies like this are part of what undermines claims to inerrancy of not just the gospels but also many other books in the Bible.

But if the primary intention of the biblical authors was not to record history -- in the post-Enlightenment sense we take for granted today -- but instead to confess faith, then these differences are not troubling inconsistencies to be reconciled but rather helpful clues to understanding the confession of the author. So rather than ask who got it right, we might instead wonder why John describes these events differently than the other Evangelists. As it turns out, both of these examples stem from John's theological claim that Jesus is the new Passover lamb. For this reason, once he begins his ministry there is no need for Temple sacrifice, and he is crucified on the same day -- indeed, at the exact hour -- at which the Passover lambs were sacrificed on the Day of Preparation.

You can attempt to reconcile these and other discrepancies in the biblical witness, of course, and literalists have published books almost as long as the Bible attempting to do just that. In the case of the different timeframes for the cleansing of the Temple, for instance, one might suggest that Jesus did this twice, once at the beginning of his ministry and then again, for good measure, two years later. But far from "rescuing" the gospels, such an effort distorts their distinct confession of faith by rendering an account of Jesus' life that none of the canonical accounts offers.

3) Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally.

We tend to think of anything that is labeled "conservative" as being older and more traditional. Oddly enough, however, the doctrine of inerrancy that literalists aim to conserve is only about a century and a half old. Not only did many of the Christian Church's brightest theologians not subscribe to anything like inerrancy, many adamantly opposed such a notion. For instance, St. Augustine -- rarely described as a liberal -- lived for many years at the margins of the church. An impediment to his conversation was precisely the notion that Christians took literally stories like that of Jonah spending three days in the belly of a whale. It was not until Ambrose, bishop of Milan, introduced Augustine to allegorical interpretation -- that is, that stories can point metaphorically to spiritual realities rather than historical facts -- that Augustine could contemplate taking the Bible (and those who read it!) seriously.

The point isn't that pre-modern Christians approached the Bible with the same historically conscious skepticism of the Bible's factual and scientific veracity that modern interpreters possess. Earlier Christians -- along with almost everyone else who lived prior to the advent of modernity -- simply didn't imagine that for something to be true it had to be factually accurate, a concern only advanced after the Enlightenment. Hence, four gospels that diverged at different points, far from troubling earlier Christians, was instead seen as a faithful and fitting recognition that God's truth as revealed in Jesus was too large to be contained by only one perspective. Flattening the biblical witness to conform to a reductionist understanding of truth only limits the power of Scripture. As Karl Barth, arguably the twentieth century's greatest theologian, once said, "I take the Bible too seriously to read it literally."

4) Reading the Bible literally undermines a chief confession of the Bible about God.

Read the Bible even for a little while and you'll soon realize that most of the major characters are, shall we say, less than ideal. Abraham passes his wife off as his sister -- twice! -- in order to save his skin. Moses is a murderer. David sleeps around. Peter denies Jesus three times. Whatever their accomplishments, most of the "heroes of the faith" are complicated persons with feet of clay. And that's the point: the God of the Bible regularly uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.

Why, then, treat the Bible itself differently? Rather than imagine that the Bible was also written by ordinary, fallible people, inerrantists have made the Bible an other-wordly, supernatural document that runs contrary to the biblical affirmation that God chooses ordinary vessels -- "jars of clay," the Apostle Paul calls them -- to bear an extraordinary message. In fact, literalists unwittingly ascribe to the Bible the status of being "fully human and fully divine" that is normally reserved only for Jesus.

So why, then, would so many people read the Bible literally? Perhaps that's the subject for another post. For now, I'd be interested in your experience with the Bible and sense of its nature and authority.

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August 9th, 2011, 11:25 pm
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
I'm not touching this thing with a 10-foot pole.
Have at it.

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August 9th, 2011, 11:40 pm
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
Well, for 1 thing, absolutely no-one I know of has said that you are to take everything in the Bible literally. A parable is not to be taken literally. It is a metaphore that conveys a deeper meaning. And the Bible always lets you know when it is a parable. But, for the vast majority of the Bible, it is to be taken literally. If you take the Bible figuratively, it would be nothing more than a collection of gobilty gook.


August 9th, 2011, 11:52 pm
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
I agree with it wholeheartedly, I just can't defend it. No doubt the "God Squad" has some sort of defense mechanism; some obscure scripture that "proves" all of this wrong.
It's indefensible, yet a logical well-written and informative article. When they start referencing what mortal men have wrote on God as proof that all of these things are false and start distorting single lines of the bible to suit their own definitions of God, I can not logically defend it.
Who actually knows what the Bible was meant to say? I don't think anyone does; I believe it to be flawed from its very conception.
From the first three words, which are literally interpreted as:
"In a beginning...," which now reads, "In THE beginning."
All I can say is that lots has been lost in translations, it's just a big game of "Telephone." Remember the game we used to play in elementary school where one person at the front corner of the room says a phrase to the person behind him and told the person behind him until it made it back to the original person? Remember how different the phrase was when it got back to the original person?
That's how I view the bible.

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August 9th, 2011, 11:57 pm
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
BillySims wrote:
Well, for 1 thing, absolutely no-one I know of has said that you are to take everything in the Bible literally. A parable is not to be taken literally. It is a metaphore that conveys a deeper meaning. And the Bible always lets you know when it is a parable. But, for the vast majority of the Bible, it is to be taken literally. If you take the Bible figuratively, it would be nothing more than a collection of gobilty gook.

For some of us, it IS nothing more than a collection of gobbledygook, taken literally or figuratively.

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August 9th, 2011, 11:59 pm
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
Anything that says that the Earth was created before the sun or the heavens is full of crap. End of story.

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August 10th, 2011, 2:26 am
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
Chuckling, because I believe I'm a member of the "God Squad."

I have to say that I agree with the author on this, as Billy stated how can parables (stories used to teach a point) be considered literal. At the same time, there are portions of the Bible that are literal, and have been proven with time. Prophecies spoken of hundreds of years before they happend, were documented in different sections of Scripture.

For Sly, I really find this amusing, because according to what I've read, the earth wasn't created first and all else after words. What I'm about to say will literally blow your mind, but there is some scientific evidence to back it up.

Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without from and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

To best illustrate this, I would ask that you draw a picture of a large circle, whether in your mind or on paper. This one ciricle will represent the "deep" or masses of waters.

Here's where it gets tricky and hard to believe:

Genesis 1:6, "And God said, "let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."

Now inside your big circle draw another circle smaller in size. Now you have two areas of waters. One is an outer ring of water, and one is the smaller masses of waters.

Genesis 1:7 - 8, "And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and morning on the second day.

So in between you the two circles you have an area called Heaven, or that we humans call the Heavens. Now let's get down and dirty.

Genesis 1:9, "And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." It was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the wates that were gathered together he called Seas."

So now you have an outer circle or ring of water, and then you have the inner portion which has now become the earth as we know it. Everything above the "outer" circle is also called the 2nd heavens from what I've heard.

Now a possible reason we do not see the ring of water today goes back to the time of Noah. Prior to Noah there is no documentation of RAIN at all, and that includes the oldest known book of the Bible "Job".

Now when Noah was obedient and built his ark and took away family and livestock, the "heavens" opened up for 40 days and 40 nights. The possibility exists that this "outer ring" of water was pierced therefore starting what we call rain.

Is this hard to believe? Yes. Is it possible? Yes. Is there some scientific proof, look at all of the documentation of ice, and pools of water or remains of water traces on other planets and in space. Space is an area that is in direct contact with the sun, without a barrier or shield from UV rays and other radiations. Now I know that distance plays a factor, but it seems to me that ice would melt in a state like that. But I'm not a scientist, and I'm not going to try and act like one.

Some things you just have to take on faith!

And as I typed this up, it could be that BBT people and Creationists are much closer together than originally thought in some key areas.

But in the end, one of the few things that I count as literal out of the Bible, is the Promises of God. And that means disaster for many, and hope for many more, I just hope my friends and family and people I reach out to, will be counted among those with hope.

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August 10th, 2011, 8:40 am
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
This a GREAT example of reasoning that misses the logic completely... the article goes to great lengths to redefine what it means to take it literally.

1) First, if the author wants to get technical he, the Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic... so not a single English word we translate the Bible to English from is "in the Bible." He's being dishonest to say "this word" isn't found in the Bible as being a reason it doesn't say certain things. It's honestly incredibly bad logic in fact, kindergarten level smoke screen. Read 1 Peter passage below:

Quote:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 [b]We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


Fact is, the verse to the writer was to be taken much more serious than the author of this article writes it off as. The perspective of the writer was clearly in context that if God did something it was done right. The author here ignores the perspective of the writer to say what it "doesn't literally" say word for word. The writer was CLEAR to his audience, all scripture is the basis for which you correct your life, teach others, and guide others in their wrongs. Don't insult people's intelligence with this absolutely abhorrent illogical argument...

2) Ironically the NT Bible was written by the first Christians who seemed to think much differently. In fact, the writers of the Bible said things like (paraphrases):
-"If Christ did not literally/physically die, we are the ones to be pitied most."
-"We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."
etc.

Over and over it states of LITERAL workings of Jesus' life and that was their intent for the Gospels. They state that without the literal belief in Jesus' work you will not be saved. They went to great lengths to write down EVENTS in Jesus' life. Seriously, you want the authors intent? Read what John indicates his "intent" is for the Gospel of John:

John 20: The Purpose of John’s Gospel
Quote:
" 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. "


Seems like he is clearly recording "events" to me... unless I forgot how to read.

Just to make sure, I wonder what the Author of 1 John's intentions were:

1 John 1
Quote:
The Incarnation of the Word of Life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.
Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.


Maybe 2 Peter 1?

Quote:
16 [b]For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 [b]We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [/b]


Again... why would we ignore these CLEARLY defined statements by the witnesses? They seem to contradict everything this author is saying. Honestly... how can we take the NT as anything but literal with these statements? Seems as if their intent was CLEARLY defined. I can quote more if needed.

3) Again, the author misses the mark. These particular authors DIED defending the literalness of Jesus' life. They were tortured, imprisoned, and murdered for teaching literally what they wrote. The author is really going to have the gull to come back and say what some person did 1500 years later means more than the people who wrote the book? Again... my intelligence feels like it is being insulted. The authors above and the rest of the NT did not at all believe the same crap being thrown out here.

They died fighting for what this author flippantly throws away because he can quote a few people from the 1500's and 20th century. We are really going to be dishonest here?

4) I'm going to need help on this logic and why I think the author has redefined literal. Literal means "Taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory." The author then uses the fact that the Bible references imperfect people's actions (who are rebuked for those action in the Bible) to say we shouldn't take it literally that they did that? Gigga Gigga Wah Wah? Where did taking the Bible literally and blindly doing anything someone in the Bible does cross paths here? I'm beginning to think the writer hasn't even cracked open the book. Abraham was rebuked for his actions, Moses was cast out, David was rebuked, Peter was rebuked... all were not given the A-OK to go ahead, the Bible writes that they were called out and punished in some cases for their actions.

But again... ironically this example actually shows the author has no clue the chief confessions and intent of God in the Bible. Jesus died for SINNERS and God uses SINNERS to spread his word. The Bible writes that NO ONE is without sin and if they claim to be they are liars.

Why would the Bible be different than the vessels used to write it? Because it calls itself prophecy and direct words from the Holy Spirit by the authors. The writers are the fallible vessels, not the work done by the Holy Spirit through them. To say so means one is saying the Holy Spirit is not capable of doing the job he was sent to do. That is clearly against all of Romans... ironically written by an author that clearly disagrees with this writers.

-----------------

Hers is my deal, if someone wants to believe something... that is one thing. If someone wants to try and find "reasons" to support something that is CLEARLY not the original intent and labor of the authors... then that is an issue. The Bible couldn't be more crystal clear on this. Saying the Bible wasn't intended to capture (at least the NT) historical events is like saying the constitution wasn't written to protect rights because "no where" does it say that the intent of the document is to "give rights to people." It just DOES IT figuring anyone with a first grade reading level can figure out the intent by the fact it goes to do just that.

I honestly think this writer would have failed his reading portion of the ACT.

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August 10th, 2011, 10:42 am
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
steensn wrote:
This a GREAT example of reasoning that misses the logic completely... the article goes to great lengths to redefine what it means to take it literally.

1) First, if the author wants to get technical he, the Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic... so not a single English word we translate the Bible to English from is "in the Bible." He's being dishonest to say "this word" isn't found in the Bible as being a reason it doesn't say certain things. It's honestly incredibly bad logic in fact, kindergarten level smoke screen. Read 1 Peter passage below:

Quote:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 [b]We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


Fact is, the verse to the writer was to be taken much more serious than the author of this article writes it off as. The perspective of the writer was clearly in context that if God did something it was done right. The author here ignores the perspective of the writer to say what it "doesn't literally" say word for word. The writer was CLEAR to his audience, all scripture is the basis for which you correct your life, teach others, and guide others in their wrongs. Don't insult people's intelligence with this absolutely abhorrent illogical argument...

2) Ironically the NT Bible was written by the first Christians who seemed to think much differently. In fact, the writers of the Bible said things like (paraphrases):
-"If Christ did not literally/physically die, we are the ones to be pitied most."
-"We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."
etc.

Over and over it states of LITERAL workings of Jesus' life and that was their intent for the Gospels. They state that without the literal belief in Jesus' work you will not be saved. They went to great lengths to write down EVENTS in Jesus' life. Seriously, you want the authors intent? Read what John indicates his "intent" is for the Gospel of John:

John 20: The Purpose of John’s Gospel
Quote:
" 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. "


Seems like he is clearly recording "events" to me... unless I forgot how to read.

Just to make sure, I wonder what the Author of 1 John's intentions were:

1 John 1
Quote:
The Incarnation of the Word of Life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.
Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.


Maybe 2 Peter 1?

Quote:
16 [b]For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 [b]We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [/b]


Again... why would we ignore these CLEARLY defined statements by the witnesses? They seem to contradict everything this author is saying. Honestly... how can we take the NT as anything but literal with these statements? Seems as if their intent was CLEARLY defined. I can quote more if needed.

3) Again, the author misses the mark. These particular authors DIED defending the literalness of Jesus' life. They were tortured, imprisoned, and murdered for teaching literally what they wrote. The author is really going to have the gull to come back and say what some person did 1500 years later means more than the people who wrote the book? Again... my intelligence feels like it is being insulted. The authors above and the rest of the NT did not at all believe the same crap being thrown out here.

They died fighting for what this author flippantly throws away because he can quote a few people from the 1500's and 20th century. We are really going to be dishonest here?

4) I'm going to need help on this logic and why I think the author has redefined literal. Literal means "Taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory." The author then uses the fact that the Bible references imperfect people's actions (who are rebuked for those action in the Bible) to say we shouldn't take it literally that they did that? Gigga Gigga Wah Wah? Where did taking the Bible literally and blindly doing anything someone in the Bible does cross paths here? I'm beginning to think the writer hasn't even cracked open the book. Abraham was rebuked for his actions, Moses was cast out, David was rebuked, Peter was rebuked... all were not given the A-OK to go ahead, the Bible writes that they were called out and punished in some cases for their actions.

But again... ironically this example actually shows the author has no clue the chief confessions and intent of God in the Bible. Jesus died for SINNERS and God uses SINNERS to spread his word. The Bible writes that NO ONE is without sin and if they claim to be they are liars.

Why would the Bible be different than the vessels used to write it? Because it calls itself prophecy and direct words from the Holy Spirit by the authors. The writers are the fallible vessels, not the work done by the Holy Spirit through them. To say so means one is saying the Holy Spirit is not capable of doing the job he was sent to do. That is clearly against all of Romans... ironically written by an author that clearly disagrees with this writers.

-----------------

Hers is my deal, if someone wants to believe something... that is one thing. If someone wants to try and find "reasons" to support something that is CLEARLY not the original intent and labor of the authors... then that is an issue. The Bible couldn't be more crystal clear on this. Saying the Bible wasn't intended to capture (at least the NT) historical events is like saying the constitution wasn't written to protect rights because "no where" does it say that the intent of the document is to "give rights to people." It just DOES IT figuring anyone with a first grade reading level can figure out the intent by the fact it goes to do just that.

I honestly think this writer would have failed his reading portion of the ACT.



Thank you Steensn. I really wanted to refute that article. But, I had no idea where to begin.


August 10th, 2011, 10:54 am
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Post Re: 4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally
Billy, my biggest beef is that people are dishonest when it comes to this stuff. I personally don't take some of Genesis literally, but I do treat the implications of the stories as truth. What I will not do is try to make up dishonest reasoning as to why or why not something was meant to be literal or not. Not one person can look at Genesis and get ANYTHING but the authors intent that this be literally. One can believe that the author didn't understand what God had him write, but I'm not going to lie to try and give reason within the Bible for such.

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August 10th, 2011, 11:06 am
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