Christians Who Take the Bible Literally Cannot Agree On Much of Anything
This is a page that touches on a topic I’ve brought up on my blog a time or two.
The author of that ‘Unpublished’ page mentions Roman Catholicism.
As much as I consider the constant Protestant and Baptist disagreement over certain things in the Bible problematic, I don’t think the solution is becoming Roman Catholic and accepting that their Pope’s ex cathedra statements or their Magisterium is the answer.
Catholics, for one, get all sorts of things wrong – they believe that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven; they believe that praying to or for the dead is acceptable; they believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary; they believe in Transubstantiation; they reject that salvation is by faith alone – all sorts of wrong things.
Then Roman Catholics tack on 3 or 4 books (called the Apocrypha) to the Jewish and Protestant canon to “prove” to the Protestants that yes, they have “biblical” support for some of their weird doctrines.
Although the Vatican tells Catholics that birth control is wrong and bad, and that pro-life is the way to go, I have seen many news reports that American Roman Catholic women get abortions and use birth control.
Several years ago, I even saw websites by American Roman Catholics who say they support the legalization of abortion. Catholics are not in unity – not even in doctrine, so I do wish they’d stop lobbing this accusation at Protestants, as though the RC is any better.
Their Pope and Magisterium can sit there all day long and claim that the official Roman Catholic stance on Topic X is “blah blah whatever,” but that doesn’t mean the rank and file Catholics are going to agree with it, or follow that doctrine or rule. Because sometimes they don’t.
I do by and large still believe the Bible should be taken literally – as opposed to the liberal Christians who treat the Bible with extreme skepticism or who act like it’s okay to treat the Bible as though it’s silly putty and warp it any way they want – but I do acknowledge some of the points raised in this page:
People who claim to literally interpret the inspired and inerrant Word of God do not agree on what the bible says.
Christian Smith calls this “pervasive interpretive pluralism.” And this pervasive interpretive pluralism isn’t just found among progressives and liberals. It is found among evangelicals and fundamentalists, among the very people who claim that they are reading the bible very, very literally.
Pervasive interpretive pluralism exists among biblical literalists.
Which brings us to the problem at the heart of Protestantism.
The problem at the heart of Protestantism is that the bible is unable to produce consensus. This isn’t a theological claim. This is an empirical fact.
Sola scriptura produces pluralism. The “bible alone” creates doctrinal diversity. Biblical literalism proliferates churches.
…The alternative is to be delusional, pretending that opening the bible brings everyone to a consensus. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen.
And pretending otherwise just sets you up to be judgemental and condemnatory. It tempts you into using the word “biblical” as a weapon.
In the end, if you’re going to be biblical you’re going to have to learn to be tolerant.
——– end excerpts ———
So, while I do agree with this author that even Christians who claim to take the Bible at “face value” (literally) often end up disagreeing with each other, even on minute, trivial issues.
This is one reason of many I want to throw my hands up in the air and be done with the Christian faith.
I do not see what the point is in following a faith whose adherents, who all read the same collection of books (Bible), arrive at totally contradictory conclusions and understandings, but they all claim they are following the Bible literally, at face value, and going by its “plain meaning”.
Protestants (and I include Baptists here) cannot agree on much of anything, such as (and this is just off the top of my head)…
1. Baptism – mode of, sprinkling vs dunked; should babies be sprinkled?
2a. Arminian vs. Calvinist?
2b. Does man have free will or is God sovereign, or is there a third view on this (both are true, man has free will and God is sovereign)?
3. Is one saved by faith alone, or faith plus works?
4. Can one lose one’s salvation (OSAS vs Conditional Security)?
5. Is sexism (also known as “Christian gender complmentarianism”) condoned by the Bible, or is it condemned (Christian gender egalitarians)?
6. Is belief in Jesus enough, or does one have to obey Jesus too (Lordship salvation)?
While I still personally hang on to a mere thread of the Christian faith (i.e., Jesus died for my sins, rose again, Jesus is the only way to salvation), as I’ve grown more comfortable learning to walk away from most of the rest of the Christian faith, I feel as though a weight has been lifted.
It looks to me that being a Christian and trying to understand the Bible adds an unnecessary level of complexity to all of life.
Since partially walking away, I no longer feel bad about not measuring up. Life has in some ways become easier for me and much more enjoyable.
I am now puzzled that so many Christians want to remain caught up in this circus and keep performing like circus seals. It’s a circus that doesn’t seem to make life any better or easier in the “here and now.”
But I guess they are still living in the Christian bubble with blinders on, and they really, truly love God and want to honor God, and they think that by living life a certain way, they are honoring God. I am so glad I have escaped this sort of mindset and lifestyle.
I’m somewhere in the middle on this topic about the Bible.
On the one hand, I do see a lot of Christians who claim to be sola scriptura and take the Bible literally disagreeing with each other quite a bit. That to me is a problem.
On the other hand, I don’t think the Bible is so incredibly murky and vague across the board on all issues that we can never, ever know what it’s definitely saying on some subjects.
I see some people who wrangle over biblical interpretation who do so because they have an agenda.
For example, the gender complementarian guys hate secular feminism and women being equal in marriages, and the men who run churches don’t want to lose their power to women (or to anyone; they want to protect their turf), so it is to their benefit to keep cherry picking verses and using eisegesis to claim that the Bible supports sexism (eg, limiting women from being preachers, leaders, marriages being mutual).
Then you have your left wing Christians who want to argue that the Bible supports homosexuality, when no, it does not. So they get guys like homosexual Matthew Vines to write guests posts on their blogs trying to explain that the Bible isn’t REALLY opposed to homosexual behavior.
(You can read off site critiques of Vine’s views
- (Link): here (from First Things),
- (Link): here (from Stand To Reason),
- (Link): here (from Theological Matters)
~ please note I may not necessarily be in agreement with all other views of these other writers or that of their denominations I have linked to here)
I see a lot of people mishandling the Bible and disagreeing about what it means not so much out of a sincere interest in truth, but because they have an agenda to push, a pet doctrine they are invested in, and/or they are selfish or greedy, and insisting the Bible teaches “X” keeps the money flowing in for them.
It benefits them to say the Bible teaches “thus and so,” when in reality it does not.
(Link): Gallup: Record Low 24% Believe Bible Is Literal Word of God (May 2017)