I Believe… Literally

i-believe-literally

The Bible… It’s been a source of lively discussion for centuries. It’s a shame when it moves from being a source of healthy dialogue to a form of division, especially among those who claim to represent what is contained therein.

I love the Bible. I trust the Bible. I believe the Bible is reliable. I believe God has preserved it so that His children can use it as a source for living the life He’s called them to live. How we read the Bible, however, is another topic.

There are those who believe it is nothing more than a collection of ancient documents. There are also those who believe it’s merely a compilation of sacred stories meant to reveal divine purposes. Someone who views the Bible primarily as a collection of metaphoric fairytales likely does not believe Adam and Eve actually existed, but that they only symbolize the creation of mankind. Those who write off Adam and Eve as supernatural fables also likely deny other biblical miracles such as “Moses Parting the Red Sea,” “The Fiery Furnace,” “Jonah and the Big Fish,” and many others.

Then there are those who are literalists in the strictest sense, meaning they refuse to recognize allegorical language in scripture. I’m uncertain as to what they do with hyperbolic passages like: “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out…” We certainly don’t see very many Christians walking around looking like patch-eyed pirates. Metaphor is used as a literary device throughout scripture. For example, Isaiah 64 teaches us that we are like clay in the hands of the potter; this is metaphor. Matthew 5 teaches that followers of Jesus are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; this too is metaphoric language. We are not actually clay, salt, or light; we are human beings. These metaphors serve as literary devices to reveal deeper meaning pertaining to our relationship with God and His call on our lives.

Personally, I believe the Bible is it’s own best interpreter. If one can understand the difference between literary genres, the Bible isn’t overly difficult to read. While it’s certainly not a mindless task, scripture is organized in such a way that assists the reader in understanding if they’re reading poetry, history, prophecy, allegory, theology, etc.

So what’s the best way to read the Bible? Through the lens of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify Jesus on every page and in every story. In fact, I believe we read the Bible irresponsibly if we’re not recognizing the salvific message of Christ throughout. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus. Everything in the New Testament builds off the foundation of Jesus.

So much for the introduction, let me tell you what I believe.

I believe in the beginning was the Word, literally. I believe God spoke the universe into existence, literally. I believe God created man and woman, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, literally. I believe God destroyed the earth with a flood because mankind had become extremely wicked, literally. I believe Noah really did build and Ark (can you imagine how much faith it took to cut down the first tree?). I believe God actually scattered people all over the earth at the Tower of Babel. Yes, I believe these things actually happened.

I believe God literally made a covenant with Abraham. Part of that covenant was to make His children like the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea, metaphorically speaking. I believe Jacob literally wrestled the Angel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. I believe Moses literally led the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, not a few inches of water, but ground as dry as a desert floor. I believe God led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.

I believe Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho and the walls literally crumbled to the ground. I believe Gideon actually defeated the Midianite troops numbering over 100,000 after God reduced his army to only 300 valiant men. I believe Elijah literally left this earth riding a chariot of fire in a whirlwind and never experienced death. I believe Daniel spent the night in a Lion’s Den, maybe cuddled up beside them, and lived to tell the story. I believe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego hung out in a fiery furnace with Jesus and not a hair on their head was singed.

I believe everything in the historical books really did happen. I believe the books of poetry provide great imagery and give us deeper insight about the nature of God. I believe the prophets received visions from God that reveal His plans and desires for His people. And yes, I believe Jonah really did spend three days in the belly of a fish!

I believe Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. I believe He lived a perfect life. He healed the sick, raised the dead, performed miracles, and preached with authority. I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, shed His blood and died on a cross at Calvary for our sins. I believe the Cross works and nothing else does!

I believe Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave. I believe He rose from the dead on the third day and the tomb is still empty. I believe He literally levitated into the sky when He ascended to the Father. I believe Jesus is at this very moment making intercession for anyone who expresses faith in Him.

I believe everything described in the Gospels and the Book of Acts actually happened. I believe the Book of Acts provides the model we should strive for as the New Testament Church. I believe God gives us a picture of how the Church should proceed theologically through the writings of the Apostle Paul and the other NT authors.

I believe Heaven and Hell are literal places and that every person will end up in one of those two destinations. I believe Jesus will return, literally. The dead in Christ will rise first and we who remain will be called up together with them in the air, and from that time forward, for all eternity, we will forever be with the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.

I believe God still saves, sanctifies, and sets people free, literally. I believe God is omnipresent, but that He also manifests His presence in unique ways as He has throughout history. I believe we should strive to walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, literally. I believe we can know Jesus personally, literally. I believe we should be diligent and relentless at reaching people with the love, power, and presence of Jesus, literally. Hope that clears up any confusion.

9 Comments

    1. Church of the Nazarene: Article IV – We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.

      1. I assume you posted that in agreement with Sam’s comment? I’m a big fan of our statement of faith in the Scriptures because it lets us avoid the silly inerrancy battles.

      2. “Inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things NECESSAY TO OUR SALVATION”. Are you claiming that a literal interpretation of scripture is necessary to our salvation?

  1. Right, inerrant in all things concerning salvation–not in absolutely everything–which is why most female ministers in the Church of the Nazarene aren’t on the side of inerrancy or a literal interpretation of all things. Because, you know, literally, we wouldn’t be able to minister.

  2. Literal interpretation is not part of the Nazarene belief system … see below from Report of the Scripture Study Committee of the 28th assembly of the Church of the Nazarene.

    http://whdl.org/sites/default/files/Report%20of%20the%20Scripture%20Study%20Committee.pdf

    In all honesty while I resonate with much of what you have said I find it incomplete it describing the interpretation process upheld by the CoTN

    God bless,

    Dave

    FYI: Sub section of that report is below … (sections on inspiration and inerrancy
    (a) Plenary, divine inspiration

    First, the article clearly states the inspiration of Holy Scripture as ‘divine’ and ‘plenary’:
    that means that the whole Bible is inspired and that it is inspired, not just in the sense that a work of art may be said to be ‘inspired’, but by God. To say that the Bible as a whole is inspired is to say that we cannot take texts out of context and quote them arbitrarily as ‘the word of God.’ We have to understand biblical theology as a whole. Nor do we believe that divine inspiration cancels out the human authorship. Each book has a distinct style, vocabulary, and idiom reflecting the quite different human authors and contexts, whether of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Luke, Paul, or even writers unknown. We do not believe in a mechanical idea of inspiration in which their minds were blotted out and they became mere puppets. Rather their mental powers were heightened and their free wills guided by the subtle and sensitive Spirit of God. Whether they were gathering
    information to write a narrative, or editing what had previously been written, or were putting into writing speech directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, the result was a collection of documents fit for the purpose of revealing God’s will and way, God’s acts, and supremely God’s revelation in his Incarnate Son. We agree therefore with the Cape Town Commitment of the Third Lausanne Congress when they say in their confession of faith:

    We receive the whole Bible as the Word of God, inspired by God’s Spirit, spoken
    and written through human authors. We submit to it as supremely and uniquely
    authoritative, governing our belief and behavior. We testify to the power of God’s Word
    to accomplish his purpose of salvation. We affirm that the whole Bible is the final written
    word of God, not surpassed by any further revelation, but we also rejoice that the Holy
    Spirit illumines the minds of God’s people so that the Bible continues to speak God’s
    truth in fresh ways to people in every culture.

    We strongly endorse the emphasis in this Cape Town Commitment that we love God’s Word because we love God, love his world, love the gospel, love the people of God, and love the mission of God (b) Inerrantly revealing the will of God

    (b) Inerrantly revealing the will of God

    Secondly, Article IV clearly states that the Holy Scriptures reveal the will of God
    inerrantly. That means that what Holy Scripture tells us about God and his saving acts and purpose cannot be set aside by any merely human philosophy, metaphysics, or ethics. Human reason and culture are all fallen and therefore suspect when it comes to discerning the will of God, but we each may trust the word of God given to us in Holy Scripture as ‘a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). Human reason and experience may guide us in many things, but when it comes to the things of God (which shapes all of life), they must bow to what he has revealed to us in the inspired Scriptures. This belief is what is usually known as the ‘infallibility’ of Scripture, that it ‘inerrantly reveals the will of God in all things necessary to salvation’ as distinct from absolute ‘inerrancy’ in every factual detail. This implies that, while the Holy Spirit
    guides us as we listen for the voice of God speaking to us through Scripture, no claims to private revelations of the truth of God which are additional to Scripture are acceptable.

    This does not imply however that we are infallible in our interpretation of the Bible.
    Some Christians think that they are merely stating what the Bible says, but that is naïve. Whether we like it or not, every Christian is actually engaged in interpreting the Bible. Accordingly, we must interpret each word in its sentence, each sentence in its paragraph, each paragraph within the argument of the book as a whole, and each biblical book within the Scriptures as a whole. We interpret the New Testament against the background of the Old Testament, and the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament and particularly as progressive revelation leads up to the final
    revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We follow the guidance of the ancient creeds of the Church as we interpret the Scriptures together. All of this calls not only for careful scholarship, but also for dependence on the Holy Spirit. We expect all preachers and teachers particularly to be committed to the interpretation of the Scriptures given in the ancient creeds and the Articles of Faith, but on other matters we affirm freedom of interpretation provided it is in a spirit of loyalty to the Church. As we interpret Scripture together within the fellowship of the Church, we look to the Holy Spirit to guide us in the future into ‘the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Romans
    12:2).

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