The history of biblical literalism?

The 95 Theses, circa 1517. Written in protest ...
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Maybe the Brits don’t understand American Biblical literalism –

If you read the Bible asking: “What was St Paul saying to the Galatians?” all kinds of critical questions arise: How would first-century Asia Minor have understood these words? Would Paul have phrased it differently to a church he was less pissed off with? Would other witnesses have recalled the events he describes differently? But if you read the Bible asking: “What is God saying to me today?” it seems less appropriate to do anything but accept it at face value.

Funny, because some of the theological liberals who aren’t literalists ask ‘What is God saying to me today?’ Anyway…

]]’ title, How Biblical Literalism took root, is a mistake, as all he does is show a half-hearted understanding of biblical literalism and then disparaging those who hold to the viewpoint. If he would read Church History (ironically, he has written a book on the matter), he would see that many biblical literalists have existed and thrived in Christianity long before the 19th century’s reaction to German Higher Criticism. But, I don’t want to take away from his fun at jabbing the biblical literalists or anything…

He goes on to show his ignorance of the Reformation as well, stating,

Part of the problem is historical. The deification of the Bible is a result of the Protestant reformation. Before then, the final authority, the ultimate arbiter and source of information in religious matters was the church, with its ancient traditions and living experts. When Luther and friends opposed the teaching of the Catholic hierarchy, they needed a superior authority to appeal to, which was provided by the Bible.

It is a mischaracterization of both Luther and Rome to believe and to hold to as such. Instead, I suggest that Tomkins picks up a good Christian History book, or this one for the Reformation, before he embarrasses himself any further. Of course, I suspect that he is really confused and instead means biblical inerrantism, which again, shows his ineptness on the subject which he is discussing.

Bless his little heart…

Maybe he should have stuck to writing Monte Python instead…

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6 Replies to “The history of biblical literalism?”

  1. I always find it funny when biblical literalists are so nasty in character. I have no idea where they get the permission to behave so poorly. Your sarcasm is beneath you and your article didn’t give any relevant information to those that are actually trying to understand this subject. You spent your time cutting down someone that actually, while not agreeing with taking the bible literally, still had nice things to say about the bible. I would go for his type of Christianity any day over yours.

  2. I think I get it. Correct me if I’m wrong. Your intent was to show how clever you are in your ability to strike someone down with your words and to give others the impression that you know more than this ditz. The problem with the biblical literatlist, that I have found, is that because they take the bible so literally, they begin to take themselves very literally. They begin to believe that since it came out of Paul’s mouth and well, his words were the word of God, and he encourages and states that all can be just like him and should indeed inspire to be, then all that comes out of your mouth must be the word of God as well. Consequentially, so there is an air of arrogance and superiority that is actually quite disgusting and off-putting for the rest of the world. It makes Christianity quite unattractive.

    Yep, I just reread the whole thing and I pretty much think I got it. Btw, I don’t think he has mischaracterized Luther at all. Luther was under significant opposition by the church for what he was doing. In my readings of his positions on things Christian, he absolutely used the deifying of scripture to bolster his claims. And he exhibited similar arrogance when he attacked those that thought differently than him.

  3. Your attack on someone that didn’t agree with literalism and your defense of it did cause me to conclude you were a literalist. Wooden? I don’t know what you mean by that.

  4. Your comment ” Of course, I suspect that he is really confused and instead means biblical inerrantism, which again, shows his ineptness on the subject which he is discussing.” appears to me to indicate that you are the one who is confused. The idea of Biblical inerrancy has been around for a long time and is really a discussion of the trustworthiness of the Scripture itself. Biblical literalism is by contrast a discussion on how we interpret the Scriptures and what factors influence that. To cut a long story short, Christianity, since shortly after its origins, was a combination of the revelation of God and the role and authority of the Church to interpret that revelation. Biblical literalism, which ultimately derived from the Reformation, destroys this concept of the church, and in essence is really a new religion. For that reason I would truly say that Evangelicals who adopt the idea of biblical literalism are not really christian in any meaningful sense that unifies them with the church which existed over the last 2000 years. Much of this movement has come from the Protestant Reformation trying to slim down the bloated excesses that eventually dominated the Catholic Church, but if I can take the analogy further, they are more like an anorexic rather than someone slimming down to the essentials.

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