Literally Wood

Tired old argument #24: The Bible is not to be taken literally.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say that the Bible is not literal or not to be taken literally. If you disagree, as I do, that the Bible should indeed be taken or interpreted literally, this person will then drag out a few verses to prove his point. Usually the verses have something to do with what they think is a ridiculous comparison such as God as a rock or Jesus as a lamb. Obviously, they intone, God is not basaltic, sedimentary or igneous. Jesus is not actually a small fuzzy critter either. And so they dismiss the literal interpretation.

But did they ever look up the term literal in the dictionary? If they had, they might not be so dismissive. The online Merriam-Webster defines literal thusly:

1 a : according with the letter of the scriptures

  • adheres to a literal reading of the passage
b : adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression : actual

  • liberty in the literal sense is impossible
  • —B. N. Cardozo
c : free from exaggeration or embellishment

  • the literal truth
d : characterized by a concern mainly with facts

  • a very literal man

Literal is “concerned mainly with facts” or is “free from exaggeration or embellishment.” So dismissing a literal interpretation of the Bible is dismissing facts.

Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and others define literal as “the author’s intent.” God literally means what He says and says what He means.

God deals in facts. He communicates the fact that humans are lost in sin and must have a payment for sin. The fact is, He provided payment Himself in the form of the death of His only begotten Son on a chunk of wood. It is a fact that if we do not repent and accept this payment, we will not have enough to pay for sin ourselves and so will end up in a literal lake of fire. Does it matter if it’s a real lake or not? Either way it will be immersion in something painful and agonizing for a long, long time.

The Scriptures are literally God’s Word, as testimony if not His actual speech. Literally, God is a rock because He doesn’t change. Basaltic or igneous, it doesn’t matter. Did the rock come first, or did God make rocks so we would have a picture of His unchangeable nature?

What some people mean by literal is “wooden,” which is a literal term meaning they are inflexible when it comes to interpreting God’s Word. People are wooden when they attack the Word of God which allows them to relegate the parts they don’t like to the outer darkness. They start with a wooden interpretation of God as a rock or Jesus as a lamb so they can move on to getting rid of what to them are all the distasteful parts of God’s Word such as obedience, faith, Law, and salvation. It’s a slippery slope using faulty logic and ignoring facts that require a response.

Literal doesn’t mean wooden. It means that the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression from God is the truth and demands we adhere to that truth. God literally means we have to conform to His Word, all of it, in every respect. If we don’t, we will literally end up separated from Him forever.



Freedom from Sabbath Keeping

Hey All,

Just spent a few days writing a new article which is a point-by-point response to an article by Ray Comfort that he titled Freedom From Sabbath Keeping. It took a while, because the article is filled with a lot of, shall we say, less than biblical information.

Ray is a good guy as far as I know, and has a lot of good teaching. I have quoted from him, and use some of his material in my conversations with atheists. However, there are a number of areas where he falls short of biblical truth, and a bunch of them are in this article. So I went through it and inserted my comments directly into his text. I included Bible verses and commentary all with a whole Bible perspective. You’ll find a nicely organized selection of responses to what are also typical Christian arguments against observing the Sabbath. Why people would reject a day off from God is beyond me, but they do. So this article should help you with standard Christian objections to observing the whole of the Word, not just the Sabbath.

An excerpt from Point by Point through the Ray Comfort article Freedom from Sabbath Keeping. His words are in red, my comments are in square brackets and in blue (on the web page they are just in a different font).

Let’s briefly look at their arguments. First, nowhere does the Fourth Commandment say that we are to “worship” on the Sabbath Day. [True. Worship was every day. The act of resting on the Sabbath is worship. Worship has taken on an inadequate meaning in the intervening centuries, and it used to be that worship included sacrifices. But worship has always been obedience at its root.] It commands that we rest on that day: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). [Notice that he does not answer the issue he raises: why does the church not “rest” on the Sabbath?] Sabbath-keepers worship on the Saturday. [No. Sabbath keepers might MEET on Saturday, but worship is obedience and for every day.] Do they know where the word “Saturday” comes from? It’s from the Latin word “Saturnus–Saturn + Old English dæg day.” Obviously Saturday is from the pagan day of worship of the planet Saturn (astrology). [In spite of the attempt at sarcasm, I can agree here. However, Saturday is also the seventh day, and therefore the Sabbath. The name of the day is not important. But the Sabbath is.

And another excerpt.

The Scriptures tell us that at one point, the Apostles especially gathered to discuss the attitude of the Christian to the Law of Moses. [This is biblically incorrect. The council in Acts 15 met mainly to discuss salvation by circumcision (verse 1). This was proved to be wrong. Salvation was coming to Gentiles without circumcision and by grace through faith just as Abraham and JUST AS THE JEWS (who had the Law). Verse 5 also asks a question about following the Law, which was answered in verse 21 (Moses is read in the synagogue every Sabbath.) This meant 1) Moses is read. 2) Moses is read in the synagogue where all believers met at the time. 3) They met every Sabbath.] Acts 15:10-11, 24-29 was God’s opportunity to make His will clear to His children. [Biblically incorrect. God had been making His will clear to His children for a long, long time.] All He had to do to save millions from damnation was say, “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy,” and millions of Christ-centered, God-loving, Bible-believing Christians would have gladly kept it. [Not so. He already said many times to remember the Sabbath, and just about as many times was ignored. He is still being ignored today as is evidenced by this article by Ray. Many Christians do not want to obey God’s commands. Mostly because we do not want an objective, absolute standard. We want to give ourselves permission to sin.

Enjoy the article.

The Bible TV Series Review

I just got done watching the first two episodes of the series made for TV last year called The Bible. There is only about 40 minutes worth of viewing in each episode, and 10 episodes total. The first five cover the Old Testament, and the second five cover the New Testament. They are pretty abbreviated in their story telling, but given the light budget, the standard Christian (wrong) viewpoint, and the amount of ground they are trying to cover they don’t do too bad. It’s kind of like a condensed version of a Reader’s Digest condensed version.

Some of the scenes are funny (to me). Like the two angels that visit Sodom and Gomorrah – one is black and one is Asian. Trying to be politically correct I guess, but I also guess it could’ve been that way. The funny part is when the Asian guy goes all martial arts on the inhabitants of Sodom with two swords. It’s hilarious that Satan looks just like Obama in a robe.

Some of the details are just wrong. Noah’s kids are way too young. Lot’s daughters are way too young. Instead of a ram caught by its horns in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac, it’s a lamb caught by its foot. Pharaoh doesn’t die in the Red Sea with his army as he’s supposed to. Lots of minor details are wrong too. For instance Abraham doesn’t wander in a desert. It’s a good land with plenty of room for him and his family, and grazing for his flocks and herds. Probably would’ve cost too much in CGI money to make the land look as good as it was.

All in all, it’s not half bad. The producer’s standard Christian viewpoint is evident in the liberties taken with the text. They over dramatize some things and under-report others. On the good side they imply that the third angel talking with Abraham is Jesus (blurry shots, shots from the back). The not-so-good is seen in the skipping over of the Passover details. It’s as if it was made by someone with a knowledge of the key points of the Bible story, but little understanding. Which is why I say it’s standard Christian. Most Christians know the outlines of the stories, but very few have a real understanding coming from intimate reading and doing.

It’s not intended as a substitute for Bible reading. We should be so familiar with the real thing that we can easily identify where they went wrong. If this is all people will want to know of the Bible, then it is woefully inadequate. But hopefully it will encourage people to dig in to get the right of it. The book is much better than the movie in this instance. With all of the shortcomings at least the basics of the story are being told. A solid message that comes through loud and clear is “trust God.” For that at least the producers are to be commended.


Can the Bible Be Trusted?

Chapter 4 of ‘Whole Bible Christianity’ section on “Can the Bible be Trusted?”

I’m sure you’ve heard teachings that cast doubt on the authenticity of the Word. For instance, some claim that ‘translational bias’ has corrupted the translations. What they mean is that no one can translate well enough to get God’s message across because our own brains get in the way. We have too many assumptions.

It is true that when it comes to translating the Bible, even the most well trained scholar can color his or her translating. It is also true that even scholars have assumptions. We all have a bias of some sort even when casually reading the Word. It’s been a problem since the beginning.

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” (Genesis 3:1-3 NASB95)

The serpent was obviously against what God instructed the first man and woman to do. “Has God said” is a common refrain among those who seek to destroy the authority of the Father throughout history. Eve had a bias too, as shown by her ‘don’t touch’ twist on what God said (He only said “don’t eat”). Created beings play fast and loose with God’s Words, and we need to watch ourselves. Bernard Ramm puts it this way.

“…we all need a new sense of respect for the Holy Scripture. Believing it to be the veritable word of God, we must exercise all the human pains possible to keep from overlaying it with a gossamer pattern of our own spinning. In each of those cases where human error enters, divine truth is obscured. Let us then steer a straight course through the Holy Bible, neither turning to the left side of heresy nor to the right side of unbridled imagination.”

But the weightiest truth against the claim of translational bias, or any other teaching casting doubt on the Bible, is that the foundation for all of the books is the first five. The Torah was the first canon by which any additional writing, or any prophet or preacher, was always measured.

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isaiah 8:20 NASB95)