The Bible: What Does It All Mean?


I would like to discuss with my friends of liberal theological persuasion the need to take the scriptures literally. I hope to present the case for the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, and I would like to use an illustration to do this.

Suppose someone from Country A says you must go to latitude x and longitude y to get to his country. You have never heard of this country, and you do not know where it is nor anyone who does. Do you take the person literally, or do you assume that he is merely speaking figuratively of a long journey? There are, of course, two possibilities as to how to interpret his statement.

Let's say that the person is, in fact, speaking figuratively of a long journey. Do you have any chance of getting there? Can you make any observations about what type of place that it might be? Of course not. You are no better off than if he had told you nothing. What happens to the person who mistakenly took this person's statement literally? Well, he is in the exact same position as the one who took it figuratively--neither will ever find the country.

Now, let's say the person was speaking literally. Now you can follow his directions, and before setting off on your journey, you can prepare the kinds of clothes you will need based on the country's location on the globe. In this case, what happens to the person who mistakenly took the person's statement figuratively? He will have no way of finding the country while the person who interpreted the statement correctly will.

I believe this is very similar to our situation relative to heaven. We cannot go to observe it and then come back. Nor can we speak with anyone who has. Since it is a supernatural place, natural human beings using their five senses can make absolutely no predictions about it. Our only hope is that someone from there will reveal to us what it is like and how to get there.

Alas, as Christians we believe that God has given us such a revelation through the Bible. So let's say God has given us a figurative revelation. Are we better off than if He had said nothing? I think not. Which parts are figurative, and which parts are literal? Is God truly love, or is that simply compared to satan? Is heaven a good place or is that merely compared to hell? Is there an afterlife at all, or is that simply figurative of the bliss of non-existence?

Since we rely on God to reveal to us things about the supernatural, they must be literal or the information is completely useless to us. We must take the Bible literally, or we can have no assurance of anything therein.

I'm sure my liberal friends would have some qualms about taking every statement in the Bible literally. They may ask me, "Jesus said He was a vine, does He have leaves and grapes growing off His arms?" Of course not. If the context requires otherwise, we must realize when the statements are figurative. But this is simple to determine based on the words used. When the Bible makes statements of fact, we must interpret them literally. For example, when Jesus says that "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me," we have to take that literally, but when He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," we would be hard pressed to interpret this literally, although the figurative interpretation points to a literal truth. Someone once said, "If the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense lest you come up with nonsense." In other words, where a literal interpretation is possible, we must use it. Otherwise we are left to ourselves to determine which parts are figurative and which parts are literal, and as I hope I have shown, we are in no position to do that.

I would consider myself a fundamentalist. I do not think that makes me a fanatic. I have simply considered the alternatives and concluded that the fundamentalist view of scripture is the only logical one to hold. I believe that the Bible is God's word and that our loving God has chosen to give us relevant information regarding the things He has created.