Take the Bible literally, yes or no?

A church in Brea didn’t try to hide its position recently. In fact, it displayed a message for all to see in bold, black lettering on a marquee board facing busy Imperial Highway.

“TAKING THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY, BUT NOT LITERALLY.”

Over the years, this church has posted many provocative messages, often political in nature, designed for shock value to people who hold traditional views of Christianity. Upon initial reading, this message was a bit shocking for a so-called Christian church. But it really wasn’t.

It was correct.

We should not take every word of the Bible literally. For example, it says God is our rock. Do we really think He is a slab of granite or basalt? It also says Jesus is a gate for sheep. Do we believe he literally has hinges and swings back and forth to let sheep pass through?

Of course not. We know that God uses a variety of language tools, such as metaphors and symbolism, to help readers understand Him more fully. And the context of the passage is of utmost importance, as we learned so well in our adult Sunday School series earlier this year.

Now, if the church in Brea posts a message such as, “TAKING THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY, BUT NOT AS COMPLETE TRUTH,” we will have a serious disagreement.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Bible is what it claims to be – the inspired Word of God. And words of God.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31, Matthew 24:35, Luke 21:33)

But how do we know that means all of the Bible?

Three of the four gospel writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) state that every “jot and tittle” of God’s law (word) will be accomplished. This means not just every word of it, but every punctuation mark, every tiny spot and every space will be accomplished. Nothing can derail it.

History, archaeology and fulfilled prophetic predictions all confirm that the Bible is true and reliable. Therefore, we can confidently take the Bible seriously, take it literally when warranted, and realize when and where God wants us to understand His text in a non-literal way.

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