“I don’t take the Bible literally but I do take it seriously.”
–said many a progressive Christian
Boy, if I got a dime for every time I heard a progressive Christian say the above quote, I would have paid off my seminary education 10 years sooner. Truthfully, I have said this myself. Progressive Christians, for decades now, have spent a ton of energy trying to demarcate ourselves from the Evangelical movements by proclaiming that we are NOT biblical literalists.
We. Are. Not. Like. Those. Christians.
But I have been studying the Bible for a long time. It is my job to study the Bible (part of why I love my job). And the more I study, the more I realize that I take the Bible literally. I take it as literally as the most conservative, Evangelical Christian out there.
First a disclaimer: nobody can really take the Bible literally, not every single word. It is completely impossible. Period. Don’t argue with me about this. Dozens of people wrote the Bible over hundreds of years…there are bound to be numerous contradictions…just read Genesis 1-3 to get a glimpse of what I am talking about.
Now that I got that out of the way, I want to say unequivocally that is time for progressives to start taking the Bible literally. I mean it. Just read these passages and tell me that you don’t take them literally (verses from Common English Bible):
7 Now if there are some poor persons among you, say one of your fellow Israelites in one of your cities in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, don’t be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward your poor fellow Israelites. 8 To the contrary! Open your hand wide to them. You must generously lend them whatever they need.
5 The person whose help is the God of Jacob—
the person whose hope rests on the Lord their God—
is truly happy!
6 God: the maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
God: who is faithful forever,
7 who gives justice to people who are oppressed,
who gives bread to people who are starving!
The Lord: who frees prisoners.
8 The Lord: who makes the blind see.
The Lord: who straightens up those who are bent low.
The Lord: who loves the righteous.
9 The Lord: who protects immigrants,
who helps orphans and widows,
but who makes the way of the wicked twist and turn!
3 The Lord proclaims: Do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t spill the blood of the innocent in this place.
22 Don’t steal from the poor, because they are poor.
Don’t oppress the needy in the gate.
23 The Lord will take up their case
and press the life out of those who oppress them.
Yes, indeed, I am a biblical literalist. And proud of it.