Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bible Literalists vs. Allegoricalists

The Literalist vs. Allegoricalist argument creates a false dichotomy in actuality. Noone can really be a 100% Bible literalist because the Bible says things like the earth is flat and setting on pillars and cannot move (1 Chr 16:30, Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, 1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6). It says that great sea monsters are set to guard the edge of the sea (Job 41, Ps 104:26). There is no doubt that the Bible contains many symbols, allegories, and parables that are intended to be interpreted figuratively. However, I feel that when compared with most other Christian churches, the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a more literalist interpretion of the Bible than any other denomination or non-denomination.

When the Bible talks about Moses parting the Red Sea or 3 men getting thrown into a furnace and surviving the Mormon's believe those event actually happened as well as have figurative and spiritual meaning. Some may say that the Bible is true and purely logical. And when it comes to illogical events such as miracles of changing water to wine or calling down fire from heaven; those must simply be fables which are not to be taken literally.

However, if a Christian claims to only accept logic, then what of Christ. Does it make logical sense that Christ rose from that dead? Yes, the Bible predicted it and the claims there were many witnesses. But that doesn't really make it logical does it. Resurrection is absolutely unpresidented, incomprehensible, and unproven. And why apoligize about it. Many scholars and theologins recognize that all spirituality and relgion are based on some supernatural, revelatory, miraculous event that defies logic. Therefore, a true Christian is only fooling himself if he thinks himself a pure 5-senses empiracist. You cannot call yourself a Christian if you do not accept the resurrection of Jesus Christ (the so-called "Scandle of Christianity"). Conversely, you cannot be a 5-senses empiricist if you do. So, if you consider yourself a Christian, why not just accept all the other miracles in the Bible?

Mormon acceptance of the literalist view of the Bible is fundamental to its theology. This is because Mormonism itself was founded by the same sorts of supernatural, revelatory, miraculous events. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, went to pray in a grove of trees and recieved a visitation by God and Jesus Christ where he was told that none of the current churches were true. Years later, Joseph recieved a visitation by a heavenly angel who delivered to him gold plates which he translated as the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith was called as a prophet like Moses, or Isaiah and was instructed to establish and restore the true Chruch of Jesus Christ. As a part of that restoration, Joseph Smith recieved numerous heavenly visitations and revelations from Peter, James, and John; John the Baptist, Elijiah, and Moses who restored essential priesthood authority and keys necessary to administer the Kingdom of God. Now, to the logical mind, this story sounds utterly preposterous. But, to a Bible literalist, these events are in perfect harmony with the God of the OT who stops the sun from setting, and Jesus Christ of the NT who brought Lazareth back from the grave.

Why is being an Bible literalist important? Because deep down, on a subconscious level, if you doubt that the events in the Bible actually happened, then it becomes more difficult to believe that God can cause miracles to occur in your own life; and isn't that the purpose of religion? But, the God of the Bible is a God of miracles who is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Joseph Smith story and the restoration of the Chruch of Jesus Christ stand as a modern-day witness that The Living God is an Unchanging God and that he continues to reveal his will and miraculously bless his children today. These witnessess inspire faith and hope that God can not only literally save you, but can also literally do miraculous and revelatory things in your life (like repent and come unto Christ).


endlessnegotiation said...

"[I]f you doubt that the events in the Bible actually happened, then it becomes more difficult to believe that God can cause miracles to occur in your own life; and isn't that the purpose of religion?"

The purpose of religion is not to seek after miracles but rather to provide direction for the soul. For your statement above to have the least bit of validity you'd have to argue that the absence of personally miraculous events is evidence of spiritual condemnation as well as the inverse-- neither of which positions is absolutely defensible within the framework of Mormon theology.

I have hope that a series of mighty miracles will be performed on my spirit's behalf after I die but I don't need to believe in physical miracles or take anything other than the Christ narrative as literal to maintain that hope.

BRoz said...

I don't need to argue that point when both the Bible and Book of Mormon can doing it just fine for me. Please read the entire sections:

(Mark 16: 17, 20) And these signs shall follow them that believe;

(1 Cor. 12) are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

(Mormon 9:7-11,19-21)And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

(Moroni 7:27, 33-38) If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved. . . if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of bunbelief, and all is vain. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.

I agree; miracles do not inspire faith but the Bible promises that miracles will follow faith. And according to the Book of Mormon, where there are no miracles, there is no faith.

Repentance is the greatest miracle and the undeniable evidence that God is still a God of miracles. When I see a person become born again and transform him/herself into a true disciple of Christ, that is the greatest miracle ever.

I also recognize that there are a lot of conterfit miracles and people who want to advertise and captialize on a claim that they are experiencing miracles. People who experience miracles in reality will tend to keep them sacred and only share them when inspired to do so (Matt. 7: 6).

Charity (pure love of Christ) is the greatest gift of God because God is love. Therefore, chrarity never faileth. When we all go to heaven, there will be no more need for the gifts of healing, or tongues etc. The only characteristic left is love. That is why Charity is greatest.

BRoz said...

The purpose of religion is to empower the individual to repent and come unto Christ (the greatest miracle); and gain a hope, through faith, of salvation and eternal life.

The miracles in the Bible were given to inspire faith. We didnt have to seek them because they are given. Why else would they be there; bragging?. The Bible teaches that the wicked seeketh a sign before they will believe (Matt. 12: 39). However, what we should seek is Jesus Christ through his word and Holy Spirit. Then after we find him, the Bible promises that signs/miracles will follow.