E-mail Scott
Scott's Links
About the Author
Opinion Archives
Social Media:
Google Plus
Monthly Archives:

January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017

Powered by Blogger
Subscribe via RSS

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Literalism and the application of it

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Note: Since I moved the blog between a couple different hosting options, not all of the archives are on ConservaTibbs.com. Therefore, I will occasionally re-post things I wrote before 2010.

This editorial was originally posted in 2008.

I am a literalist. I believe that, in general, the best way to interpret any writing is a word-for-word reading of the actual text of that writing. For example, when Jesus says in John 14:6 that "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me", it should be interpreted literally if one is serious about understanding Christian doctrine. As I said four months ago, the Bible makes it very clear that Christian doctrine necessarily excludes all other faiths. Along the same lines, the best way to interpret the Constitution is with the actual words of the Constitution. When the First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech", it should be interpreted literally.

In political discourse, literalism is important. For example, when I criticized Baron Hill because his September 2006 speech on the Indiana University campus was not open to the public, that does not mean that I believe that every single speech an elected official gives should be open to all members of the public. That would be a foolish position to take, as there are circumstances where that would not be appropriate. My criticism of Baron Hill was specific to that particular speech. Again, the best interpretation of what I wrote is a word-for-word reading of my writings on the issue. When someone dishonestly extends my criticism of Hill to a ridiculous extreme, that person can expect to be called on it.

However, not all language is to be interpreted literally. I have never argued for the literal interpretation of everything. If I was that much of an extreme literalist, I would not use terms like sunrise and sunset. The sun does not actually rise or set, after all. The earth rotates, bringing the sun into view. Sunrise and sunset, then, are terms used to describe the event as we see it from our position on the earth. Not every single thing in the Bible is to be interpreted literally, either. For example, the parable of the Prodigal Son is not meant to be an historically account of a father and his wayward son; it is an illustrative example meant to teach a lesson about how God loves His children.

Sometimes, a word can have a broad or more narrow application. The word sodomite has, throughout history, been used to refer to homosexuals. Supporters of homosexual rights seem to think it is "cute" to point out that sodomy can be practiced by heterosexuals, as if that invalidates the application of the word sodomy to homosexual behavior. Obviously not all acts of sodomy are done by homosexuals, but all sex acts by two people of the same sex can accurately be described as sodomy.

There are things that must be interpreted literally. However, common sense says that there are some things that are not to be interpreted literally. Only a fool denies that both of those principles are true simultaneously. In addition, words can have more than one meaning, depending on the context where that word is used. Every single person who has ever lived, without exception, is and will always be a "cafeteria literalist". The key is to have the discernment to understand what should be interpreted literally and what should not be interpreted literally. Any functioning adult should have the capability to make these judgments.

Below are the rules for commenting on ConservaTibbs.com.

  1. A reasonable level of civility is expected. While it is expected that controversial political and social issues may generate heated debate, there are common-sense limits of civility that will be enforced.

  2. This blog is a family-friendly site. Therefore no cursing, profanity, vulgarity, obscenity, etc. will be allowed. This is a zero-tolerance rule and will result in automatic deletion of the offending post.

  3. Anonymity has greatly coarsened discourse on the Internet, so pseudonyms are discouraged but not forbidden. That said, any direct criticism of a person by name may not be done anonymously. If you criticize someone, you must subject yourself to the same level of scrutiny or the comment will be deleted.

  4. You must put a name or pseudonym on your comments. All comments by "Anonymous" will be deleted.

  5. Please keep your comments relevant to the topic of the post.

Thank you for your cooperation.


At February 17, 2015 at 2:21 PM , Blogger Mike Newton said...  

The obvious problem with biblical literalism lies in the hundreds of contradictions found from Genesis through Revelation. It's impossible for all texts to be true at the same time, period. Can't happen, no matter how "mysterious" the ways of god.