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Subject:  Re: Religionists miss the scale of things Date:  3/14/2005  10:54 AM
Author:  bdhinton Number:  143738 of 529366

Loren: In any event, the dogmatic insistence of fundamentalists in the non-metaphorical nature of the Bible leads me to wonder why this literal truth is so important to them. After all, Jesus spoke often in parables to his followers, so why should not the Bible speak to us in allegory? But apparently this idea is not acceptable even in the slightest degree. I would be very interested in your opinions on why they think this way.

I have not come across the people you speak of, who insist that the entire Bible is literal.

I think the problem is more likely, which portions of the Bible are to be understood literally, and which in some other way. For example, I have never heard of Christians who interpret Jesus's counsel to "be like doves" to mean that we should lay eggs. Do these people you speak of still have eyes, or do they never lust (and so would not need to follow the suggestion that it would be better to enter heaven with one eye, than hell with two).

The issue I think is how to interpret Genesis. Parables are easy to distinguish from narrative, and poetry is easy to distinguish from history in my experience with the Bible. It's not rocket science. These genres are distinguished by their features, not by whether they conform to modern scientific knowledge.

Those who take Genesis as literal history therefore ususally do it on the basis of the features of the text, the form of the text. Is it poetic? Is it parable? Does it have any features by which to judge it as something other than historical narrative?

They feel that they are being consistent in their approach to the Bible as a whole, when they judge Genesis to be historical, because to them it lacks the features that would put it in another category.

But then (in my opinion) they misinterpret the text that they have correctly judged as historical, and read into the text and insist on just one possible interpretation, and the error cascades from there.

I think your suspicions about fear are right. Once you allegoricalize Genesis (with no apparant basis), why couldn't you just do the same with any other portion that doesn't comply with modern human understandings of justice, right and wrong, etc. and just create a religion to suit the fancy of each society? I think they rightly conclude the faith becomes meaningless at that point.

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