Biblical Literalism Introduction.
Welcome to the exploration of biblical interpretation: the debate over literalism. At the heart of numerous church teachings lies a pivotal question: Should the Bible be taken literally? The answer influences how believers practice their faith, view the world, and interact with others.
This blog shares churches that split after disagreements about the Bible, 17 biblical passages that present challenges if taken literally, and ten passages that focus on women.
And a conclusion suggests Christians should ‘agree to disagree’ and focus on spreading the Gospel message instead.
5 churches that split after disagreements about Biblical interpretation, including Biblical Literalism.
Disagreements over biblical interpretation, including the issue of literalism, have historically led to divisions within Christian denominations and the formation of new churches. Here are five examples where disagreements have played a role in church splits.
- Southern Baptist Convention (SBC): In the late 20th century, the SBC experienced a significant rift over issues, including biblical inerrancy, leading to the formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
- Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS): The division between the PCUS and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973 was partly due to differing views on biblical interpretation and inerrancy.
- Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS): In the 1970s, the LCMS split over issues including biblical interpretation, leading to the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, which later merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
- Worldwide Church of God: After doctrinal changes in the late 20th century that moved away from literal interpretations of certain scriptures, several splinter groups formed, including the United Church of God and the Philadelphia Church of God.
- Church of Christ, Scientist: The Christian Science movement, founded by Mary Baker Eddy, was partly in response to mainstream Christian interpretations of the Bible, offering a more symbolic and spiritual reading, especially concerning healing.
These splits demonstrate how differing approaches to biblical interpretation, including the degree of literalism applied, can significantly impact church unity and the formation of new denominations. Putting time and effort into disagreements about the Bible reduces the church’s ability to spread the Gospel message.
17 Biblical passages presenting challenges or problematic conclusions if taken literally
While significant, the debate over biblical literalism among Christians should not overshadow the central tenets of Christianity — the teachings, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians of varying interpretative traditions share a common faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, which is the unifying core of their belief system.
This shared belief in Christ’s transformative message of love, grace, and redemption is far more pivotal than differing views on scriptural interpretation.
Agreeing to disagree on biblical literalism allows Christians to focus on the essential aspects of their faith, fostering unity and cooperation. Jesus’ teachings emphasised love, compassion, forgiveness, and serving others, universal Christian values transcending interpretative differences. By prioritising these teachings, Christians can work together more effectively in serving their communities and embodying the values of their faith.
Moreover, embracing diversity in biblical interpretation can enrich the faith community, providing a broader understanding and deeper appreciation of the Bible’s multifaceted nature. It encourages dialogue, mutual respect, and a collective pursuit of truth. In essence, the call for unity in Christ over division in interpretation is a call to embody the grace and understanding that Jesus himself taught and lived.