Literalism, Critical Thinking and Science around the Blogosphere

Let’s start this collection of links with Adam Kotsko’s post on literalism. Here’s a sample:

I sometimes had to fight an uphill battle with secular liberal students who basically took fundamentalists at their word that they were following the Bible “literally” and who felt that such “literalism” was somehow the most authentic form of religion.

Throughout my time there, I would emphasize the fact that a literal reading of the whole of Scripture that sticks to the “plain sense” and comes out with a single meaning is impossible. First, there are clear surface-level contradictions, and as soon as you start coming up with ways to explain that away, you’re not being literal anymore. Similarly with the strategy of prioritizing certain books or passages over others (the “canon within the canon” approach) — while such an approach is basically unavoidable, it is also not “literal” because the Bible doesn’t come with its own meta-text telling you which parts to emphasize.

Joel Watts linked to a post by Karl Giberson on recognizing the importance of identifying and listening to sources with expertise. Here’s a quote:

We do ourselves — and our poor high school students — no favors when we juxtapose the conventional wisdom of an entire community of scholars with that of a few fringe voices and invite people to choose which idea they like the best.

Joel also links to a post addressing the feeling people sometimes have of betraying their faith after they grow out of fundamentalism.

Mason talks about why ignorance isn’t strength.

Jesus Creed discusses whether there is conflict between religion and science.

Hemant Mehta describes what Ken Ham and others say at a home schooling convention.

For some more interesting science posts, try Justin Topp’s set of links.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest hinderance to a civil society is the lack of information concerning “models of reality” (such understandings also impact how what we value and our political stance toward policy issues) and understanding that one’s understanding is conditioned by certain values, whether consciously chosen or not…..

  • angievandemerwe

    The biggest hinderance to a civil society is the lack of information concerning “models of reality” (such understandings also impact how what we value and our political stance toward policy issues) and understanding that one’s understanding is conditioned by certain values, whether consciously chosen or not…..

  • Anonymous

    “I would emphasize the fact that a literal reading of the whole of
    Scripture that sticks to the “plain sense” and comes out with a single
    meaning is impossible.”

    Would this also apply to Galatians 1:14?

  • beallen0417

    “I would emphasize the fact that a literal reading of the whole of
    Scripture that sticks to the “plain sense” and comes out with a single
    meaning is impossible.”

    Would this also apply to Galatians 1:14?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @beallen0417:disqus , I think you misread what he wrote. He is suggesting that anyone who reads the Bible as a whole and thinks it has a single unified perspective/meaning has ignored a lot that is in there. Are you trying to suggest that, because he wrote that, then one cannot make better, coherent sense of what an individual author wrote?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @beallen0417:disqus , I think you misread what he wrote. He is suggesting that anyone who reads the Bible as a whole and thinks it has a single unified perspective/meaning has ignored a lot that is in there. Are you trying to suggest that, because he wrote that, then one cannot make better, coherent sense of what an individual author wrote?

  • Don Harden

    The Internet does have a weird evangelizing effect on ex-Christians in my experience. Here in Australia, people who believe the Bible is literally true are a distinct minority. Most Christians don’t treat that view very seriously.

    And yet, I’ve met on-line Australian ex-Christians of the latter sort who suddenly seem to think that the only true Christians are those who treat the Bible literally. Very strange.

  • Anonymous

    It strikes me that using Galatians 1:14 as a prooftext against other texts like 1 Cor 10:4 is certainly creating a “canon within the canon” and I thought that was the author’s argument. Perhaps I was wrong.

  • Don Harden

    The Internet does have a weird evangelizing effect on ex-Christians in my experience. Here in Australia, people who believe the Bible is literally true are a distinct minority. Most Christians don’t treat that view very seriously.

    And yet, I’ve met on-line Australian ex-Christians of the latter sort who suddenly seem to think that the only true Christians are those who treat the Bible literally. Very strange.

  • beallen0417

    It strikes me that using Galatians 1:14 as a prooftext against other texts like 1 Cor 10:4 is certainly creating a “canon within the canon” and I thought that was the author’s argument. Perhaps I was wrong.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Evan, is your view that Paul thought Christ was igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Evan, is your view that Paul thought Christ was igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary?

  • Anonymous

    Sedimentary rocks transmit water the best, but igneous and metamorphic rocks move more, so this is a complicated exegetical question. Since I’m not sure if petra in Koine connotes a specific rock formation or if it easily translates to the English “rock”, I have to defer judgment.

  • beallen0417

    Sedimentary rocks transmit water the best, but igneous and metamorphic rocks move more, so this is a complicated exegetical question. Since I’m not sure if petra in Koine connotes a specific rock formation or if it easily translates to the English “rock”, I have to defer judgment.

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