Yesterday, I wrote a little response to Chris Hallquist’s open call for comments on his book draft. Turns out I had misunderstood how big a claim Chris was making, which he helpfully clarified in a comment, and I’m sure the finished work will help prevent people from making my mistake. I only had two other issues worth commenting on with the chapter, one that’s picayune, and one that’s probably beyond the scope of what Hallquist is trying to do in this chapter. First things first:
Chris mentions that Aquinas and Augustine believed the Bible was inerrant (true!) as a rebuttal to the claim that some fundamentalist claims are recent enough to be written off. Thankfully, he goes on to clarify in the next paragraph:
I need to point out that inerrancy should not be confused with “literalism” about the Bible. Talk of “literalism” is misleading. Among Christians who’ve thought about the issue, few if any think that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. Even young earth creationists—that is, people who accept the literal truth of statements in the Bible which imply the Earth is roughly several thousand years old—do not (with a few exceptions) take the Bible literally when it implies the Earth is flat. And while some creationists reject not only Darwin but also Galileo, others accept that the Bible is not to be taken literally when it implies the Sun goes round the Earth rather than the reverse.
Not only do young earthers use the Bible this way, some are perfectly clear about what they’re doing. For example, young earth creationist Josh McDowell, rather than say we must take everything in the Bible literally, says that passages can be interpreted figuratively only if we can “find a good reason in the passage to justify interpreting figuratively” . This makes “literalism” a misleading term, even when talking about Christians whose interpretation of the Bible is more literal than most.
Merci! But since you brought up Aquinas and Augustine, I’d be pretty happy if you used those guys in this section and contrasted them a little with the Young Earth Creationist’s vague “figuratively.” Just a single sentence that mentions the four kinds of interpretation these guys used, so people don’t have a very specific sense of ‘literalism’ and a super-unspecific sense of not!literalism.
Otherwise, I think a casual reader is going to think you’re making an equivalence between Aquinas’s methodology and your Young Earther, and then us Catholics are going to have a sad, especially when we argue with someone who read this section and then picked a fight with us.