Naive vs. Conscious Literalism

Naive vs. Conscious Literalism October 18, 2008

In a recent post I mentioned the distinction Marcus Borg makes between naive and conscious literalism. At heart, the difference is as follows. Naive literalism involves someone (e.g. a Biblical author) treating something as factually true because he or she has no reason to believe otherwise. So, for instance, in the case of the ascension, why wouldn’t Luke depict Jesus as heading straight up into the sky? Presumably, had Luke lived today, he would have either described the scene differently, or mentioned dilithium crystals.

Conscious literalism means taking something written by a naive literalist, while having information (whether scientific or historical) that was not available to that ancient author, and deliberately choosing to ignore the more recent developments in our knowledge and understanding, and instead treat the naive literalist’s description as entirely factual.

Does this help make clear not just the difference between the two, but why the latter is so very problematic?
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