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July 25, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

How do you distinguish or interpret the metaphors and the literal parts of the Bible?

How can you distinguish poetic or metaphorical sections from the literal parts of the Bible?

Poetic language usually takes place in story fashion. Literal language can be in story, but the important parts come as principles of living. Making those distinctions isn’t particularly difficult. Loving your neighbor, honesty, and seeking to understand and appreciate the dignity of others are core principles that run throughout the New Testament. God’s grace covers the difference, so exact interpretations aren’t necessary. And surprisingly, there isn’t a great deal of confusion over what virtues are or how that changes lives. And there isn’t a lot of confusion or controversy over first principles. And diversity and conversation about that diversity is something which builds community and the church.

If I interpret all the hero stories in the Bible as myth or metaphor, save Jesus, it doesn’t functionally. In the case of Jesus I have historical record of there being such a person–in fact the consensus of historians say that Jesus did in fact live.

Why do you live by the Bible and Biblical principles?

Well, there are at least two insights there. First, that the universe is ultimately a spiritual and not a physical existence. Second, that living the good life includes attention to love, compassion, brotherhood/sisterhood, responsibility, service, and forgiveness for others. Third, it explains the very nature of existence in terms of temptation and sin–which is the heart of humanities existential crisis. In addition, book like Psalms, Proverbs, 2nd Peter, Romans, Ephesians, and the Gospels all include a reminder to maintain a commitment to virtue and character.

The worldview of faith makes more sense than the worldview of materialism–I find skepticism to debilitating intellectually and spiritually. It doesn’t tell us why we are here and it can’t answer the biggest questions in the universe. It doesn’t make sense that a chaotic universe would have created an earth with fundamental scientific laws–much less what you’d call the “fine tuned universe.”

Resources on Fine Tuned Universe
• Short article to read on the Fine Tuned Universe

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