Thursday, May 21, 2009

Biblical Literalism

Wikipedia defines Biblical literalism as
"the interpretation or translation of the explicit and primary sense of words in the Bible. A literal, Biblical interpretation is associated with the fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to Scripture, and is used by most conservative Christians today. The essence of this approach focuses upon the author's intent as the primary meaning of the text. Literal interpretation does place emphasis upon the referential aspect of the words or terms in the text. It does not, however, mean a complete denial of literary aspects, genre, or figures of speech within the text (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, or metaphor). Also literalism does not necessarily lead to total and complete agreement upon one single interpretation for any given passage."

"...Sociologists also use the term in reference to conservative Christian beliefs which include not just literalism but also inerrancy."
Yup. That's what I believe and how I approach the Bible. In fact, I don't know why you would approach it any other way. Either it's the Word of God to us and meant to be taken seriously, or it's not. And if it's not, why waste your time with it?

The Wikipedia article also says that,
"Often the term Biblical literalism is used as a pejorative to describe or ridicule the interpretative approaches of fundamentalist or evangelical Christians."
Which I didn't know. I do know that when I was writing The Enclave, particularly when I was in Reinhardt's viewpoint, I kept thinking how in literature the voices of particular groups of people are prized. The voice of a person growing up poor and black. The voice of an Asian immigrant. The voice of a Muslim, of a Jew, of an immigrant Irishman. These are prized. Why not the voice of a Christian who takes the Bible seriously and literally and builds his life upon it, then? Isn't that another, different voice? Well, it may be different, but I'm pretty sure it's not prized.

Given who runs this world today, and forms the general world view of our culture, that's no surprise. Even in Jesus's day, He warned us:

"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." John 15:18,19
That final line of the PW review says, "Visionary fiction is a narrow niche, and the Christian biblical literalism driving key action in the plot won’t do much to enlarge the audience."

In other words, don't say what you really think and what you really believe if you want to have any readers. Well, then, maybe I won't have any, because what would be the point of writing at all if I didn't proclaim God's Truth as I understand and believe it? What would be the point of writing if I sought to hide my light under a bushel for fear of turning someone off? If you write about God, about Jesus, about the Truth, you are going to turn someone off. Guaranteed.

We are told as writers to write what we know, what we're passionate about, what we believe to be true, to write from our experience and from our own souls. To set down what we really think and stop trying to hide it, stop trying to beat around the bush for fear of being criticized or of offending someone. I agree with that. But I also know that if you do that, you may pay a price. A number of writers have. Salman Rushdie comes to mind. Solzhenitsyn. Watchman Nee. They paid a lot heftier of a price than just failing to build their readership (and for that I can give thanks that I live in America!). Still, I have to go back to why I'm doing this at all, and it's because God's called me to do it. Come what may.