Literal versus Metaphorical

Interpretive Literalism * (-1) = Allegorical Observationalism. An examination of doctrinal inverses.

Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious. 

Article in Aeon Mag. By Christopher Graney His latest book is Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science Against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo (2015)

Enjoyed a discussion yesterday with a literalist / flat-earth believer about the age of the earth / creation. Many assertions (proofs) he cited (but didn’t actually understand) I recognized as pseudo-science. He’s absorbing and regurgitating bunk published by places like The Institute for Creation Science and Flat Earth Societies.

Before we (that is we the Church) fussed over the age of the earth, the Church and its science told us the sun revolved around the earth and that the earth was flat. If you’re asking “How did we stop paying attention to reality in the 21st century?” Mr. Graney shares some very entertaining and informative observations in that Aeon article. I’d summarize by mentioning “Those who fail to learn from history …”

A stalwart and well respected defender of 6 day creation is Ravi Zacharias … And I love him  – no really, I do!  ( … in his book “Jesus and other Gods” he relates a story about confounding men of science by asking what came before the Big Bang — which is a reiteration of the classic “prime mover” argument for God’s existence, isn’t it? (The argument is from Aristotle — the Unmoved Mover.)

But now we enjoy knowing that infinity doesn’t require a dimension of time. Which is to say that there was no “before.” God says I am the Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end.) That doesn’t mean our cosmos contains Him and He exists across eons, but the reverse – that He contains the cosmos. Eons are something God made. Like I do pancakes. The first ones are a little half-baked. By the time the batter begins to run out, I’m making beauties. I’m not saying God makes mistakes – but I am saying any dimension of time has a beginning, a middle and an end. God has no beginning or middle or end.

Infinity, is by it’s definition, dimensionless. Understanding the expanse of God or what came before creation, really has no meaning because we are contained by the cosmos. We are limited, He is limitless. There was no “before” the Big Bang (if that’s how He – God – accomplished bringing what we see in nature into existence.) Just like the idea that some kind of physics existed before the Big Bang – this has no meaning.

Nature actually instructs us. If we’re listening. But it’s God who instructs Nature. May I just say, it’s never a good thing when believers try to use God’s “Word” to define nature, and then endeavor to bend science to fit those explanations. This is Interpretive Literalism. God cites creation frequently in scripture when He talks about himself. He spoke creation, our cosmos into existence. Words in a book can’t come close to an echo of that. Interpretive Literalism isn’t His way.  But we can glimpse truth in allegory, metaphor and pictures. Jesus used these saying “The Kingdom of God is like…” often. He liberally pictured God’s nature for us. Nature as we experience it is God’s first and primary witness. Nature stands as Gods witness on its own merit. Allegorical Observationalism is to learn from natural parables. Nature can’t lie because God doesn’t deceive.

How did we get things so out of order? This is why a rational (er… Godless) explanation of how nature works (literally) permits us to orbit satellites and travel to Mars. The truth is (literally), the only sufficient means to prevent cargo from burning up on reentry. If I interpret physics based on biblical literalism – good luck understanding why I keep loosing the reentry vehicle.

My cell phone works because physics requires the cosmos to operate literally. My faith works because God speaks metaphorically. In those analogs I can hear Him.

I can say yes, Creation took “six days” AND 14.8B years. Just like I agree that Jesus was fully God AND fully man. I don’t need to understand how that works. The metaphor is there to help me.

I use the phrase “Interpretive Literalism” to indicate how falsehood (the interpretive) follows from literal rigidity. The Pharisees in Jesus time suffered this delusion. Multiplying (try to imagine this) that phrase by -1 (which means “taking it’s inverse”) yields a truthful converse that could be understood as “Allegorical Observationalism.” Just look at all those pictures! Jesus used parables to hide the truth and it was hidden from those who suffered the delusion of legalism.

Don’t say “God said it, I believe it” absent a genuine encounter that observes truth in action. Pseudo Science can’t produce real understanding. Genuine understanding of natural phenomena will keep an orbital reentry vehicle on the proper trajectory, like NASA does … it prevents the cargo from being reduced to ash.

I’ll say it another way:

“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” John 6:65

Which illuminates:

What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” John 7:36

Something about presuming we know, literally, from scripture about how nature works blinds us to the truth. We can’t get to the truth “from there.”

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