The dangers of reading Scripture through the lenses of a simplified literal modern understanding.

There is a danger for the Christian to read Scripture with a simple literal understanding.

Take for example Mark 11 where Jesus teaches on prayer. A modern understanding of it would be that Jesus is teaching us that what ever we desire we can ask God in faith and if we don’t doubt we will receive what we want….so many set their desires on asking God for what ever it is they want.

Mar 11:22  Jesus told his disciples, “Have faith in God!
Mar 11:23  I tell you with certainty, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ if he doesn’t doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
Mar 11:24  That is why I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.
Mar 11:25  “Whenever you stand up to pray, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.
Mar 11:26  But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”

Yet the historical Biblical context of that teaching is rooted in Deut 4 where Moses tells the Israelites that after God has punished them for turning away – if they seek the Lord their God with all their heart mind and strength they shall find what they are looking for which is God!

The casting of the mountain down in Greek actually says if you have God’s faith…or the Faith of God… not if you have Faith in God… which creates a whole new nuance of thought… the mountain Jesus is pointing to is the Temple on the mountain and again we see a reference to what God says to King Solomon that he will honour the temple as long as it is used to honour him…by the king / nation….when it is stopped being used for that purpose – God will cause the temple to be cast down and destroyed…which we saw happen in the time of captivity.

While the Christian message is simple to understand; in that all have sinned and are in need of forgiveness and that God offers the free gift of forgiveness towards all who turn to him and ask him. We also need to understand that the Scriptures are based in a culturally different environment to our own and that we do the Scriptures a disservice if we read them in a simple literal fashion without exploring the richness in how they speak .

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About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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5 Responses to The dangers of reading Scripture through the lenses of a simplified literal modern understanding.

  1. tildeb says:

    Ah yes, the ‘message is so simple’ claim and then the switch to emphasizing contextual complex interpretations… where we quickly learn that we cannot assume the words mean what they say they mean in the order in which they appear but must be expertly interpreted to arrive at the correct contextual message of what they are intended to mean, what they represent. And why? Because we’re dealing with a peek-a-boo god, and we need obvious assistance to root out his peek-a-boo message, to then have help to correctly interpret the godly bits of his peek-a-boo scripture here to explain if this bit is figurative or literal here which informs whether that bit over there is figurative or literal. How else can we get jesus to say what he supposedly says (which is factually incorrect), claim what he supposedly claims (that is factually wrong), and avoid the obvious connection between jesus and his factual mistakes? Well, the best way is to interpret the factual inaccuracies so that they become correct, you see, that we move from being shown errors and inaccuracies to believing these errors in fact are metaphorical, figurative, context-dependent references that don’t mean what they only appear to mean but actually mean something quite different, something less… wrong. Because the uncomfortable fact of the matter is that prayer is not efficacious. Prayer does not cause effect. Regardless of where or at what jesus is pointing, his claim about prayer is factually inaccurate. And this is the uncomfortable truth independent of context, independent of interpretation of experts and apologists, independent of what people would like to believe is true. Prayer is equivalent in all ways to wishful thinking.

    Knowing this as we do, the bigger problem raised here, Craig, is figuring out some reliable source to differentiate between the figurative and literal messages of scripture. Because if you claim figurative meaning to avoid the obvious inaccuracies here, then who is to say we shouldn’t do the same for other inaccuracies… like rising from the dead, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and so on? How do we know the very central tenets of christianity itself are not literally true – that jesus lived, felt dawn, saw sunset’s glow, loved and was loved, and was later raised from the dead – but should to be understood contextually to represent figurative notions in story form?

    • Craig Benno says:

      Again you have missed the point Tildeb… and have not read the contextual meaning of what I said. 🙂

      Actually I dispute your assertion that prayer is not efficaciousness. You cannot scientifically prove prayer; for its not a scientific thing that you can manipulate. I don’t know your father or mother. If I was to ask them to give me something – they would probably tell me to get on my bike and git. The same would be with my parents towards you. Thoough depending on the request and the circumstances – they may agree to it.

      A scientist in a lab cannot say prayer doesn’t work, just because they can’t manipulate the results. There are many scientists who do believe and have a relationship with God, who do believe in the power of prayer, because they understand it as being an essential part of their relationship with God. And those same scientists have had many experiences where God has answered their prayer.

      • tildeb says:

        No, Craig. If you want, I can provide you with reams of studies that looked specifically at the efficacy of prayer and found it lacking efficacy. That’s the result. That’s not me saying that because I hold that opinion; I hold that opinion because there has yet to be a good study that showed efficacy. You want to believe it is efficacious so you presume it is. Yet when put in blind studies with a control, prayer doesn’t work. It’s just that simple… regardless of what you want to believe.

        So, yes indeed, Craig: the scientific consensus can be sounded by anyone that prayer has been shown unequivocally not to cause effect (beyond placebo), meaning we can say with nothing but confidence (unless you can show otherwise in a good study with a control group) that prayer does not work. We have no good evidence that it does. Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but that’s the way it is.

        It does not matter what you or I believe about prayer. It does not matter matter what people say about prayer. It does not matter what scripture says about prayer. To date and as far as we know prayer does not work. And it doesn’t work probably because there is no known mechanism to transfer thoughts sent out as prayers through some unseen but present agency that is somehow able to redirect these thoughts into meaningful actions that alter reality. That’s why amputees don’t grow new limbs in spite of fervent praying; sorry, but that’s the fact. Rain does not fall because of praying; economics does not alter because of prayer; cancer is not cured by prayer; dead people don’t reanimate because of prayer; time does not go backwards because of prayer; falling artillery shells do not divert because of someone in a foxhole praying; and so on. Prayer – in spite of beliefs to the contrary – does not cause effect in reality… except in the brains of people busy praying, and fMRIs show a reduced blood flow to certain areas of the brain in nuns and meditating people. But this reduced blood flow only causes perceptual changes in the people being scanned and does not translate into efficacious changes outside of the person praying. The best we can do is suggest that praying may help people feel better as if they have actually done something efficacious but we know that the praying itself causes no directed effect (beyond placebo).

        All this being said, my point is that I am one of those people who am willing to believe that people believe what scripture actually says. While you’re busy reinterpreting such blatant examples as the stated efficacy of prayer to mean something other than what it says – and call it context – I am willing to believe people believe factually incorrect claims about the universe we share. I believe a muslim who says that he or she measures his or her faith by strict adherence to the koran, and I understand why there is no such thing as a ‘fundamentalist’ in islam; one is either a good muslim – and tries to do what the koran tells him or her to do – or one is a bad muslim – and who does not try hard enough to do what the koran commands. There is no room for context and interpretation of muhommed’s writings; there is only submission.

        So although you have the luxury to rework the square peg scripture into the round hole of what is true in reality by various interpretive techniques, please remember that some people actually believe what scripture says. And as far as I can tell, there is no way to differentiate among all you believers who is right and who is not.

      • Craig Benno says:

        Your very words have proven your bias Tildeb. I have posted a number of times about my experience of answered prayer. The church I go to is formed of people who consistently have answered prayers. The church I go to, is but a drop in the ocean of the global church who experience answers to prayer. I have told you of a number of miracles that have happened in my life through answered prayer…but in your world view, miracles do not happen and therefore you automatically discount such an experience. And you discount all others testimonies of having had prayer answered.

        Because you discount such a vast witness of answered prayer – you then have the audacity to say that prayer has been proven to be wrong – simply because its proven by the vast amount of “Acceptable” evidence which proves otherwise.

      • tildeb says:

        You are claiming efficacy for prayer, Craig, that prayer causes effect and you have lots of evidence to back this up. So book your flight to Stockholm now because there’s a Nobel prize in physics with your name on it if you speak truly about reality. Imagine what good you could do with your prize money. If what you say is true, then this is shattering news; the basis of reality upon which our sciences have been built are fundamentally wrong and you can prove it with this evidence of efficacious prayer. Don’t hold back, Craig: the world needs to know the truth. Go for it.

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