Fundamentalists Don’t Actually Read The Bible Literally

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 14 2012 @ 3:21pm

Pivoting off James Barr's The Scope and Authority of the Bible, Lee McCracken sighs at the way Christianists read the Bible, especially the way the "literal" meaning of the text is jettisoned when it conflicts with their theological presuppositions:

The point Barr makes is that, contrary to what is often said, fundamentalism doesn’t mean reading the Bible "literally." Rather, its distinguishing mark is a doctrine of inerrancy that is frequently at odds with a literal reading:

It is often said that fundamentalists are ‘people who take the Bible literally’. This however is a mistake. Fundamentalist interpretation concentrates not on taking the Bible literally, but on taking it so that it will appear to have been inerrant, without error in point of fact. Far from insisting that interpretation should be literal, it veers back and forward between the literal sense and a non-literal sense, in order to preserve the impression that the Bible is, especially in historical regards, always ‘right’. . . . It is the inerrancy of the Bible, especially its truth in historical regards, that is the fundamentalist position, and not the notion that it must always be interpreted literally. (pp. 77-8)