-When to take Scripture “literally” and when not to-
When reading the Bible ALL of us (as Believers) have to choose for different reasons which scriptures to take more literally and which ones are employing metaphors, allegories, idioms/figures of speech, hyperbole, signs-and-symbols, etc. Again, we ALL do this. Some would like to say that they do not and only read the Bible “literally” but that simply isn’t true at all. For example:
In the Calvinist system it is believed that:
-God does not have emotion(s); He’s above-and-beyond having emotion.
-in eternity past God sovereignly predetermined every single thing that would ever happen in human history in absolutely every sense. No free will, no actual decisions or choices, only a God who LITERALLY controls EVERYTHING, period, no exceptions.
Thus, based on these two presuppositions (taken from Greek philosophy, then picked up by Augustine, then picked up again by Luther and Calvin, most notably) that the Calvinist system plasters over scripture and makes scripture conform to, any and all scriptures that ever portray God as having emotions of any kind, or that portray God changing His mind, or that show humans making actual decisions (which is portrayed on every page of scripture) are therefore considered hyperbolic, metaphoric language.
And while it’s perhaps a little easier to show this in the Calvinist system, quite frankly, because of how utterly absurd it is, it’s nonetheless true that every theological system MUST and DOES also have to decide when and where to do the same thing; that is, decide which scriptures are more literal and which are employing metaphors and the like.
So, the question is, at the end of the day what is the best way to navigate through this important scriptural issue? Does scripture itself give us any kind of an answer or insight to help us work through this? Thankfully, it does! We have an absolutely rock solid way to sift and work through these kinds of issues in Scripture! How so? What’s the answer?
The Answer is: JESUS! Jesus Himself (The Eternal Almighty God in the Flesh) came to humanity and gave utter clarity and set the “what-is-God-actually-like” record straight once and for all! According to Jesus (Who is God), God is EXACTLY, PRECISELY, COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY, FULLY JUST LIKE HIM!!!
Therefore, we can put all of our proverbial eggs in the “God-is-just-like-Jesus” basket. That is the one thing that we can unwaveringly bank on! As it’s been said, “God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We’ve not always known that, but now we do.”
Thus, and finally, when navigating through the many intricacies of Scripture we KNOW based on God’s authority Himself in the Person of Jesus that God is eternally JUST LIKE Jesus, and therefore anything in Scripture that portrays God as being contrary to the nature and actions of God revealed in Jesus, there must of necessity be something else going on. It may be metaphoric language, it may be an allegory, it may be a parable, it may be the darkened, culturally-conditioned, pagan-influenced, blinded-by-sin-death-and-the-Law mind of the author, or it may be something else. But, one thing we can know beyond any and all shadow of doubt is that the eternal, immutable God is perfectly revealed in Jesus and anything or anyone that says otherwise is simply misinformed, incorrect, wrong, etc.
Hebrews 1:3 – “The Son is the dazzling radiance of God’s splendor, the exact expression of God’s true nature—his mirror image!…”