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Literalism and the text of Scripture

By Scott Tibbs, August 16, 2010

We live in a depraved culture that hates absolute truth and distinctions. As such, we have tossed aside the concept of facts, and embraced both moral relativism and factual relativism. As my pastor pointed out a few months ago, the world's only absolute is that "there is no truth--only stories, perspectives, and narratives; only my truth and your truth." In an environment where nothing is real, a legitimate discussion of anything is impossible. Rather than making us more tolerant of each other, it has divided us. Common ground is impossible because even facts are open to "interpretation."

This is why it is so critical for Christians in modern society to be literalists, clinging only to the literal, word-for-word text of Scripture. Obviously, not everything in Scripture should be interpreted literally. Jesus rebuked His disciples when they took Him literally after He spoke about the "leaven of the Pharisees." (Matthew 16:6-12)

Consider the text of Genesis 9:20-27. In times past, this text has been perverted by wicked and ungodly men to justify white supremacist ideology, specifically enslavement of blacks by whites. Sadly, this was used by "christians" in the United States to justify the continuation of slavery. But there is a major problem with this perversion of Scripture.

There is absolutely nothing in the literal, word-for-word text of those verses that in any way indicates that blacks should be slaves to whites. Using Genesis 9:20-27 to support white supremacist ideology is completely unsupported anywhere in Scripture. White Europeans (and their American decedents) were never part of God's chosen people; we are "grafted in" to the new covenant when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8) Furthermore, given the historic context, Jesus Christ was almost certainly dark-skinned.

There are a great many commentaries on Scripture that are very valuable in helping the Christian understand God's Word. Each Sunday in millions of Bible-believing churches, the sermons are commentaries on Scripture, not simply a reading of the text. But commentaries, sermons, books, podcasts or anything else must be submissive to the literal, word-for-word text of Scripture itself, not to whatever fad is popular at the moment. The best commentary on Scripture is always Scripture itself.