In the News

Literal Interpretations and Reading the Bible for all Its Worth

Dave Lose, author of Making Sense of Scripture, and Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, recently contributed to the Huffington Post an article entitled “4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally.” I took an interest in reading the article, as the biblical writers utilized figures of speech (e.g. hyperbole; metonymy; synecdoche), and that there are instances when “Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water.”

A positive point made by Lose is that the Bible does not idealize humanity, but includes all of our warts and wrinkles. Abraham passed on of his wife twice, Moses murdered, David committed adultery, and Peter denied the Lord. “Whatever their accomplishments,” writes Lose, “most of the ‘heroes of the faith’ are complicated persons with feet of clay. And that’s the point: the God of the Bible regularly uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.” Problems also abound with Lose’ article, as the bulk of it is a disappointing criticism Bible inerrancy.

According to Lose, “There is no hint that the authors of the Bible imagined that what they were writing was somehow supernaturally guaranteed to be factually accurate.” Elsewhere in the article he asserts, “Earlier Christians—along with almost everyone else who lived prior to the advent of modernity—simply didn’t imagine that for something to be true it had to be factually accurate, a concern only advanced after the Enlightenment.” Yet, this makes no sense. If God has spoken to us through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, then it can be deduced that the information communicated would be without error. Common to each of the Gospel is teaching on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; yet, if this teaching is not factually accurate, then the theology is also good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot. Paul gets it when in stating: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Inerrancy does matter!

What are the so-called “errors” of Lose? One is Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, which the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke record towards the end of Christ’s ministry in contrast to John who places it at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. It is true that the wooden literalist, whether liberal or conservative, stumbles when coming to grips with the chronology of the Gospel writers, the issue is not the four Gospels contain factual errors; rather, the Bible student is to be sensitive to the literary structures inherent within the biblical text noting the unique ways the Gospel writers under the inspiration of the Spirit constructed their account. There is no contradiction with “Christ’s Cleansing of the Temple.” Lose also makes a fuss about the crucifixion occurring on the Passover in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but on “the Day of Preparation” in John. This is simply making a mountain out of a molehill, and John’s “Day of Preparation” is simply a reference to the Passover week. D. A. Carson writes, “ ‘Passover’ can refer to the Passover meal, the day of the Passover meal, or (as in this case) the entire Passover week (i.e. Passover day plus the immediately ensuing Feast of Unleavened Bread” [1].

Lose’s assertion that “Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally” is correct in so far as it means the wooden literalist interpretation of fundamentalist on the left and on the right only came about in the last hundred and fifty years; however, the allegorical interpretation associated with Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine and other early church fathers can likewise be considered problematic. It is really through the historical grammatical interpretive method that we can come to grips with the intended message communicated through the text.

God has spoken and, while fallible human agents were used to compose the message, these prophets and apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that what was produced was the infallible Word of God. The task of the Bible student is to read God’s Word and using sound principles of hermeneutics, which is the art and science of biblical interpretation, draw out its intended message. For further study on this subject, Has God Spoken by Hank Hanegraaff is highly recommended.

— Warren Nozaki


1. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 604.

Apologetics, Journal Topics

What The Walking Dead Can Teach Pro-Lifers

The Walking DeadThe season finale of The Walking Dead raised an important question for Christians: Are humans nothing more than their physical brains? Are all of my thoughts predetermined by synapse firings in the brain? If so, several things follow. First, personal identity through time and change is impossible. When my physical body changes, my identity changes—meaning I can’t be held responsible from past crimes. Second, rational freedom is a myth. After all, if our thoughts are predetermined, we are not free to think any differently than we do. Indeed, one set of synapse firings is no more rational than the next. Third, rationality itself vanishes. If our minds are the result of blind and irrational forces of nature, why trust them to give us the truth about the world? In a strictly physical universe, survival rather than truth is primary. Fourth, human equality suffers. If human value is reduced to brain function, those with more of it are more human and valuable than those with less. Christian theism offers a more plausible explanation for human nature that can account for personal identity, rational freedom, and human equality. Humans are not mere physical machines, but a dynamic union of body and soul.

Scott Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute and holds an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University. His feature article, “What The Walking Dead Can Teach Pro-Lifers” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 4 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.

Scott Klusendorf will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on Aug. 16, 2011. Tune in at 6PM ET at our website,!

In the News, Journal Topics

Christian Discernment in Response to the Norwegian Massacre

Over the weekend CNN reported Anders Behrig Brevik, the suspect accused of massacring dozens of youth at a Norway retreat center, returned to the scene of the shooting as part of a police investigation. As many can recall, numerous mainstream media (MSM) news sources began reporting that on Friday, July 22, 2011, there was a bombing of government offices in Oslo, Norway, and a connected shooting at a youth summer camp on Utoya Island, which left seventy-seven people dead. [1] The person who confessed to carrying out the attacks being the thirty-two-year-old Norwegian named Anders Behrig Breivik, who was arrested on the same day. [2] MSM sources such as CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times describe Breivik as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” opposed to multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to Norway. Even “Christian” news sources like The Christian Post recapitulated the “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” label to describe Breivek.

Christ’s followers can certainly mourn with those who mourn over this tragedy; however, when mass murderers are labeled “right-wing fundamentalist Christian,” all are encouraged to use discernment in determining truth from error. One must ask, “Just what is a right-wing fundamentalist Christian?” The term right-wing has broad connotations, and it can be used in reference to views expressed in biblical Christianity as well as unbiblical pseudo-Christian ideologies such as those associated with militant extremist groups like Christian Identity and America’s Patriot Movement. As news reports continue to update the situation, one finds Breivik’s views are more akin to the latter than the former.

CNN offered readers’ comments on the question: “Should Breivik be called a Christian fundamentalist?” In a Washington Post op-ed piece entitled “When Christianity becomes lethal,” Susan Brooks Thislethwaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, finds the term Christian fundamentalism to be “less helpful today in understanding right-wing Christianity,” but laments that “Christians are often reluctant to see…connections their religion and extreme violence.” The distinction between biblical Christianity and unbiblical pseudo-Christian ideologies is simply indiscernible in her article.

Biblical Christianity has good reason to reject multiculturalism’s moral relativism and liberal intolerance. Scripture also teaches Jesus is the only way; however, this truth claim is certainly not the grounds for any evil done in Christ’s name, and criticisms on the purported biblical justification of holy wars and divine genocide simply hold no water.

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17, ESV)

—Warren Nozaki


  1. CNN Wire Staff, “Norway Honors Victims of Terrorist Attacks,”
  2. Cf. CNN Wire Staff, “Timeline: Recounting Norway’s three-hour nightmare,”
Apologetics, Journal Topics

Sex, Lies, and Secularism

A collegiate website advises young women how to have a “happy hook-up.” Get “clear consent and mutual agreement to engage in sexual acts,” the article recommends. Then “the whole hookup experience will be more positive for everyone involved.”

Glancing at the author’s bio, I was surprised to learn that she is a student at a conservative Christian college.

When even Christian young people are buying into the hook-up culture, it’s clear that traditional ways of teaching biblical morality are no longer effective. Young people don’t only need rules; they need reasons. They need to learn the worldview rationale that makes sense of biblical morality.

Young people today are caught between two contradictory views of sexuality. A modernist view reduces humans to sheer biological organisms driven by impulse and instinct. By contrast, a postmodern view disconnects gender identity from biology, treating it as a social construction, fluid and changing.

As an example, a few years ago California passed a law requiring schools to permit transgender students to use the restroom or locker room of their preferred gender, regardless of their anatomical sex. The new law defined sex as “gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.” Notice the assumption that a person’s sex is “assigned,” as though it were purely arbitrary instead of an anatomical fact.

In short, postmodernism treats physical anatomy as insignificant, inconsequential, and completely irrelevant to gender identity. This is a devastatingly disrespectful view of the physical body.

Christians must make the case that a biblical worldview affirms a much higher view of the body than any secular view. It offers the radically positive teaching of a Creator who actually likes matter because he created it—a God who affirms our material, biological, sexual nature. Whereas secular views are inevitably dehumanizing, Christianity supports a high and holistic view of the human person.

Nancy Pearcey’s latest book is Saving Leonardo, on which this article is based. She is also the author of the best-selling, award-winning Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity. Pearcey currently teaches at Rivendell Sanctuary. Her feature article, “Sex, Lies, and Secularism” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 4 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription

Nancy Pearcy will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on August 9, 2011! Tune in at 6PM ET at our website,!