Could you elaborate more? What do you think it does or doesn’t do?
If they mean that their literal interpretation has to somehow be forced into fitting with scientific realities, that does become problematic. But personally, I get pretty far with just repeating “the Bible isn’t a science textbook.” So what if people thought the sky was a solid dome and the earth rested on pillars over a watery abyss filled with sea monsters. That was their reality and the message of the Bible was contextualized in their reality.
What do you do with the fact that many people arrive at a non-literal interpretation of Genesis with absolutely no reference to science, an ancient earth, or evolution? I think it’s a misconception that all non-literal interpretations are a direct result of science trumping Scripture and people being forced to make Scripture fit a scientific reality. That’s not really the approach most Bible scholars around here use. They are more interested in understanding what the ancient texts meant to the ancient audiences. And it’s no surprise that since they did not have access to knowledge about modern science, their understanding of the world does not reflect knowledge about modern science. A good deal of the re-interpreting of Scripture passages came about not because of developments in biological or geological sciences, but because of developments and paradigm shifts in the discipline of hermeneutics (getting meaning out of texts). We know a lot more (from research in cognitive psychology and linguistics) about how communication works, how people make meaning, how cultural frames influence interpretation and things like that. Bible scholars approach texts differently now, no matter what they know or believe about science.
What does it mean for you to claim “the Bible is true”? Factual? Accurate? Correct? Are there other standards of truthfulness that you would be willing to consider?
I think a lot of people get things backwards because they think the foundation of Christian faith is Scripture. So, they have this idea that if they can just subject the Bible to enough tests and proofs and have it pass with flying colors, then we know the Bible is true and we can trust what it says about Jesus. But the foundation of the Christian faith is the risen Jesus Christ who reconciles us to God. We can be united with Christ through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, and we can encounter God and relate to him as a person. The Bible has authority because the God we relate to personally claims the Bible as his revelation to humanity. It’s true because of the character of God, a character we can experience relationally. It’s true because God is truth, not because it passed a fact-check test. So when we approach the Bible to learn and be convicted and sanctified and discipled, we are doing it in the context of a relationship with God. If someone is not open to the possibility that God is a person who can relate to them and reveal himself through his word, then the Bible really is just another ancient text.