The Problem with Literalists
This Sunday, we will continue our series on “Impossible Christianity” and look at the passage where Jesus teaches us not to retaliate. This Sunday’s passage says when someone slaps us, we are to offer the other side of our faces. It just doesn’t feel fair. We will talk about what this passage might mean for us today. But in this email, I will address another topic I have been asked to address by many.
Many have asked me how some Christians can be so misguided to oppose the vaccine mandate when their arrogant defiance of the public responsibility is causing so many needless deaths. I have been asked how these people could justify their felonious disregard as an act of faith.
It is clear that those who are rejecting vaccines are led astray by the prophets of the false gods of our time, the “literalist” of the Bible. Apostle John, in his second letter, teaches followers of Jesus to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (2 John 4:1) He warns that there are many false prophets, and the way to test the spirit is to see how they show love for others. John is clear that love is from God, and those who do not love are not from God.
Furthermore, the problem of literalists, however, is the lack of consistency in their hermeneutics. Their starting point of hermeneutics is their militaristic culture and not the sacred text. They start with what they want the Bible to say, and then they make up an interpretative process that fits their ideology. (Please note that I did not call it theology as God is not included in their belief system). They claim to worship God, but it is also obvious that their object of worship is not the God of the Bible, but they worship the Wild-Lawless-West culture of the 1800s based on Western European ethos of domination and prosperity at all cost.
At the foundation of the current misplaced loyalty to God is the acceptance of the medieval concept of literal creationism, which espoused the idea that the world was created in literally seven 24 hour days. They quote Genesis 1 as literal history. The belief in creationism dismisses science as human creation so when scientists developed the vaccine, it was dismissed as an anti-God thing.
But the hypocrisy is that when obeying the Bible becomes inconvenient, they dismiss the commands of the Bible and rely on their own flawed and sinful wisdom. In Romans 13:1, Paul makes it clear that all governmental authorities are from God and must be obeyed in order to obey God.
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Paul’s wisdom must be followed concomitantly with John’s words, and we are to evaluate the acts of government through the lens of love. In the case of vaccines and masks, the mandates are for the common good, to protect all people. Being able to be inconvenienced to protect others is a way we can show love. Our actions for the common good are an act of faith and a way we can proclaim our faith in Jesus of the Bible. Those who claim to believe in the Bible should be the first people to line up for the jabs and the first ones to cover their faces.
It is clear that the failure of the literalists is that they do not take the Bible seriously enough. They do not take the time to glean the wisdom God provides to navigate our lives in the post-modern, post-church world. Let us be the people of faith and take the Bible seriously and accept it as the sacred text to provide us wisdom for our common life.