In this video, Os Guinness continues the dialogue regarding how Christians read scripture, and points out the common misconception that a choice must be made between reading scripture literally or faithfully.
Guinness suggests that the trend toward literalism can be illustrated by contemporary pollsters who query evangelicals as to how they read the Bible, that is, whether they believe it to be “literally” true.
Many respond in the affirmative—but what they likely mean is that they read the Bible faithfully, as opposed to literally. Guinness offers an example from Psalms that reads “The mountains skipped like rams” and points out that no one interprets this passage in a literal, wooden way. Instead, readers recognize it as metaphor––figurative language used to paint a picture, not language intended to transmit a literal history of events.
One of the advances in hermeneutics during the Reformation was the understanding that the Bible should be read in accordance with its collected genres. That is, history should be read historically; law should be read legally; and poetry should be read poetically. Christians today know this, but in an effort to remain faithful to their faith and the Bible, they have boxed themselves in by trying to defend a literal reading—even when this is not in keeping with Christian tradition.