When taking the bible literally means NOT reading it literally

I have just listened to Mark Driscoll teaching from the book of Esther in a YouTube episode called 'Good leadership is demonstrating repentance' and I needed to exercise the therapy of blogging to get the frustration out of my system.

After a short pause during which I calmed down from my need to make a passionate response I realised that I still needed to blog about what I have just heard - so here it is.

If you listen to the clip you may notice that he makes a gigantic link between King Xerxes and 21st century marriage in a western context.

And herein lies the problem with those who take a literalist approach to the bible. Far from their stated goal of reading the plain text without adding meaning, he projects a whole host of ideas into a world that would know nothing of the ideas he is trying to prove.

It's as if the whole bible has become a personal parable to be used as a self-help resource to ensure we live as 'good' Christians.

In this episode Xerxes becomes an example of how those who are 'in power' (read husbands, bosses, patents, pastors, and presidents) should learn to repent when they get it wrong.

And this is why such an approach weakens the Bible as a sacred text:

1) His attempts to fuse current contexts with ancient texts means he is asking of it questions that mask any real truths that it might be saying. (we need to read the text and ask 'how am I like Xerxes')

2) He doesn't actually read the bible literally but imposes a pseudo-figurative framework on it. In his reading the main characters are recast: Xerxes the King becomes a complementarian husband, members of the harem become 21st century wives, courtly state events become 'a drunken night out with the guys'.

Somewhat counter-intuitively it seems that taking the bible literally means NOT reading it literally.

So can the book of Esther speak to us today: definitely - but only if we allow it to say what it originally said.

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