David Lose: Clearing up some confusion

In his recent post, David Lose essentially makes the following argument: "I don't read the Bible literally because it is not inerrant." He fleshes this out a little in his opening paragraph:

I was a little shocked to discover that three in ten Americans read the Bible literally. That is, about a third of the American populace takes everything the Bible says at face value, reading as they would a history or science textbook.

There are two problems here as I see it: First, his definition of literal needs nuancing. Second, he makes a necessary connection between his definition of literal and inerrant.

The definition of literal has been a hot topic with Bible readers for quite some time. Evangelicals have been discussing for decades what it means to read the Bible literally. If you took most people who read the Bible literally and examined exactly how they do it, you'd find it's not quite as flat as Lose claims. Most people can intuitively account for different genres like poetry or linguistic tools like figures of speech. When I teach on this subject I certainly drive home the point that the Bible contains different types of writing; some is history, some is story, some is theological teaching. Lose doesn't appear to account for any of these things in his definition of literal.

His necessary connection between a literal reading and inerrancy is also troubling, primarily because of his poor working definition of literal. Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible in the original documents contains no error in any of its affirmations. This doctrine is a corollary of inspiration, which teaches that the Bible originates in God and finds its expression through God's influence over the human authors. The basic point is that if God is the source of the Bible, then God will always speak truthfully and correctly. My point is that it is possible to affirm this doctrine and read the Bible literally in a way that accommodates the nature of language, figures of speech, etc. There is no direct connection between holding to inerrancy and a rigid literalism, like Lose suggests.