From the EAC:
An Eight-Step Guide to Bible Literalism through Christian Apologetics
Accept the divine, absolute, and literal truth of the Bible.
This is by far the most important step: If the Bible isn't the literal and absolute truth, we might as well just give up the whole game right now.
Redefine "literal" when needed.
Yes, the Bible is a the literal word of God. We all know that from step one. But does this mean that every word is supposed to be taken literally? The answer is yes, except in those cases where it isn't.
For example, the Bible clearly says that God hates homosexuality. That part is literal. The bible also says that God hates mixing different fibers in clothing. That part is not literal.
Now, critics will ask "Ok, but how did you decide?" If this happens, do not panic. A few simple rules of thumb will help:
Shortcut: Before applying these rules, ask the questioner if he or she is an atheist. If so, mention that some famous atheist writer or another is a god to them and then you don't have to proceed any further. It's in the rules, I checked.
a) Everything in the Bible is literally true until it is questioned.
b) If the section is question is not in contradiction with anything else in the Bible, it is most likely literally true.
c) If the section is question is in seeming contradiction with something else in the Bible, it is a possible candidate for requiring interpretation.
d) If the section is question is in seeming contradiction with something in the outside world, it is a possible candidate for requiring interpretation.
e) If the section is question would lead to ridiculous or uncomfortable conclusions if taken at face value, it is a possible candidate for requiring interpretation.
Note the words "possible" and "candidate" on these last few: the preferred situation by far is to have everything be literally true. In cases where this is unfortunately not possible, your job as an apologist is to properly interpret the nearly literal statements to make them figuratively literal and relevant again.
Many non-apologists incorrectly assume that since God wrote the Bible, it should be clear, concise, and without the need for interpretation. We apologists know better. The real skill is to know when the Bible is clear, concise and not needing interpretation, but also to know when it does. Following the rules above will show you the way.
So, God hating homosexuality is literal. God hating mixing diverse fibers in clothing is not literal. Perhaps it is a metaphor for not mixing with other races, or possibly it has to do with the way the ancients divided their world into categories, or following the practice of not mixing fibers was a sign of love for God, or it only applied to the ancients and not to modern people, etc. Which one you choose is not important. The important part is that you can now wear wool and linen at the same time without being sent to hell, but still know that Liberace is there.
Important Note Some "Newage Christians" might try to use this step to say that Genesis allows for evolution if you read it just right. For reasons I won't go into right now, this is incorrect.
In a similar manner, when God says to keep some law "forever", it may or may not mean a literal "forever". To find out if it was meant literally, just look around:
Is the law still practiced by Christians today?
Do you think it should be practiced today?
If the answer to either of these is "yes", then it probably meant "forever" literally. If not, check to see if a later passage says something which would lead you to believe it wasn't a literal "forever". Chances are it was not a literal "forever". It could have been just a metaphor for "a good long time" and only said "forever" as a kind of hyperbole to show He meant it really good and proper.
There is one caveat though: while it may be all well and good to interpret large portions of the Bible as metaphor and hyperbole, you should still know that those sections are still literally true and not at all the same as saying the Bible should be read as an allegory today.
And always remember, it's you, the apologist, who gets to apply these rules and interpretations; not the critics. So if someone else's interpretation of a section makes the Bible say something you personally disagree with, you can simply discard it. You must always keep in mind the purpose of this whole project is to make the Bible literally true and relevant for today: so, anything that makes it worse is obviously not a proper interpretation.
Another, more advanced, technique in re-interpreting so-called problem sections takes a bit of practice: pretend to learn ancient Hebrew and Greek better than almost anyone else so you can re-translate a section to know what was "really meant" instead of the meaning from the more common translation that is causing the problem.
An example of this would be the global flood in Genesis. If you think this is causing a problem because of a (supposed) total lack of evidence of such an event, just say that when it said "all" the world was flooded, the word that was used in the old text was really not intended to mean "all" like it is commonly translated, it really just meant "some part of" the world. But again, this is optional: You could take any number of angles to make it literally true.
Many many "problems" can be set straight by interpretation. However, I cannot stress enough that you should only attempt to re-translate and interpret those sections being questioned. You would not want to go to a random passage and see if there are any mis-translated words or areas that can be taken as hyperbole. So do not, under any circumstances, interpret or re-translate a section which no one is questioning, those are by definition already literally true!
The best part of re-interpretation is that you can still believe in the common meaning when you want: you only have to acknowledge the re-interpreted meaning when someone questions it, which is the subject of our next step:
Learn to believe two or more contradictory ideas simultaneously.
Helpful Tip: Use this step to believe in the Trinity.
You, as a Bible apologist, should be able to believe any number of mutually contradictory ideas. For example, you should have no problem believing that the Old Testament is the unchanging word of God, and, at the same time, believe that the New Testament is the unchanging word of God. This seemingly impossible feat is easily accomplished.
Let us take the above as an example and look at each section in detail:
The Old Testament is the unchanging word of God.
This is obviously true. Since the Bible is the divine word of God, the Old Testament is literally and absolutely true. Therefore, all the stories, conclusions, and moral lessons of the Old Testament are still valid and are valuable and relevant for today.
The New Testament is the unchanging word of God.
This is obviously true. Since the Bible is the divine word of God, it is literally and absolutely true. Therefore, all the stories, conclusions, and moral lessons of the New Testament are valid and are valuable and relevant for today.
If anyone were to intimate that these two collections of stories are mutually exclusive and incoherent if viewed as one treatise on God, religion or morality, you can quite properly inform them that they are both true and do not contradict each other.
So to the ancient Hebrews, God was a angry cloud who demanded sacrifices and rituals and had myriad laws and statutes from which the slightest deviation could result in the deaths of thousands. To the early Christians, God was a transcendant being who required next to nothing but private prayer and actively worked to prevent the punishment of people who had committed moral crimes what would previously have required stoning. The glory of this step is that both of these are true... They are both accurate representations of one unchanging God.
This is true for any number of reasons. You could, for example, let them know that the important moral lessons and knowledge of God gathered from the literal stories have a deep dependence on the time, place, economy and culture where they originated. So, if viewed through the lens of those dependencies, both accounts point to the one overriding theme or something (Please see step six if the idea of culturally-dependent moral lessons sounds realistic). Or get creative: invent one of your own! A liberal application of step two will help greatly.
Ignore or re-interpret the last 600 years of scientific knowledge
Helpful Tip: A good rule of thumb is to try to re-interpret science before you try to re-interpret the literal Bible.
Many of those who attack the Bible will try to use science to show that parts of the Bible aren't literally true. When someone does this, you have several courses of action available. You can:
a) Claim science is wrong.
b) Claim that the attacker believes science to be a god.
c) Claim science has always agreed with Bible.
d) Redefine "literal" (via step two) so you can claim the Bible doesn't actually say what the attacker claims.
While many apologists automatically choose the first option, the others are equally valid.
Shortcut: Before you bother to refute a critic, simply see if there is someone with a Ph.D with views similar to yours. If so, you win. The field of study doesn't matter: a Biblical apologist Ph.D. wins automatically in any argument on any topic (see step one).
For example, when a Bible attacker tries to attack Genesis by saying "it isn't possible that there was a global flood because of scientific reasons x, y, and z," you can:
a) Claim that science is wrong and can't explain anything, and therefore reasons x, y, and z are just designed to mislead people into thinking there are problems with the Bible.
b) Claim that the attacker believes science to be a god. It doesn't actually address the issue, but it's fun.
c) Claim there is plenty evidence for a global flood and science will one day prove it and answer x, y, and z, and therefore science totally and completely agrees with the Bible.
d) Claim that the Bible doesn't say the flood was global, therefore reasons x, y, and z don't apply.
As an apologist, you are free to choose any of these, depending on the objections raised. (You should also be willing to accept all of them if the situation dictates.)
For example, we know that evolution simply does not happen; the literal reading of Genesis tells us that. But we can still also believe that evolution does happen in cases where it will help support the Bible.
"Really?" You say? Yes. During the global flood (if you read it that way), Noah built a big boat to hold all the different "kinds" of animals. The "problem" is, if you define a "kind" as a species, there wouldn't be room (if you acknowledge that). So if you define "kinds" as geneses or families, there just might be room possibly. So after the flood, all the animals evolved into the various species we have today on their ways back to their native lands. (See step three)
Another fun technique is to mention that some miracle depicted in the Bible is explainable by scientific means. However, you must be extremely careful when applying science to the miracles of the Bible. If you do it occasionally you can win an argument that such and such miracle was possible, and it just might quell some doubts in the semi-faithful. But just because a miracle can be explained by science, actually doing so to all of the miracles of the Bible would not be desirous: there'd be no miracles left!
Acknowledge the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies contained in the Bible.
As a Bible apologist, one of your main occupations is to locate and be amazed at all the wonderful and fulfilled prophecies contained in the Bible. After accepting the previous steps, this step should present no problem.
Helpful Tip: Those of you with a background in logic may find the idea of supporting a proposition with that same proposition a bit strange, but because we already know the Bible is literally true, we can use the Bible to support the Bible.
The prophecies you will find in the Bible are not always in the form of "Event X will happen in the future", and are never in the form of "Event X will happen at 12:30 on December 8 102 AD in the city of Jerusalem to Jacob who owns that bakery on 1st street" (which is what many non-apologists incorrectly expect), but these facts shouldn't slow you down: you are an apologist, mere facts can't stop you. We'll just apply the previous steps to reveal the prophecies.
a) Because of step one, we already know the Bible is the divine and literal word of God, so now we can use this knowledge to automatically assume all the prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled, thus supporting the literal Bible further.
b) Using step two, we can make virtually any phrase found in the Bible into some sort of prophecy.
c) Step three allows us to believe the facts and prophecies are in agreement.
d) Thanks to step four, we can bend facts around to fulfill even the most tenuous of prophecies
What you'll be looking for, mainly, is phrases in the Old Testament that can be twisted around (via step two) so they remotely resemble something found in the New Testament.
So when you see a phrase like "Do not break any of the bones" in the old testament, you, as an apologist, should easily be able to read that as a prophecy if you just try. Since none of Christ's bones were broken, we know that "Do not break any of the bones" must have been a prophecy, even though it was referring to slaughtering a sheep and didn't mention anything about being a prophecy of Christ.
If someone was to claim that one of these prophecies is not actually a prophecy, just a similarly worded piece of text or simply a repetition of a previous story for context's sake, you can either ignore it (the preferred method), or claim it isn't a prophecy and fulfillment after all, it is just a set of interesting passages which mutually validate each other. This makes it a very neat usage of step three, allowing you to believe it is a prophecy while simultaneously believing it is not a prophecy.
Important Note: It's very important that you don't try to use this same technique with other religious texts, only the Bible. While it's true that you may find the same kind of "prophecies" in other religious and even secular books, those are not true prophecies since they are not in the Bible (see step one). You may find it helpful to avoid reading any books that aren't written by Hank Hanegraaff.
Another significant portion of the prophecies you will find are prophecies of things outside the Bible. The general idea is to claim that anytime the Bible mentions a town, village, nation, person, or event; it is a prophecy. So if the Bible mentions a nation called "Egypt", and there really was a nation called "Egypt", this makes that Biblical reference a fulfilled prophecy. As you can imagine, this means there are literally thousands of these prophecies. Many non-apologists will try to debunk these kinds of prophecies, saying that all ancient books reference thousands of physical locations, almost all of which really do exist. The answer is simple: they aren't from the Bible, so therefore they don't count.
One of the best types of these external prophecies is the prophecy of the destruction of a city. There are many of these in the Bible. Take the city of Sodom as an example: the Bible tells us that the ancient city Sodom was destroyed by God, and sure enough, after 3000 years, the city doesn't exist. It was so thoroughly destroyed that modern archaeologists can't even agree the city of Sodom ever even existed!
The most famous of these prophecies is the prophecy of the destruction of the city of Tyre: the Bible clearly says it will be destroyed and never, ever, be rebuilt, and if we apply the previous steps, we can certainly make this absolutely true. Non-apologists will likely say the city still exists and there are over a hundred thousand people who live there, but this shouldn't concern you: you're an apologist! We'll just interpret the literal story to say any of the following corrections:
a) "Sure it still exists, but it's not nearly as important as it was, therefore the prophecy was fulfilled. Really!"
b) "When the Bible say it won't ever be rebuilt, it was just hyperbole, and was meant to show how strongly God felt about destroying it in the first place (see step two.)"
c) "The Bible was talking only about the part of the city which has never been rebuilt, not the part which has."
d) "The prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, one day the city will be destroyed, and then it will never ever be rebuilt."
Since the city still exists, the real meaning of the prophecy must have been one of them; otherwise the passage would not be literally true and it obviously is. Of course, if the city did not exist and people weren't pointing it out, you would not want to use any of these since it would be literally true and no correction would be needed!
Learn that moral relativism is not true.
Moral relativism, the belief that all moral decisions and evaluations are dependent on the surrounding society and culture, is simply not true. If something is wrong, it is wrong for all people at all times.
Take slavery for example: we modern Christians know slavery is wrong, and that slave-holders are immoral, but 200 years ago people thought slavery was perfectly moral. If the moral relativists are right, those slave-holders weren't immoral, they were just following the morality of their times. But, since we modern Christians know that slavery was always wrong, there must be an absolute morality as given by the Bible.
Learn that absolute morals can change depending on the situation or society.
Helpful Tip: Many non-apologists will call this "stupid" or "a cop out". If this occurs, it's a good idea to question the morality and/or sexual preference of the attacker, but be sure to ignore any answers given, or at least re-interpret them in a negative light.
Now while it's true that slavery is, and always has been, morally wrong, this doesn't mean that slavery was always always morally wrong. There are many situations where the rules of the time and the culture of the society cause the absolute morality to be modified.
This means that while slave-holders were wrong to keep slaves 200 years ago, it wasn't wrong for people in ancient Israel to keep slaves.
This is because of any or all of the following reasons:
a) In that society slavery was simply the way things were done back then, so God "put up with it".
b) Slavery just wasn't that bad for Hebrew slaves, rather like Club Med in fact.
c) Slavery might have been slightly harsher for non-Hebrew slaves (minor things like beating them, selling them, and stealing their spouses and children), but it kept them from sinning by giving them something useful to do.
d) It was based on nationality and ethnicity, not race, and so it got the "moral thumbs up" from God.
e) It was really for the best, since the slavery provided shelter and food for the slaves, and good labor for the owners.
Remember, none of these points have anything to do with moral relativism. This is true because there is no moral relativism in the Bible.
Following this same scheme, it is possible to resolve all the so-called "moral conflicts" in the Bible, all without ever saying the phrase "moral relativism".
Helpful Tip: The last thing you want in a discussion of morality is someone pointing out outrageous moral behavior, so don't allow critics to use the Bible as evidence to show the Bible is not a good moral guide. Besides, the use of morality in a discussion about morality is a fallacy.
So, when Bible attackers ask such mean-spirited questions as "If it wasn't wrong for the ancient Hebrews to own slaves, and now it is, didn't morality change?" you can safely say "No: morality didn't change, the situation and cultural context changed... in a way that doesn't involve any moral relativism of course."
All questions about the differences between the Biblical and the present morality of things like incest, adultery, racism, women's equality, child welfare, rape, murder, and genocide are also easily dismissed using this method.
Another method you may find useful is to claim the past behavior was seen as acceptable because a "greater good" was done. Thus, when God commanded people to murder and/or rape all the women and children of entire towns and nations, this was so those women and children wouldn't end up in hell, or be able to cause others to sin, or something else bad.
So murder, rape, and genocide were always wrong, but when God commanded people to do it back then, it wasn't moral relativism, so it was good. However, this argument only applies to the past: genocide, rape, and murder are really really wrong now, so do not try them now, no matter what greater good might come out of them!
You may want to re-read the previous steps if you have any questions on this step.
Become comfortable with your own insanity.
Helpful Tip: To help combat doubts, try sticking your fingers in your ears and saying "La la la la la la" repeatedly.
During the process of becoming a Bible apologist, you may find yourself becoming quite insane. Don't worry, this is a normal, and even necessary, step on the road to true Bible literalism.
Many people become frightened at their growing insanity at this stage and back off, saying it's impossible to reconcile the literal Bible with the world around us, or even with itself.
But, alas, they are wrong. It is quite possible to do these things, but you must first become comfortable with your own cognitive dissonance. You must learn to believe all the impossible and contradictory ideas inherent in Bible literalism.
You must learn to believe the Bible is both an ancient work of literature which must be interpreted through the lens of those who wrote it while simultaneously believing it to be a profoundly relevant moral treatise for modern life.
Your blossoming insanity is the key to your future as a Bible apologist.
Congratulations! You are now well on your way to becoming a Bible apologist!
Though this guide doesn't try to be a comprehensive resource on Biblical literalism, we hope it has answered some of the non-apologists' objections, and helped you along the path towards true Bible apologetics.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)