Blog Debate: Is the Word of God literal, spiritual, or both?

I’ve had numerous blog debates. This is one I had in April 2008 on Myspace. I believe it can serve to edify the Body. I’ll be posting other blog debates later on. They are long, but they are worth the read.

Michelle: The stories [in the Bible] are not literal, but symbolic. They have complete Spiritual meaning. We know this is true when we apply the spiritual meaning to our lives - Not the literal. The literal would be silly... I myself can not ‘hear’ the literal any longer...

Me: “The stories are not literal, but symbolic”, by what means? Are you familiar with the historical educational and generational system of the Jews? Because if you were, you would be aware of how and what they took literal and symbolic by way of they’re writing. From Genesis to Esther are considered by Jews as historical (with respect to the Torah). They take the accounts recorded within these books as literal, not symbolic. The Poetic, Wisdom, and Prophetic books contain historical and symbolic language. These you can argue about what to take literal or not, but the first 17 books are considered by the people who God used to present the Bible to us as historical not symbolic. They know better than us of what’s written in it is literal and symbolic. Ask any Jewish rabbi about the Garden of Eden, the Genesis account of Creation and so on, I guarantee you they say it is literal not symbolic.

And what’s so “not so” about a snake talking? In the story of Balaam the donkey spoke. I guess you’ll question that story’s reality as well huh? What about the burning bush, not literal? Mount Sinai, not literal? The Passover, not literal? Jesus in the wilderness with Satan, not literal? The Resurrection, not literal? Pentecost, not literal? His second coming, not literal?

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established IN THE FAITH, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. BEWARE lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:6-8)

IF I based my reverence for God/Jesus Christ on any speck of His professed believers, then I wouldn’t believe in Him either (like those who don’t for this exact reason), because His people do a horrible job of representing Him. We’re all over the board when it comes to explaining Him and His Word. No wonder they think we’re simple or gullible, we can’t even come together on one Book.


Michelle: I agree there is a very real Jewish history, and Moses account of history. However, the problem is that Christians take the whole bible literal - Heaven, Hell, the fire, Satan, streets of gold, etc. The truths of the Kingdom are hidden in the literal things all around us (trees, relationships, look at all Jesus parables - not litereral, symbolic!). Trees are literal, yet Jesus uses them for our understanding of a deeper truth - This is my point!!!

In what God has shown me TODAY, the Spiritual meaning applies individual for my understanding of how awesome He is... Yes, I believe much of the bible has a literal history, but how does that change me from the inside (the letter?), No, it is the Spirit that gives life!!!

Gods creation is so amazing that whats around us has Spiritual meaning (the changing life, seasons, times, etc.) - The question is do we have Spiritual eyes and ears or carnal?

Me: Hey, I get what you are saying and have no problem with what you stated, but... “the problem is that Christians take the whole bible literal - Heaven, Hell, the fire, Satan, streets of gold, etc.”

How can you not take the existence of Satan (i.e. the Devil, Lucifer, etc.) literally? Again, do you deny Jesus’ wilderness experience with Satan? What about when Jesus said He saw Satan fall from heaven (Lk. 10:18)? Right there He takes care of Satan and heaven as literal. How do you explain not taking that literal?

Now whether Hell is really called hell with fire and brimstone or whatever is not worth going back and forth over. But by saying it’s a problem taking Hell (i.e. “the place where the eternal separation from God is served”) literal, you just rejected a number of passages within the Bible that clearly affirms this. How do you explain not taking that literal?

Streets of gold and such, that’s no big deal if some take it literal and others not. But to say it’s a problem taking Heaven (i.e. the promised New Heaven; also the paradise of being in a place with the presence of the Almighty for eternity) literal, again is rejecting a number of passages within the Bible that clearly affirms this. Even Jesus Himself affirms this (Jn. 14:3). How do you explain not taking that literal?

Yes we should be mindful of the literal and the symbolic. Yes we should know what scriptures fall in what category. YET, we should not water down one just to further emphasize the other. That was the problem with the second and third century Church. Paganism crept in and tried to emphasize on the symbolic and ignore (even deny) the scriptures that were literal. What happened as a result of that was “sacramentalism” and a host of other junk that sent the Church into a serious sick symbolic state for 1300 years, right up ‘til the Reformation.

Be careful not to over spiritualize the Bible, just as one needs to be careful not to over literalize the Bible. There are times, places, and things to take literal, and there are times, places, and things to take it symbolic. We have to be very careful teetering on that line and not make what is absolute as relative, and what’s relative as absolute.

Oh and it takes “Spiritual eyes and ears” to be able to receive what is literal, as literal (1Cor. 2:1-5, 13-14).


Michelle: Just two little things, How can I overspiritualize God, He is Spirit! God has shown me the Spirit gives life, not knowledge! Carnal mind is the enmity...

And I do not ignore scriptures when I study a topic or the bible, I just read them with different glasses now....

It may come to surprize that I do not find it required to read and study the bible to find God - His word is not letters on a paper, but His Word is Chirst in me, and ears to hear His Word for me personally,

God Bless

Me: I didn’t say over spiritualize God, I said don’t over spiritualize the Bible.

Yes the Spirit gives life, but what life is that? Is it not the life that our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds have been opened? Did not Jesus say that eternal life is that they (that would be us) may *know* the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent (Jn. 17:2-3)? God even said my people perish for the lack of "knowledge" (Hos. 4:6). The knowledge God desires is knowing Him. This is not a bad or carnal thing, it is what God wants from us (Hos. 6:6).

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
**But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,**
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
**For in these I delight**,” says the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24)

I agree with your last statement. His word is more than simply words, they are words of Life and words of Truth! Without His word, how would we have known Truth or Life?


Michelle: We need to have our own testimony of God and Know Him (not just words on paper), I agree!!! This knowledge comes from our own personal experience and testimonies, not others. (not even those who wrote the bible). To know God is to know love and to deny self absorbant ways. To me God has made this wisdom much easier then the bible scholars have through His Holy Spirit and Word in me. The change is inward, not outward - thats about all in a nutshell, at least the way I have come to know God.

Me: Yeah, we just have to be careful not to water down or give little weight to the Word of God. If the Bible was removed from the planet, a whole lot more of professing believers would fall sway to the ways, ideas, philosophies, and teachings of the world and/or false teachers. It’s bad enough a whole lot are already falling sway now with the Bible available, and that’s because they water it down and/or don’t take it seriously.

The Bible is our guideline/boundary, kind of like the lane dividers on the street that keep us in our respected lanes for our safety. If the lines begin to blur, vanish, or people just stop regarding them, how much more chaos and disorder would our streets be filled with? And how safe would we truly be on the road? That’s how life would be without the Word of God, or even a failed respect for the Bible- ex. what we see today.

Yes there is a personal responsibility to our testimony, but the Bible also plays a part in our development and relationship with God. Again, we wouldn’t truly know who we are believing in if it were not for the Bible. God has presented and preserved the Bible for us for a reason much greater than it just being words on paper.