How to Do Biblical Theology Without Sacrificing “Literal” Truth

As I have expanded my horizons a bit and start learning from teachers who don’t always fit within my theological “comfort zone,” I have found an…interesting…phenomena that seems to be a result of bad thinking.

I love the theology of the Hebrew Bible.

More and more, I am studying under teachers who think on deeply theological levels…

And I often find their thoughts persuasive.

But an interesting trend I have noticed is the tendency to, on the one hand, be accepting of sensus plenior; yet, on the other hand, want to dismiss potentially uncomfortable theology by an appeal to the author’s intended meaning.

Confused yet?

Quickly, to define some terms:

Sensus plenior: The view that a passage of text can have a sort of “double” meaning. For example, God could intend for a passage to mean something beyond that which a human author intends to teach.

Uncomfortable theology: Broad, theological views some may want to steer clear of because of the potential implications.

Author’s intended meaning: What the original author’s explicit intention was for the original readers/hearers.

Here’s an illustration:

Some, though certainly not all, scholars of the ancient Near East are critical of the young age creationist view on Genesis 1.

Why?

Well, to paraphrase what I’ve heard such scholars say…

Sure, the author believed that creation took place in 6 days, and God rested on the 7th…but the point of the passage is to be a theological polemic against the Babylonian myths of creation.

Again, I’m trying to be fair here and accurately represent this thinking.

So, in other words, they want to dismiss the Bible’s teaching about the nature of creation, on the basis that the point of the passage is the theological polemic.

However, the same scholars will also tend to believe that a text can have meaning beyond that which the original readers/hearers would grasp.

Indeed, Daniel 12:7-9 seems to be biblical proof-positive that such a notion is true:

And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

Thus, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Why can’t the young age creationist just say that it is both true that the Genesis narrative serves as a theological polemic against the gods of the other nations, and that the text intends to teach the literal truth that the universe and all things in it were created by God in just 6 days?

I know there’s a lot going on here—a lot of debatable stuff, too.

That’s okay…

The point is that we must strive for a consistent theology.

It’s an error to ignore the theological grandeur of early Genesis.

It’s equally erroneous, in my view, to ignore/deny the literal truth of what its author believed.

Not sure where you stand on the origins issue? I devoted the entire second part of my book, Truth Be Told to the question of origins. Click here to start reading today: www.SteveSchramm.com/TBT.

Enduring Together, Steve