The loudest voices of Christianity tend to be very literal in their translation of scripture. After all, if you can’t believe Genesis literally, how can you believe that God literally rose Jesus Christ from the dead? It provides a lot of safety and comfort for people to not have to think about a lot of things, but just trust it all on faith.
I was in a Christian bookstore last week and was fascinated by a children’s science text book published by a fundamentalist university. I left the bookstore wanting to NOT be associated anymore with these loud voices that make Christians look like idiots to the non-Christian world. Then I read that this bothered St. Augustine too. He argued that Christians shouldn’t be adamant about these matters that distract people from the truth of Jesus Christ.
In his book Confessions, Augustine (AD 354-430) relayed how biblical literalism turned him away from the faith. He said it made Christians look stupid compared to people who were experts on the scientific things of the world. It wasn’t until Augustine learned more Eastern traditions for reading scripture from Ambrose of Milan that he came to believe the Bible as something greater than the literal ways he had seen it interpreted before. 2 Corinthians 3:6 says “The letter is death dealing, but the Spirit gives life.” Augustine took this to mean that deeper spiritual truths can set you free when you get hung up on literal translations that don’t jive with what you know to be true of the world. (P.S. this can get into the dangerous relativism of Protestant Liberalism if you don’t know what you’re doing. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
I put this comic in the gym because I always used to run into these incredible nationally known theologians working out together at the gym, and I imagined that instead of solving the world’s problems they were just chatting about stupid sitcoms.