Dan Trabue has a relative who was nominated by his church to become a deacon (as a congregational polity defines the term). He drank a few alcoholic drinks a year, though his denomination frowns on drinking entirely, and so encountered resistance:
Being aware that the Bible nowhere condemns the drinking of alcohol (and, in fact, encourages it in small amounts for one’s health), he figured that wasn’t a problem, but he brought it up to his pastor ahead of time to ask if it were a problem.
He said he’d even be willing to forgo drinking alcohol while a deacon, if it were a stumbling block for anyone. But, being a member of a church where biblical literality was essential and since alcohol isn’t condemned biblically, he figured he was okay.
Well, Baptists being what they are, he wasn’t okay. His nomination was rejected out of hand until such time as he’s “been off” alcohol for a few years to prove that he’s not a drinker.
My relation was stung by the “Literalists.”
Although still quite conservative, he was a bit put off by the incident. He didn’t realize that what he needed to believe literally was not the Bible but the traditions of that particular church (and denomination, for the most part).
We agreed that no one takes the Bible literally literally, page-for-page, word-for-word. Anyone who values biblical teaching has to weigh what the Bible says in each part against the whole and against our God-given reason.
And while it’s obvious that no one takes the Bible word-for-word literally (kill disrespectful children, don’t go to banks, don’t invest, free prisoners every seven years, return land to the original owners every 50 years, pluck out our eyes, love our enemies, overcome evil with good, etc, etc, etc), many prefer to think that the beliefs of their church ARE the literal teachings of the Bible – even the ones that contradict biblical teachings.
How very true. That's why it's critical that all Christians -- lay and clergy -- engage in thoughtful ethical reflection. And read the whole Bible routinely. Because what we think the Bible says often isn't.