Bible Interpretation Part 1: The Naturalistic Objection

Rick Mattson Bible Leave a Comment

Bernini’s David, Borghese Gallery, Rome, Italy

College students of varying backgrounds often raise objections to traditional interpretations of the Bible. Here are three types of objections I hear regularly:

  1. Naturalistic
  2. Literalistic
  3. Pluralistic

Naturalistic objections are critical of anything that is miraculous or otherwise “fanciful” in the Bible.

Thus the supernatural elements found in the Gospels, Exodus and numerous other places in Scripture are automatically rejected — often in the name of science.

“Fanciful” would include unusual events that perhaps border on the miraculous but definitely sound mythical to the modern ear: the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6) or the slaying of Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

Sometimes the naturalistic attitude is, “C’mon, you can’t seriously believe in such legends. These accounts are no different than the mythological stories of Zeus or Apollo or Hercules.”

My Replies

1. Science: What sounds strange to the modern ear didn’t sound strange to the ancient ear. Modern sensibilities are attuned to science, but in fact science can make no claims about the fall of Jericho* or David slaying Goliath. Those are not “scientific” events (observable, testable, repeatable), so it’s unfair to use the good name of science to dismiss them.

2. Zeus: It’s an odd argument you’re making: Zeus is mythological; therefore the God of the Bible is also mythological. How does that follow?

3. Resurrection: Let’s talk about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for which there is plenty of evidence. Once that event is established, believing in the exploits of Joshua or King David are easy by comparison.

In my next post I’ll talk about the literalistic objection.


*Archeology can examine the ruins of ancient cities but probably cannot tell us whether God intervened in them directly.

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