Rob asked:

I’m an agnostic and I go to church and I want to believe. I want to accept the faith but the thing I struggle with is the literal acceptance of Jonah and the whale, Noah’s Ark and Adam and Eve as literal figures. Do I need to accept all that literally to be a Christian?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"... there is a literary dimension to scripture. This is something the Church acknowledges. And not every passage in scripture is meant to be taken literally. Some are meant to teach us lessons in other forms. For example, if you read the audiences of Pope John Paul II, he talks for example about how the book of Tobit and the book of Judith are not meant to be literal historical accounts. They are meant to be kind of extended parables. A parable is something we are familiar with from other passages of scripture. Jesus himself uses parables ... Some of the passage you mentioned are very early in the book of Genesis, and the Church acknowledges that the early chapters of Genesis are not written like the later chapters of Genesis or other historical books of the bible, and they contain certain literary elements. Now precisely what that ratio is, of how much is strict history, verses how much is a literary expression, that’s something that the Church doesn’t have definitive teaching on at this point ...

There are certain truths about our faith like the human race really did have an event at the beginning of its history that caused us to fall into a fallen state to acquire original sin. That’s real. That really happened. Precisely which passages of scripture are to be taken strictly literally ... is something that there is a greater degree of flexibility about, but it has to be handled on a case by case basis ... As a matter of principle that’s something I’d encourage you to think about ...

In the case of Christ’s resurrection I think it is very easy to demonstrate that that is meant literally. That’s something that is stressed repeatedly in the New Testament over and over again including Saint Paul ... in first Corinthians pointing out if Christ is not raised then your faith is vain. He makes a literal resurrection of Christ a bedrock of the Christian faith in the way he presents it."


Catholic Answers, "Why are you an atheist?" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

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Show air date: September 25, 2013

Name of show: Why are you an atheist?

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 33:04

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