C. S. Lewis described his friend Owen Barfield as the “Other Friend,” who “read all the right books but got entirely the wrong things out of them.”
One of the lessons it took me a long time, and a Master’s in English, to really learn is how text is not absolute.
Is the Constitution “clearly” a document to restrain the states from oppressing the people, or is it “clearly” a document to protect the states’ rights from the federal government?
Does the second amendment “clearly” provide a right to bear arms or “clearly” limit the right to bear arms?
Does the first amendment “clearly” provide freedom to exercise or discuss religion in public or “clearly” establish a “wall of separation” between Church and State?
Does the Bill of Rights cast a “penumbral shadow”?
Are the “Harry Potter” books/movies a gateway drug to occultism or a fantastic Christian allegory?
Do people read _The Lord of the Rings_ and discern deep Christian themes or join strange clubs that wear elf ears and eat mushrooms?
Is Madame Bovary about the downward spiral of sin and addiction or about how the patriarchy and the Church oppress women? Or is it just about sex?
Is Hamlet insane, pretending to be insane, or a madman who thinks he’s sane and pretending to be insane? If he’s insane, is he bipolar, schizophrenic or sociopathic?
Does Aristotle contradict the Bible or not?
Does Plato promote or disapprove of homosexual behavior?
Any given text is open to a wide range of interpretations based upon which aspects one emphasizes. People debate texts all the time, with each side claiming the “literal” reading of the text. Lawyers and lawmakers know this. This is why they haggle over precise wording and punctuation in contracts and legislation.
The Muslims are “People of the Book” and there are several varieties of Islam.
The Jews are “People of the Book,” and there are 3 major modern forms of Judaism, with more specific forms, as well as the various ancient forms (Sadducee, Pharisee, Essene, etc.)
Then we have the over 30,000 Protestant “denominations,” plus the various ancient Churches in the East that consider themselves “Orthodox” compared to one another and to the Catholic Church, as well as all the ancient heresies, which all consider themselves to be going by a “literal reading of the Bible”.
Why does anyone sincerely believe that there can be such a thing as a literal reading of Scripture without the guidance of the Church?