“When He was alone, the Twelve and the others around Him asked Him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” – Mark 4:10-12
When a well-meaning Christian declares, “I believe everything in the Bible, literally,” that person is probably misguided. Why is that? Well, there is a big difference in saying that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and saying that every word should be taken literally.
Just look at the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus said, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it’s better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Now, Jesus is not actually urging us to pluck our eyes out. He is talking about the seriousness of sin, and how we must repent of sin, lest we wind up in hell. But if every word Jesus uttered is taken literally, every one of us must immediately gouge out both eyes!
Remember that Jesus teaches in parables, metaphors and allegories. He uses these devices to make the broader spiritual point. Does that water down Scripture? Absolutely not! Jesus is simply using memorable illustrations to communicate perfect truth. And that’s where the guidance of the Holy Spirit comes in to play; to help us to distinguish between literal truth and a parable, thereby allowing us to understand the rich truths of our faith.