I apologize for the rapid fire Richard Rohr references, but I couldn't hold this one back. (The good Father is currently outlining the Seven Fundamentals of his teaching in his Daily Meditation, and they are outstanding. Sign up if you are not already receiving them.)
“Fundamentalism” Misses the Fundamental
My dear friend, Dr. Gerald May, made a distinction years ago that I have found myself using frequently. He says spirituality is not to encourage willfulness, but in fact willingness. Spirituality creates willing people who let go of their need to be first, to be right, to be saved, to be superior, and to define themselves as better than other people. That game is over and gone; and if you haven’t come to the willing level—“not my will but Thy will be done” as Jesus says (Matthew 26:39)—then I think the Bible will almost always be misused.
I would like to say that the goal in general is to be serious about the Scriptures. We have often substituted being literal with being serious, and they are not the same! (Read that a second time, please). The point I would like to make is that literalism is not to take the text seriously at all! Pure literalism in fact avoids the real impact, the real message. Literalism is the lowest and least level of meaning in a spiritual text. Willful people use Scripture literally when it serves their purposes, and they use it ‘figuratively’ when it gets in the way of their cultural biases; willing people let the Scriptures change them instead of using them to change others.
Adapted from the webcast A Teaching on Wondrous Encounters