Why I Take the Bible Seriously But Not Literally: One May Study the Bible Seriously, Respectfully, and Reverently Without Believing It Literally.

Why I Take the Bible Seriously But Not Literally: One May Study the Bible Seriously, Respectfully, and Reverently Without Believing It Literally.

by Eugene C. Rollins


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As a pastor I have a dual role: that of a prophet and a priest. The prophet confronts the people, and the priest comforts the people. I am to comfort the troubled and trouble the comfortable.

In relationship to the Bible, the dual struggle is clear. As the priest, I take the Bible seriously because it changes lives (first sermon). I have never heard anyone give testimony that reading Plato's The Republic, Virgil's Aeneid, Homer's Odyssey, Cicero's Moral Ethics, or John Stewart Mill's Liberty changed their lives. But thousands of people have given testimony of how reading the Bible has changed their lives forever. As the prophet, I propose to you that no book has been more abused than the Bible or more misunderstood. The Bible has been a playground for lunatics, profit for the charlatans, a profession for the clergy, a problem for theologians, a puzzle for the general public, and placid for the masses.

I believe if a person will read the Bible interpretatively and intelligently it will be read seriously, respectfully and reverently thereby becoming the living word of God.

Gene Rollins, Author

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781467043021
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 01/24/2013
Pages: 178
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.38(d)

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One may study the Bible seriously, respectfully, and reverently without believing it literally.
By Eugene C. Rollins


Copyright © 2013 Dr. Eugene C. Rollins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4670-4302-1

Chapter One

I Take the Bible Seriously Because It Changes Lives

Sermon Syllabus

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20-24

Central Idea of the Text (CIT): Paul taught that the Holy Spirit using the Word of God could change a person into a different person.

Thesis: The Spirit-infused Word of God has the power to change lives today.



I. The Words of Jesus Changed Saul into Paul—Acts 9:1-22

II. The Words of Jesus Changed Zacchaeus the Thieving Tax Collector into a Benevolent Follower—Luke 19:1-10

III. The Words of Jesus Changed the Unsavory Woman of Samaria into a Witness For Jesus—John 4:1-42

IV. The Words of Jesus Changed My Life in 1961

V. The Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life Today!


The Word of the Lord

2 Corinthians 5:17

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Ephesians 4:22-24

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."


I relate to the scriptures reverently, with respect and awe. Contrary to what some people say and believe, the scriptures may be taken seriously and not literally. In fact, I believe one cannot take them both seriously and literally. But this morning, I hope to nail down for you why I take seriously these scriptures.

Around AD 354-430, one of our church fathers, Saint Augustine of Hippo, was in his own words a very sinful person. He wrote in his masterful classic confession about his reprobate life. He was born to a Christian mother and family. He was devoted in early life but greatly strayed in his young adult life. In his search through heathenism, this phrase came to his mind: pick up and read. These words continued to rumble around in the hallways of his mind: pick up and read. Augustine knew what that meant. He had to read the Word before but as a philosopher and not as a seeker of God. This was the first time he picked up and read the Living Word of God, and it changed his life. Pick up and read. And in that reading, Augustine laid off the old self and put on the new self and became one of the most prolific writers of all of our Christian forefathers. I don't agree with all that he said, but he was a masterful writer and in his day a defender of the scripture.

I. The Words of Jesus Changed Saul into Paul—Acts 9:1-22

Paul writes and says that these words have the ability to create a new creation. These words, infused by the Holy Spirit, made alive by the Spirit of God, have the power to lay off an old self and put on a new self.

There are marvelous works of literature in this world, but how many of you have heard someone say, "I read Shakespeare's Hamlet or Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and my life was changed! I read about Romeo and Juliet from Shakespeare's work, and my life has just been radically altered, and I am filled with the love Shakespeare speaks about"? Have you ever heard a testimony like that? I have not. The world is filled with great literature, but have you heard anyone say, "You know, I was reading Moby Dick, that marvelous tale of a fish, and that fish walked out of that story into my life, and it has never been the same"? Have you?

The man who wrote those words was a Pharisee, a Jew, a member of the Sanhedrin, and one of the most devout men of his day, and when this little group of people called "The Way"—and that is what Christians were first called, people of "The Way"—Paul felt Judaism was under attack, and he personally committed himself to stomp out the little religious sect called the people of "The Way." Outside the walls of Jerusalem, Paul encouraged the stoning of Steven and even held the cloaks of those who threw the stones that killed this brilliant young man. Paul went throughout Jerusalem incarcerating, confiscating the property of, and locking up men and women because they were people of "The Way." He did so well that he received from the Sanhedrin and the high priest papers to move out of Jerusalem and go into Damascus to do the same.

And while he was on the road to Damascus, a brilliant light knocked him to the ground, and he heard this voice: "Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And Paul said, "Who are you? I am persecuting these people called the people of 'The Way.' Who are you?" And Jesus said, "I am Jesus." And I know Paul had this thought race down his mind: But he is dead. We killed him and entombed him, and they created this miracle story about him coming out and hid his body somewhere. And then Jesus said to Paul, who was then called Saul of Tarsus, "Has it been difficult for you to ward off those pangs of conscience?"

"Has it been difficult for you" in the King James translation is a little confusing; it is a "kick against the Pricks"; the Greek word is gourds. Those stakes that have been sticking in your conscience. Immediately Paul knew what He was talking about, and Paul said, "What do you want of me?" And there the greatest Christian missionary, the most zealous Christian missionary that was ever given breath, was born that day on the road to Damascus. The words of Jesus became alive in his life, and he was changed from a persecutor of "The Way" to a proclaimer of "The Way."

II. The Words of Jesus Changed Zacchaeus the Thieving Tax Collector into a Benevolent Follower—Luke 19:1-10

Plato's The Republic is a marvelous work. But I have never heard anyone say, "I was reading Plato's The Republic, and I became so convinced that I was moving in the wrong direction from reading that book that I changed and went in a different direction. You know, I got enough power from Plato's words and Plato's book The Republic that my life has never ever been the same." I have never heard that.

Once again last year I read The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is fifteen hundred years older than the Noah story. It is a marvelous work, a work of antiquity, but I have never heard anyone say, "Wow, that Epic of Gilgamesh is so powerful that I was reading it and something happened to me, and my heart and life changed in such a way that it has never been the same." I have never heard that.

In Jesus's day, for sixty years the Roman government had occupied Jerusalem, and they had levied some horribly high taxes upon the citizens of Jerusalem, and some of the citizenry became tax collectors for their own people. Zacchaeus was one of those people. The scriptures tell us in Luke chapter 19 that Zacchaeus was rich. You do not make enough money collecting taxes to become rich. Zacchaeus had his finger in the pie. It was bad enough that he was a tax collector for his own people. He was despised, scorned, and rejected, and this rich little man had a longing in his heart, and he ran up a road in Jericho upon which he heard Jesus was traveling. Being so little in stature and knowing he could not elbow his way through the crowd, he climbed up in a sycamore tree very much like our little water oaks. And as he waited up in this tree, waiting for Jesus to come down the road, we know not what kind of questions he had, but Jesus stopped and looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, get out of that tree. I am going to spend the day at your house." Zacchaeus said, "Lord, half of everything I have I am going to give to the poor. Half of it. And if I have taken anything illegally, I am going to return four times." According to Leviticus, the law said he had to give what he had taken plus one-fifth. Zacchaeus said, "I will return it fourfold whatever I have taken illegally." What changed him? The words of Jesus changed him.

I don't know if you remember reading that masterful work Aeneid by Virgil. I do, but I have never heard anyone say, "I was reading that tale of antiquity, and something gripped me, and I became an entirely different individual." There are many other works that are marvelous. For example, John Stewart Mills's work on liberty and Cicero's marvelous work on moral ethics. I have never heard anyone say, "You know, I was a thief, and I read Cicero's moral ethics, and my life took a different direction. I quit stealing, and I started returning fourfold to people I had taken things from." They are marvelous works of literature, but I never have heard one testimony as to how these marvelous works of antiquity, beautiful and powerful though they are, inspired anyone to say, "Oh, my life has been radically altered."

III. The Words Of Jesus Changed the Unsavory Woman of Samaria into a Witness for Jesus—John 4:1-42

Jesus was on His way, and He took a detour into Samaria, a forbidden land for a Jew. His disciples went into a nearby town, and He was at the well at Sycars. A woman came up to Him, and He asked for a drink of water. She was astonished that this Jew would speak to a Samarian. She was astonished at the second point that this male Jew would speak to a female Samarian. They began a dialogue, and in that dialogue, Jesus said to her, "Run home and fetch your husband. Come back. I would like to talk to both of you." And she said, "I have no husband." And Jesus said, "You are absolutely honest, but you have had five. And the man you are now living with is not your husband." And she was like, "Wow, you must be a prophet." And Jesus talked to her and finally said to her, "True worship is worship in spirit and in truth, for God is spirit." And she left Him and went into the town, telling everyone, "You must come meet this man who just told me everything I have ever done in my life and said it noncondemningly." And her life was set free.

She had been at the well at noon. Women did not go to the well at noon; they went early in the morning when it was cool and late in the evening when it was cool. She went in the heat of the midday sun because she had been rejected, alienated, and scorned, and now she was set free. I have never heard anyone say they read Homer's Odyssey and their lives were set free, liberated, forgiven. Never have! That is why I take these words seriously.

IV. The Words of Jesus Changed My Life in 1961

I did not grow up in a church. My father was a deacon in a Freewill Baptist Church when he died at age forty-two. I was age four. We never went back to church again after that. At age eighteen, I married the girl I had impregnated. At twenty-one, we had two children and another one on the way. At that point and time, I wasn't all that horrible of a person, but I had been. And I came down with the mumps.

I was in the retail food business, and I remember the man who gave them to me, one of my customers. The doctor scared the daylights out of me when he described what could happen to a male if the mumps fell. He said, "Go home and go to bed," and I went home and went to bed. The children were in the nursery, the wife was working, and I was alone. It was the first time I had ever been still in my life. I thought I would go crazy. I read every Field and Stream and every Gun Digest I had in the house, and the thing that was deeply, deeply pressing my spirit was that I was trying to be a husband and didn't know how to be one. That had not been modeled for me. I was trying to be a father, and that had not been modeled for me. I felt this deep psychological stress as to how to perform these functions that life had placed upon me.

I remember getting my wife's Bible (the Gideons had given it to her when she graduated high school), and I started reading it. All the Zane Grey books I had ever read, I read from front to back, and that was pretty much all I had ever read to that point. I couldn't make head or tails of what was being said, so I started skipping around, you know, like over in the book of Psalms and the book of Job, and they didn't make any sense either. Finally I got over to St. Matthew, and it didn't make a whole lot of sense either. St. Luke couldn't help, but I began to wonder why these two people had the same first names. Then I started reading the book of John, and God walked out of that book and into my life, and it has not ever been the same, ever. By that I do not mean that my life has been together ever since that day. Not at all. I have been a struggler all my life. But that day radically altered my perspective of who I was, my perspective of what life was, and my perspective of who God was, and that has never changed.

James Robison had a crusade in Dayton, Ohio, a number of years ago. He is from Texas. I knew him in seminary. Two or three days after the revival, a woman looked out of the picture window in her living room and saw a ragged old pickup truck back down her driveway. She went outside, and a man got out of the pickup and started unloading stuff. She recognized that it was all of her pool furniture that had been stolen last year, and the man said to her, "I stole your pool furniture last year, but I have met Jesus, and I want to bring it back to you, and if there is anything else I can do, I want to do it for you." You ever heard of that happening from someone who read the Gettysburg Address by Abe Lincoln?

V. The Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life Today!

One person made a commitment of faith, and the next week at work, one of his co-workers was chiding him, and the co-worker said, "Do you tell me you believe Jesus turned that water into wine?" And the man said, "I don't know about that, but I know at my house He has turned beer into food and beer into furniture. I don't know about that wine story, but I know what has happened here. I know what has happened in my life and in my home." Is there another book that changes lives like that? No. Point it out to me. Show it to me. Read me the stories. I have never heard them.

In 1891 there was a National League baseball player who had lost everything. He had drunk his way from being number one on his way to the Hall of Fame to a soup kitchen without a dime in his pocket. All he owned was the rags he had on. And one day in 1981, Billy Sunday listened in that soup kitchen as someone took up the Bible and began to read, and in the reading and in the hearing, God walked out of that book into Billy Sunday's life, and he never took another drink. God walked out of that book into his heart and life, and he became the fire brand for the second wave of American revivalism. God walked out of that book into his life, and he set up such an organization that a man later came and used the identical preparatory organization that Billy Sunday set up, and Billy Graham became one of the greatest revivalists of our world.


Nothing in the history of humankind has those testimonies. That is why I take this book seriously, and I unapologetically say to you today that if you are willing, the Spirit of God that is infused in this book will walk out of this book into your life, and it will never be the same, ever. Beyond and above everything else, I say this summer do not forget that I have given my life to the preaching of this book primarily because of the changes I have seen, witnessed, felt in my own experience, and seen in the lives of hundreds throughout these forty-six years. Let us pray.

Lord, Your word tells us that in You we become a new creation. If there are those who here this morning or who will be here this summer who have not tasted the newness of that creation, through these days may they find the truth and the reality of Your power to change. May it be so in Jesus's name. Amen.

Thought Provokers

I do not take literally the law that says people who commit adultery should be stoned to death.

"If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel" (Deut. 22:22 NIV).

Chapter Two

I Do Not Take the Bible Literally When It Has God Causing Catastrophes

Sermon Syllabus

Text: Luke 13:1-5; Job 16:11-17

CIT: Job blamed God for his suffering, but Jesus said suffering comes to us all.

Thesis: We live after the eighteenth-century enlightenment period and no longer need to blame God for everything.


• Major Objective: Doctrinal

• Specific Objective: Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I hope to lead each of us in becoming more responsible for our own actions and the events of our world.



I. The Suffering of Job Caused by God?—Luke 13:1-3

II. The Death of the Galileans Caused by God?—Luke 13:1-3

III. The Death of the Workers Caused by God?—Luke 13:4-5


The Word of the Lord

Luke 13:1-5

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."


Excerpted from WHY I TAKE THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY BUT NOT LITERALLY by Eugene C. Rollins Copyright © 2013 by Dr. Eugene C. Rollins. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Origin of the Material....................ix
Chapter 1. I Take the Bible Seriously Because It Changes Lives....................1
Chapter 2. I Do Not Take the Bible Literally When It Has God Causing Catastrophes....................10
Chapter 3. I Take Seriously the Inspiration of the Bible....................19
Chapter 4. I Do Not Take Literally the Bible as Inerrant or Infallible....................28
Chapter 5. I Take Seriously the Bible's Account of God's Creation of Everything....................38
Chapter 6. I Do Not Take Literally Genesis's Account of Creation....................47
Chapter 7. I Take the Bible Seriously When It Claims that God Owns Everything....................57
Chapter 8. I Do Not Take the Bible's Worldview Literally....................66
Chapter 9. I Take Seriously the Bible's Admonition to Be Love Slaves....................74
Chapter 10. I Do Not Take Literally the Bible's Admonition to Slaves....................83
Chapter 11. I Take Seriously the Bible's Equality of All People....................93
Chapter 12. I Do Not Take Literally the Bible's Inequality of Women....................102
Chapter 13. I Take Seriously the Bible's Identity of Jesus....................111
Chapter 14. I Do Not Take Literally the Bible's Virgin Birth of Jesus....................120
Chapter 15. I Take Seriously the Bible's Affirmation of God's Judgment....................132
Chapter 16. I Do Not Take Literally the Bible's Burning Hell....................142
Chapter 17. I Seriously Worship the God of the Bible, but I Do Not Literally Worship the Bible....................151
Selected Bibliography....................163
About the Author....................165

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