Some holy texts should not be interpreted

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Some apologists have claimed that certain religious texts should be interpreted only up to a point, usually not beyond their literal meaning. In Islam, it is referred to as bi-la kayfa (Arabic: بلا كيف).

This approach attempts to avoid some awkward implications of contradictory verses in holy books. It is also a form of literalism in which speculation as to the meaning of the text is minimised. Questioning the implications or ramifications of a holy text is discouraged.

"Any speculation about sacred things was considered an innovation. Every dogma was to be befieved in with­out raising the question how or why [1]"


Counter arguments

Loki's wager and special pleading

When verses might contradict in a holy book, the contradiction is arguably avoided by refusing to consider the implications of both verses. In any other context, this would not be an acceptable argument and is therefore special pleading. Some clergymen however tell theists to believe to the letter / without questioning one of two just as valid but contradictory scriptural statements, but to not take the other similarly literally.

It is unreasonable to claim a doctrine is beyond all discussion or comprehension. This is an example of Loki's wager.

If we read holy texts in any other situation, people would reject them as self-contradictory and not adopt this arbitrary principle of non-interpretation. For this reason, it fails the outsider test. If a fact can be understood, its implications can be explored. If we cannot draw any implications or inferences, it is not a statement of knowledge but merely a series of utterances without meaning.

Meaning is lost if implications are not considered

If absolutely no implications or interpretation is allowed beyond the bald facts stated in the holy book, there is no way to apply the text to any novel situation or and different context. This makes the relevance of such a work very limited.

See also


  1. [1]
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