The Pentecostal movement; considered to have begun at Azusa Street in Los Angeles but likely had much earlier roots; has been the subject of many research studies due to it's unique beginnings. Below is an excerpt from one such study completed by
David Daniel Kentie in partial fulfillment of his requirements for the degree of Master of Theological Studies at Tyndale Seminary. I don't personally know this individual, but I found his piece very interesting and worth a read.

Kentie titled his thesis "Kingdom Now: A Pentecostal Paradigm of Mission". It's a bit of a heady piece, as every thesis is, but he makes some very good points regarding "literalism" in his writings.  His thesis revolves primarily around those who adhere to "Classical Dispensationalism". Some Pentecostal adherents focus heavily on different dispensations of time, with a heavy emphasis on the end times and rapture. While the ABC does not perfectly fit this model, despite their heavy emphasis on the end times, they do share in many of the doctrines born out of the Pentecostal Movement and Latter Rain Revival movement that followed.

A true "Classical Dispensationalist" believes in the rapture, whereas the ABC teaches "believers" will be taken away for a time "into the wilderness" and will then return to meet Christ in the air, after the tribulation is over. As with all end times teachings, these outlooks are somewhat fluid and have changed over the years. A review of the ABC website shows they currently believe what could only be termed the "anti-rapture", where the  evil are scooped off the earth instead and the righteous remain behind.  A peek through the entire site shows an established doctrine heavy on dispensationalism but, to be fair, the scriptures themselves delineate different periods of dispensational history.

For the purpose of this post, I am strictly focusing on "literalism", not on the end times doctrines espoused by the ABC, or that of "Classical Dispensationalists". From my own perspective Revelation, and the other associated texts, are nebulous at best so I hesitate to make any prophecy or prediction on when the end of mankind will be.  Some who came before me have made various predictions, which then became a moving target as dates passed. The dates left unfulfilled were of necessity pushed forward to another target date. 

For ease of reading I have removed some of the more scholarly segments of text. If one wants to read the entire thesis, without edit, it can be found here: Kingdom Now A Pentecostal Paradigm of Mission The excerpt below is from Chapter 3, Section 2, Subsection 2. 

This strict biblical literalism is the result of an extremely high view of Scripture...They observe Scripture as firmly inerrant, and historically have behaved militantly towards those who oppose their...perspective.129  ...all Scripture, including prophecy, is to be interpreted as plainly written. There is no room for allegory or metaphor.130 Those who oppose this high view of Scripture are often deemed “willfully blind to the plain teaching of the Word of God, and thus apostate.”131  Most perplexing about the extremism present within th(is) brand of biblical literalism is the utter disregard for linguistic context. For instance...Thomas Holdcroft argues that the “words of the Bible should be taken to mean just what the same words would mean in any normal context.”133 A glaring problem presents itself here: what defines the “normal context” of meaning? In terms of Scripture, the words that we receive in English are, in fact, interpretations of more ancient languages, influenced and shaped by those respective cultures and time periods. There is no normal context of meaning that remains constant across a millennia of cultural transition. This is not to say that no Scripture can ever truly be grasped. Certainly one can receive impressions, general concepts, and rudimentary instructions through Scripture, but there is apparent assumption...that they have the “true” and normal interpretation, even when it defies basic historical...principals of contextualization. In other words, (one) cannot come objectively to the text and declare their interpretation of Scripture as the normal and definitive interpretation being themselves products of contextual influence.

129 Thompson, Kingdom Come, 26.130 Bass, Backgrounds to Dispensationalism, 22.
131 Thompson, Kingdom Come, 27.
132 Bass, Backgrounds to Dispensationalism, 22.
133 L. Thomas Holdcroft, Eschatology: A Futurist View (Abbotsford: CeeTec Publishing, 2001), 50.


One of the difficulties with literalism is filling in the gaps that occur when we don't have enough information. It is not possible to put pen to paper and tell an entire story so we, as human, tend to paint the rest of the picture in our mind based on our own perspective. This diversity is how God created us, we need to respect that diversity and we must be humble in our understanding of all things. This is where true "reasoning together" plays a role. 

There will always be gaps. When we read a novel, the author hopes the reader can fill in those gaps from the slight nuances in the tone of the character. The scriptures are no different. When we read scripture, we must interpret the meaning best we can, based on the information provided, knowing the information at hand is quite incomplete. We then fill in the gaps with conjecture and reasoning. 

Per ABC teaching, put forward by Gilbert Larson, the earth was created in six human day lengths, with one human day of rest directly after. Thus we have a seven day week but this was not always so. The seven day week was a Babylonish invention in about 700 BCE based on the phases of the moon. The rest of all earth eternity began on the eighth day per the most common Christian teaching. But this is the story of the creation of Earth, not the universe. Prior to the moon and the sun, there was no earth time, just infinity and cosmic motion.

By the time we get to the "end of days" story, Gilbert Larson now teaches each one of God's days are equivalent to one-thousand human years. Creation, per ABC teaching, is based on human days but Revelation is now based on God's days. If God does not change, how then do we go from human days in Genesis to one thousand years per day  in Revelation? Why do we even try to restrict God to human days?  Certainly the geologic and cosmic evidence around us does not point to earth being created in just six human days. We have physical evidence of eons of chaos during the formation of the earth. Time is irrelevant to a God that is infinite, is it not?

When we view Genesis with literalism, based on very incomplete text, we  put God in a box bounded by human time. Time is a construct that helps us manage our days, but God is not restricted by this measurement of time. Every day we witness sunup, sundown but when we  move beyond the bounds of earth there is no sunup and sundown. Just blackness and pinpoints of light on into infinity. God does not see the universe through human eyes, only we do.

We read in Genesis, Adam and Eve were created then had two children, Cain and Abel. If I were to read this in a strictly literal sense, there are now just four people living on earth; Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. However, when Cain impregnates his wife... 

Wait, Cain had a wife? Where did she come from?  How could Cain find a wife if there was only one female and three males living on earth at this time?  Well, I'll figure that out later. Back to the story. 

Cain's wife gives birth to Enoch in Ge. 4:17, while Cain is away building an entire city to be inhabited by whom? And who were his laborers that helped him build this entire city? At a time when Genesis tells us there were four people on earth. There is a huge gap of time, and knowledge, here in Genesis and the writer, assumed to be Moses, leaves it to us to fill in the blanks best we can. It is likely there was other assumed knowledge during this era, passed down verbally, so the writer just left that part out. 

The scriptures are a great resource handed down for many many centuries, but it is incomplete knowledge. I have heard the position that God intervened and assured the translation between languages was translated perfectly. I find no evidence to support this and , in fact,  languages were developed by God, per scripture, to keep us from communicating perfectly. Languages were intended to create a bit of mayhem so we couldn't try to reach into the heavens again. And even if it were translated perfectly, and literally, we all see the world slightly different in our brain and don't read things alike.

Some time back I purchased a tool made in China. On the outside of the box someone, in China apparently, translated literal Chinese into literal English:.  

What's Cheaper Than It is no as Good as it, what's Better Than It is not as Cheap as it  

I think they were trying to say "this is a good tool at a good price", but if I read that literally it says to me "this is cheap so it's not as good, if you wanted something good it's going to cost you" The tool was cheap and it was a worthless piece of junk.

When you read this text, you may read into it something entirely different than I do. I have no doubt that string of words in Chinese makes perfect sense and they are all correctly spelled English words, but since they are formatted incorrectly for the English speaking mind, they have completely lost their meaning. The ABC has many books which translate Greek to English, assumed perfectly, but these books do not interpret the syntax and flow of the words in sentences so they can never perfectly relate the mind of the author. What seems a perfect translation to us may not be if one has only defined individual words and not the actual concepts being related.

We are all diverse creatures and all have differing perspectives. Per scripture there was once only one language, but God intentionally broke up the languages so we would have difficulty communicating with each other. The goal was to prevent mankind from building a tower to heaven. I doubt the tower of Babel was high enough to actually reach into the heavens so, again, we are left to assume part of the story. This was obviously more than just trying to build a skyscraper. The world has plenty of those now, despite the language barriers, and God has not stopped them from being built. 

Even if we perfectly interpret words in other languages, we still have that huge barrier of cultural definition, syntax, metaphor, analogy and more to overcome. I, in the Northwest of the United States speak English in a much different way than someone speaking English in Boston Massachusetts, Atlanta Georgia or Gloucester Maine. We can communicate, but we have entirely different vernaculars based on our varied locale and culture so we will never communicate perfectly. 

If I were to take a literal view of Revelation there would be painted horses, dragons and mythical beasts roaming the earth at some point. We accept these things in Revelation as figurative, then fail to see other things in the scriptures are also analogous, figurative or metaphoric. From my view, the creation story may be translated figuratively as well, not simply historic. Days perhaps represent large segments of time, rather than a twenty-four hour human day. No one really knows. The story is compressed, into very few words, and is more of an outline than an actual story. There are huge gaps in the timeline, so not a great deal can be taken fully literally.

The ABC, and others who adopt a mostly literalist view of the scriptures, may be missing the cultural and language nuances that go beyond word definition or context. This can affect the true interpretation of the writing and there may have been errors in translation between languages as well. To be literalist is to be adamant, but we lack enough information to be adamant about anything. Below is a list of synonyms for adamancy. Do these terms speak "fruit of the Spirit" or do they say "work of the flesh"? You decide.  

And now for just a little fun with language.  Imagine yourself a non-native speaker as you read this below. I wrote this back in 2008.


Plain speaking has always begged the question; Why must cliché’s wreak havoc on our language? Take it from me, the cliché is no longer what it’s cracked up to be and has simply become old hat. It’s high time we all step up to the plate and put the whole cliché kit and caboodle behind us…now! Trust me on this, if we don’t change, we are all going to pay the piper for the cliché’s overuse.

Most cliché’s are threadbare from overuse anyhow. They do nobody a world of good in getting any single point across. They, plain and simply, have been worked to death. Nearly all fly in the face of reason. I pity the poor soul who speaks a language other than our own and tries to follow these types of thoughts from start to finish. They are often forced to take a powder when those around take umbrage at their being a stickler for the rules of language, then read them the riot act when they don’t understand. What gives with that?

Now mind you, the use of cliché’s is no skin off my nose personally but, in the grand scheme of things, are we not creating a no-win situation when we overuse cliché’s? To put it even more simply; plain speaking grinds to a halt when we interject clichés that ride roughshod over reason. I propose we bring down the curtain on cliché’s, let them rest in peace once and for all. It really is high time we go back to the drawing board and start from scratch on this one.

I have plans to review my own cliché habits with a fine tooth comb and eliminate these pesky devils from my own speech. I think I am well on my way already. Once I am fully successful, the population at large will be able to follow my train of thought in one fell swoop. I’ll find no  more need to explain my ridiculous cliché’s which have been gumming up the works. Undoubtedly my speaking in public will grind to a halt, at first, while I rethink my choice of words, but with fast and furious thought I will simply put my best foot forward and now speak plainly. Yes, from here on in I am putting my foot down on clichés, putting my money where my mouth is, putting my shoulder to the wheel, my nose to the grindstone and ridding myself, once and for all, of the offending cliché.

Oh mind you, I expect my position will not be popular at first. As every schoolboy knows, cliché’s ring hollow and mean not what they say. With all due respect, they have left our language in a shambles. Please forgive me if I sound like I am beating a dead horse but, after all, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. As I stated before, cliché’s are a tough row to hoe for the non-native. To them we sound as if we speak nonsense already. When we begin to use cliché’s they  likely think we have bats in our belfry. At the minimum, they probably think we have heads full of rocks. Sure, it seems simple for us, the native speaker, but it is they, the nonnative speaker, who bears the brunt of interpretation. We may even go full circle in explaining our cliché, but they will still think our brains are on the fritz. I propose from here on out we make sure we have both feet firmly planted on the ground and speak only plainly, without the use of cliché’. Even if our words end up sounding as dull as dishwater, we will have been polite and hit the nail on the head, whenever we speak. It should really be our mission to no longer muddy the waters with our ridiculous cliché’s.

Like it or lump it, the cliché death knell is now tolling. It is just a matter of time and we will be off and running; forging ahead in a new direction of plain speaking. You can mark my words on that. I see a new day dawning for all of us. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking plain and succinct will be our trump card, our ace in the hole if you will. Finally, the cliché will no longer be our own worst enemy. In the long run, as we change our speech patterns, these clichés will no longer be on the tip of our tongue, waiting to spring the trap on unsuspecting foreigners. It is truly in our own best interest to go whole hog in this new direction…right now! You can bet your bottom dollar the non-native will be eternally grateful, to all of us, when we finally initiate this change. No longer will they think of ways to give us a dose of our own medicine or lead us down the garden path too! It will be a brave new world I tell you.

By now a few are thinking my ideas are not worth a plug nickel. Some perhaps even feel I can’t see beyond the nose on my face and are just trying to make the fur fly. There are probably even those that think I am trying to take all of us to hell in a hand-basket with my crazy ideas. Others will even draw a line in the sand, insist language has always played fast and loose. They'll ask who am I to go off half-cocked, sowing my apples of discord. But let me bend your ear just a minute longer on this subject. I am normally a man of few words, and I may sound like a stuffed shirt right now, but cliché’s simply are meant to string the other person along , while saying absolutely nothing of value. I am not alone in my hue and cry. I am quite certain Noah Webster was a man cut from the same cloth as I. Over the years I have grown to respect Noah and his letter perfect dictionary. This is a man who knew which side his bread was buttered on. I hold forth he is probably spinning in his grave right now the way the cliché has taken our language by storm. Why, if he were alive today he would take up the cudgels and knuckle down to the task of eliminating cliché’s from our speech and writings. Regardless of how much we huff and puff; we would find it impossible to take the wind out of his sails. There would be no resting on our laurels in his company. He was no slouch when it came to the jot and tittle of language perfected. To go against his grain would be to meet your Waterloo and, in no uncertain terms, you would be toast! Don’t even go there!

Let me put in one last parting shot about the use of cliché’s. Perhaps, since I brought it up, I should be the one to pave the way for this change. Perhaps I should dish up a serving of humble pie for myself. After all, I am probably guilty in perhaps some small way of using cliché’s. So, as of right now, I pledge that soon you will see neither hide nor hair of cliché in my speech or writings. I, in fact, entertain high hopes for all of us that we can bear this burden together, in the heat of the day, and once and for all lay the cliché to rest. And I don’t mean maybe. We are all in the same boat here. If we do an about face now, take this slow, and not bite off more than we can chew, I know we can change. I tell you, it will be a grand and glorious day when our dear foreign friends no longer need to beat a retreat at our mixed-up words. Are we up to the challenge? Can we run the gauntlet and run these clichés to ground? Let the chips fall where they may. We can’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers. The time is now to get the show on the road, rout out the cliché from every nook and cranny of our speech and writing. We need no longer let the rest of society lead us by the nose. I urge you to return with me to the fold of cliché free speech. It will be a red letter day for all of us if we can get our act together, this very minute. Let's get on the ball and finally nail this puppy to the wall. Then we can all shout in unison. “Way to go!” 

©May 9, 2008, Scott J Haas


I assure you, a non-native speaker, with one hundred dictionaries and thesauruses at hand, could never decipher this mishmash of clichés through interpretation of each individual word. Culture and nuance count.