The Dangers of Spiritualizing the Bible

Justin Johnson

Dispensational Bible study is the product of taking the Bible literally.

The opposite of taking the Bible literally is spiritualizing, also known as mystical or allegorical study of the Bible.

This is dangerous because it makes God’s actual words unimportant, makes the Bible text itself irrelevant, and inhibits understanding the truth of God’s revealed will.

Taking the Bible Literally

The word “literally” has fallen on hard times in the culture. People use the word, but not according to what it truly means.

‘Literal’ means according to the letter and word. If something literally happened, then it actually happened exactly as the words describe.

(If my mind was literally blown, then I could not be writing this and would not have a brain.)

Taking something literally requires adhering to the words exactly without imagination or exaggeration.

Taking the Bible literally is the idea that the meaning or interpretation is limited by the words that are used printed in black and white on the page. This requires attention and importance be given to every word. Words deliver meaning.

This is the approach that claims that God means what he said.

Spiritualizing the Bible

Not taking the Bible literally is when the interpretation is limited only by the imagination of the reader. This is to say, the meaning is not truly limited at all. It can mean whatever the receiver perceives it to mean and is often defined by outside authorities like tradition or popularity.

This is the approach that says that whoever wrote the Bible (it is not required to literally be God) did not say exactly what they mean.

This is called mystical because the meaning is secret and not clearly expressed in the words on the page.

It is called allegorical because it assumes the entire Bible must be representative of something else.

It is called spiritualizing the text because nothing has a solid and specific application. Instead, the Bible teaches only general moral principles. In this case, the meaning is not forced into a rigid structure and definition formed by words.

Exact words matter less in this approach, and it has led to the multitude of colloquial and casual Bible translations and even visual Bibles that intend to preserve the meaning without the words. There must be many of these options because resting on any one form of words would lead back to a literal reading.

Spiritualizing Leads to Not Knowing

In the case of the spiritual allegorical way of reading the Bible, the question arises as to how you know your interpretation is correct?

There are only two answers to this question.

The first option is that an educated expert or group of such experts must tell you if your interpretation is correct.

This only serves to divorce you, as an uneducated layman, away from interpreting the printed words of God for yourself. You are captive to other men’s interpretations which stand upon the strength of numbers, tradition, or extra-Biblical visions, revelations, positions, etc.

In this way of interpreting the Bible you must rely on commentaries, church historians, and the tradition of your elders to know how to explain passages in the scripture.

You cannot know without them.

The way you know you are correct in this way of interpretation is not by trusting God’s words, but by conforming to man’s tradition.

Spiritualizing Leads to No Objective Truth

The second option is that there is no correct way to interpret the Bible. The idea that the Bible is communicating one objective truth to everyone that reads it is anathema from this perspective.

In this approach, the authority is solely upon your subjective feelings, circumstances, and needs.

According to this dangerous practice the Bible exists only to help you learn more about yourself, and if it doesn’t, then it can be replaced by any other book, scientist, experience, or gut feeling.

After all, the words are not what matter, and it is not about adhering to any one tradition. All that matters is whether you find solace, benefit, or help from how you read it.

This approach is identified by the question, “what does it say to you?”

Objective truth and facts cannot be understood without taking something literally. Spiritualizing is subjective.


Spiritualizing the Bible is the enemy of Bible believing dispensational study which tries to understand the meaning of God’s words by the words.

Any attempt to retranslate, change the words, spiritualize, or otherwise separate the interpretation from the doctrinal and historical context of words on the page will lead to ignorance of the truth of God and his will.

If the Bible should be left alone and words matter to deliver meaning, then the Bible should be read literally.

This will eventually lead you to mid-Acts Pauline dispensational Bible study, understanding the truth, and knowing God’s will.

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Published: October 21, 2017
Last Modified: October 9, 2019
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