I’d like some opinions regarding how we are to read certain parts of the Bible in light of some of the Church’s teachings.
Pope Benedict XVI, in Verbum Domini, takes fundamentalist interpretations to task, explaining that “the ‘literalism’ championed by the fundamentalist approach actually represents a betrayal of both the literal and the spiritual sense… ‘The basic problem with the fundamentalist interpretation is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it make itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. [It] tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods.’” (44, with quotes from the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church).
The Commission’s work is stronger on the point: "Fundamentalism…historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning.
"Fundamentalism…accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology, simply because it is found expressed in the bible…
“The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory…[F]undementalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with that are in fact its human limitations.” (I.F.)
What would constitute a fundamentalist interpretation of, for example, the creation accounts, the flood story, or the the story of Jonah (three days living in the belly of a great fish), that we might want to avoid? And, what interpretation would avoid fundamentalism and still be in line with the argument that they are nonetheless religiously true stories?