Interpreting the Bible literally or figuratively… that is a huge question. I’ll leave the science/evolution/creation side of this out for a moment and for another time. Right now what I just want to focus on is evidence for the Catholic way of interpreting scripture on a general scale.
What we have right now is a very complex book, that is also amazingly accessible to the masses, in the hands of people who don’t understand the various literary forms the Bible uses and their different intentions, and who don’t understand the cultural and linguistic implications that affect interpretation. Yes, I think people should be able to have a Bible in their hands and read it regularly. Great works of literature, fiction or non-fiction, can be read and something gleaned out of them even with just a basic reading and no background information or additional study. But, get yourself in a college class focused on a specific few great works of literature, and learn from a wise and passionate professor all the intricacies of how that work fit into the time in which it was written, and how it connected to the author’s other works, and what sort of themes and symbolism and meaning can be drawn out of that book by those who know how to read it – then everything changes. The book you are reading becomes so much richer and better, and more accurately understood. Why would it be any different with the Bible? Why would everyone attempt so often to interpret things on their own correctly, or only choose from a select group of like-minded interpreters while completely ignoring the interpretation of the text that has stood longer than any of the others?
Also, If we are to take the bible literally, like, no room for figurative speech, women should all be covering their hair. But, Protestants are quick to dismiss that as a cultural difference that has similar yet not identical implications of modesty for women in the church today. But if you say that you just made room for not taking it literally, word for word as written!
I suppose the Holy Spirit could give someone, on their own, a correct interpretation of scripture. But I haven’t seen any sort of uniformity anywhere close to that level in Protestant churches… and it isn’t that Catholics are uniform because no one thinks for themselves… they are uniform because they have thought more deeply about it than most others, and using a lens aligned with how the books were intended to be read, and who they were written to and by.
In some ways I’m like who was I to think I had even remotely the ability to understand scripture accurately on my own. But, in other ways, I think there is a lot of truth to be garnered from the scriptures that doesn’t require a PhD in theology. Some of the most core, basic beliefs about Christianity are generally easy to understand even at a basic level. But my concern is the desire to go deeper, and how to make that happen and not veer off course. I don’t think I can trust myself to that given my education level. I, then, will have to put some faith in theologians to help me get to those depths. And the largest group of united theologians on the subject of scripture interpretation are Catholic.