Much of the Bible is literal. The historical accounts are intended to be interpreted literally, not as allegories as some have done. The doctrinal teaching is intended to be interpreted literally. For example, when Paul writes ...
For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:17)
... he is speaking literally.
Even prophecy is mostly literal. An example is this prophecy against the city of Tyre:
"From the north I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, with horsemen and a great army. (Ezekiel 26:7)
I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. (v. 14a)
These prophecies came true in way that literally matches the text. Today the spot where Tyre used to be a flourishing city is now a bare rock that fishermen use to spread out their fishnets for drying.
The "word faith" teachers, such as Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price and Kenneth Hagin, have attempted to literalize things in a way that does great damage to the interpretation of scripture. One such doctrine concerns the nature of faith. The following verse is taken out of context to "prove" that faith is a substance:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1a KJV)
Then it is claimed that God used this substance when He created the universe so that the universe was not really created out of nothing, but that it was created out of this "substance of faith" which is resident in God's nature.
There are several serious problems with this teaching on the substance of faith. We will discuss several of these problems here. The first concerns the word which is translated as "substance" in the King James Version. The greek word is hupostasis and it doesn't refer to a substance but to an assurance or confidence. In fact, the New International Version translates it as "being sure of."
Here are the four other occurrences of this word in the Bible: The word "self-confident" in:
In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool; (2 Corinthians 11:17)
the word "confident" in:
For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we — not to say anything about you — would be ashamed of having been so confident; (2 Corinthians 9:4)
the word "confidence" in:
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first; (Hebrews 3:14)
and, the word "being" in:
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:3a)
This last example is translated with the word "person" in the King James Version.
If it were a valid principle of interpretation to use the common meaning of a word after it has been translated into English as the "word faith" teachers have done with the word hupostasis in its translation as "substance," then we would have to accept the following interpretations of the meaning of the word "faith" in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the person of things hoped for," or: "Now faith is the being of things hoped for."
The second problem with the doctrine of faith being a substance out of which the universe was created concerns the meaning of the word created in the following passage:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
The word translated as "created" is the Hebrew word "bara" means to create out of nothing, and, in fact, this is the only word in the Hebrew language which can be used to express this idea. If the heavens and the earth were created out of a substance, then the writer of this passage chose the wrong word; but surely the Holy Spirit doesn't make mistakes. Therefore, the doctrine of the "substance of faith" must be in error.
This inane attempt at literalization leads to utterly nonsensical results. Yet hundreds of thousands of people are being taught that faith is a substance or force which can be used by humans to coerce God into doing anything which we can believe for as long as we can find an out-of-context passage of scripture which we can speak with the tongue. We must be careful to literalize passages in a manner that makes sense and only when this is the intended meaning of the passage otherwise we will misinterpret scripture.