Writing about hermeneutics, Peter Kreeft makes a good point about Fundamentalists:

... the Fundamentalists, ... in reaction to the Modernists tend to be suspicious of all symbolism and confine themselves to literal interpretation of every passage (except Jn 6:48-56).

In this case, Kreeft is using “literal” in the same sense the fundamentalists do; that is, the literalist, concrete, or “woodenly literal” sense. Instead of interpreting according to the proper genre using the orthodox principle of interpreting according to the sensus literalis, they take everything concretely, ignoring genre, historical context, hyperbole, and figures of speech. They make an exception for John 6:48-56 (“… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood …”), which they take as figurative. They properly reject transubstantiation, but only by using a special exception to their general hermeneutic. Conversely, the Catholics, who are usually better at the proper use of sensus literalis, take this passage in the concrete sense.

For more on sensus literalis, see RC Sproul’s summary of his book Knowing Scripture. This was also the source of the phrase “woodenly literal”. Unfortunately, some of Sproul’s recent writing indicates a drift away from the proper literal sense in interpreting some passages. The quote from Kreeft is from the footnotes of his excellent Summa of the Summa.

BibTeX reference:

	Author = {Thomas Aquinas},
	Editor = {Peter Kreeft},
	Publisher = {Ignatius Press},
	Title = {A Summa of the Summa},
	Year = {1990}