The scriptures ought to be interpreted according to their original intent and their actual form. To understand them otherwise is to proceed from mistaken assumptions. Should such an approach be dignified with the word “literal”? Literal meaning should not be seen as something other than the actual historical meaning.
It is precisely the critical scholar who takes the Bible literally. Rather than seeking to make everything in the Bible conform to some preconceived idea of its nature and inspiration, the critical method seeks to understand. At best, the critical approach is an attempt to inductively discover the nature and meaning of the scriptures from themselves and their own history; rather than imposing on the scriptures an a priori theology.
I’ve quoted this before, but sadly the source article seems to have disappeared.
Update: I’ve now posted the full text of the source article, courtesy of its author, Craig L. Adams.