Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scriptural Proof Texting

I just read an interesting article on The Ooze by Frank Viola entitled, "THE BIBLE IS NOT A JIGSAW PUZZLE: A New Approach to the New Testament".

He says we Christians have been taught to approach the Bible in one of seven ways.
You look for verses that tell you what God commands you to do.

You look for verses that inspire you. Upon finding such verses, you either highlight, memorize, meditate upon, or put them on your refrigerator door.

You look for verses that tell you what God has promised so that you can confess it in faith and thereby obligate the Lord to do what you want.

You look for verses that you can quote to scare the devil out of his wits or resist him in the hour of temptation.

You look for verses that will prove your particular doctrine so that you can slice-and-dice your theological sparring partner into Biblical ribbons. (Because of the proof-texting method, a vast wasteland of Christianity behaves as if the mere citation of some random, de-contextualized verse of Scripture ends all discussion on virtually all subjects.)

You look for verses in the Bible to control and/or correct others.

If you are a preacher, you look for verses that "preach" well for next Sunday morning's sermon.
Viola raises concerns about he calls the “cut-and-paste” approach to Bible study. It is the common practice of coming to the NT with scissors and glue, clipping and then pasting disjointed sentences (verses) together from Books that were written decades apart.

"This 'cut-and-paste' approach has spawned all sorts of spiritual hazards," claims Viola. "One of them being the popular practice of lashing verses together to build floatable doctrines. Another is that of 'proof-texting' to win theological arguments. (A vast majority of Western Christianity behaves as if the mere citation of some random and de-contexualized verse ends all discussion on virtually all subjects.)"

"The Medievals called this 'cut-and-paste' method 'a string-of-pearls'. You take one text, find some remote metaphorical connection with another text, and voilá, an ironclad doctrine is born! But this is a pathetic approach to understanding the Bible. While it is great for reading one’s own biases into the text, it is horrible for understanding the intent of the biblical authors."

Viola purports we need an new approach to Scripture that teaches the big picture, the story, the context, the chronology of the writings, the historical context.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am feelin' that...it would seem that using one of those seven methods of searching scripture, say focusing on an encouraging verse or two wouldn't necessarily be wrong, but you would need the big picture story and understanding to know if the verse was meant to encourage the reader in that particular way. Otherwise the "encouragement" may be mistaken and used inappropriately. Does that make any sense?