THE FALLACY OF PROOF-TEXTING

I must admit i used to be a part of the vast majority of Christians today who are very guilty of proof-texting, and by that i mean we love the Bible so much that we tend to want to say, “If the Bible says it, that settles it”. Now, i know the motive behind that cliche, because of my great love of the Bible as the only source for faith and practice, and the only true knowledge about God and man. But this is an untrue statement. What we tend to do is take certain verses out of the Bible that we have heard, taught, or preached, or quoted in our upbringing either by our Christian parents, or grandparents, or our pastor, or our denomination, and we’ve heard these verses over and over, and we know this is what the Bible teaches, and so we lock down as this being what the Bible says. But the question is, have we spent the time to look at all the verses that relate to this subject? Denominations have found passages in the Bible to build their credo on, and they have said, “thus saith the Lord”, and then anybody who disagrees with what they say is suddenly a weird person, or a liberal, or an inferior, or ignorant, or a heretic at most. But other denominations have read other verses in the Bible – equally inspired, equally valid, equally true, and they have built their religion over those verses, and they criticized as arrogantly as the other group. And we have caught ourselves in a place of casting stones at one another in the religious community. Now, nobody wins the battle except the evil one, when in fact we do not need to be shooting one another. What we have done of course is proof-texted the Bible and have listened to our denominational presuppositions, and have arrogantly claimed our understanding as the understanding of God.

Let me show you one issue so you will know where i am coming from. Historically, the whole Christendom has been polarized by the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. The major theme of Calvinism is that man is totally sinful. Man cannot come to God without prevenient grace, and man can only come to God if God chooses him. So here we have predestination, but Arminianism on the other hand teaches that man does have a part in Salvation. That although predestination is true, the Bible says “whosoever will”. So you can see how major groups of Christendom have been polarized around these 2 doctrines – “God chooses” versus “man chooses”. Which is true? Yes, both are true because both of those doctrines are Biblical, and we could go on for minutes quoting proof-texts on both sides. So the real question is, how do we work out the relationship?

The key is to realize that the Bible is an eastern book which uses figurative language expressing truth in very strong statements, but then balances it with other seemingly contradictory statements. The Bible presents truths in eastern and not western genres, and as such presents major doctrinal truths in tension-filled paradoxical (dialectical) pairs. People who are not acquainted with eastern genres practically hate dialectical tensions. We want it black or white. We want truths in “either or” categories. Our minds function in detailed outlines. We put things in major categories with sub-points, and we have done that to a Book that is not western. Remember, the Bible is not a systematic treatise on God. The Bible was not meant to build a systematic detailed theology on. The Bible was meant to bring us into a relationship with Jesus, the Christ. Its sole purpose as far as priority, is to show us our need – to bring us to Christ, and then to teach us how to walk in Him. Now what we’ve done is we’ve made the Bible, which is primary relational, we’ve made it propositional. Therefore truth is found between the two seemingly paradoxical extremes. Denominationalism tends to proof-text one side of the paradox and radicalize truth by literally and dogmatically interpreting one expression of truth without seeking and being open to the opposite truth. We must live within the tension created by these truths no matter how seemingly paradoxical they are because all Scriptures are divinely inspired.