Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Proof-Texting

Imagine I've written 3 letters to 3 different people about my summer. But instead of reading the letters someone tells you the following:

  • Jon hopes to go tenting across the country with his daughter during the coming school weeks. (Dear daughter verse 3, Dear Mom verse 2)
  • Next week Jon is going tenting across the country with Bob and family. (Hey Bob verse 3, Dear Mom verse 2)
  • Jon wishes he had gone golfing instead of camping (Hey Bob verses 1 & 2, Dear Mom verse 2)

If you just read the verses quoted, they seem to support the statements above. However none of the above is true when you look at the whole letters yourself.


Dear Mom,

1. Our family had a great vacation this summer.
2. We spent time together this summer by jumping in a van together and tenting across the country.
3. I enjoyed exploring parts of our country that we had never seen before.


Dear daughter,

1. I enjoyed the time we spent together as a family this summer.
2. I hope you are ready to get back into the school routine soon.
3. I hope we can find time during the school weeks to spend time together too.


Hey Bob,

1. Sorry I didn't get out golfing with you.
2. Our family got quite busy over the summer with other plans.
3. Looking forward to spending some time with you and your family next weekend.


Prooftexting is the practice of using quotations from a document (often, but not always, a book of the Bible) to establish a proposition. Using discrete quotations is generally seen as decontextualised. Critics of the technique note that often a document quoted in such a manner, when read as a whole, may not in fact support the proposition for which it was cited.

Ministers and teachers have used the following humorous anecdote to demonstrate the dangers of prooftexting:

A man dissatisfied with his life decided to consult the Bible for guidance. Closing his eyes, he flipped the book open and pointed to a spot on the page. Opening his eyes, he read the verse under his finger. It read, "Then Judas went away and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5b) Closing his eyes again, the man randomly selected another verse. This one read, "Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:37b)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prooftext

Proof-texting does not always lead to the wrong conclusions. And I'm likely guilty of using it too - I'll have to keep a watch on myself on this in the future. But lately I'm learning to be suspicious whenever I see proof-texting done to support an argument. If the early church believed the same sequence of thoughts, why didn't they write it down in one place in one of the letters they wrote.

Does your gospel require proof-texting? Or is is plainly written somewhere in one place?


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