Mar 072013 4 Responses

Friends Don’t Let Friends Misquote the Bible

Imagine if you read every text message I have sent this week without any consideration of the context in which the message was written.

  • When I wrote to my wife “I love you, too” it would read the same as when I sarcastically responded to my friend’s cut-down with, “I love you, too.”
  • When I said, “I’ve told you a million times,” you would ignore the hyperbole and assume I’ve actually said something one million times.
  • When I responded to a church member with “Holy Moses, Batman,” you would honestly think Moses was holy and I was texting Batman.

Words only have meaning in context. Whenever we strip words from sentences or sentences from paragraphs or paragraphs from chapters we run the risk of  misrepresenting the person we are quoting.

It happens all the time in politics. Negative campaign ads are often born from stripping one line of an opponent’s speech and applying it in a way that was never intended by the original speaker. Both Republicans and Democrats do it because it is such a successful tactic. It’s unfair to the person, but effective for the goal.

This same process is what often happens as people critique a Biblical worldview.

In two separate articles this week, authors have stripped the Biblical text of context in order to make their point. The first was making the case that the Bible has no suggested sexual ethic. The author made her point by citing Biblical passages which describe human behavior in the same paragraph as Biblical passages which command Biblical behavior. An honest reading of the text would make clear the difference between description and prescription, but the author denies that to make her point. When the Bible describes the prostitution of a city, it is not commanding prostitution. The description of Noah’s sexual sin is not the same as the prescription by Paul to husbands and wives.

The second article took the commandment “you shall not murder,” and made the case that it was logically inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-death penalty or pro-life and a member of the military or law enforcement. To make this case the author used the old translation “you shall not kill,” stripped the commandment from its individual application and generalized it to apply to every situation which involves the death of another person. This was done despite the fact that in its wording and context the 6th commandment clearly distinguishes between murder and killing in the same way that all of us distinguish between the two. No one claims a police officer carries a gun in order to murder. No one believes the farmer has a shotgun to murder. No one believes the executioner who is carrying out the sentence of the court is murdering. There is a clear difference.

The Bible says “you shall not murder,” but then tells the story of David and Goliath in a positive light. It says “you shall not murder,” but then gives the government the responsibility of protecting its citizens. It says “you shall not murder,” but then describes actions in Old Testament Israel which they were to punish by death.

Many people attack a Biblical worldview by taking proof texts and showing the inconsistency of a “literal” reading of Scripture, but by stripping the text from context and highlighting one verse while ignoring other passages they have taken the “literal” Word of God and turned into an “imaginative” text. They then make their argument against the imaginative text instead of the literal text.

The literal reading of my text messages would demand an understanding of to whom they were sent, what they were sent in response to, and what my intention was. And one message would have be read in light of all the messages in order to get a comprehensive understanding of my mind. To quote one text message and apply it to whatever circumstance you wish is not a literal reading.

The same is true with the Bible.

Many opponents of the Biblical worldview will attack the literal reading of Scripture by quoting Scripture in a non-literal way and making the case we are being illogical. It is neither fair nor logical.

While the Biblical worldview can and should be critiqued, that critique should be done in a fair way. Understand what the text says and then make the case against it.

How did they learn to attack Christianity this way? They learned it by watching us.

Far too often, Christians have used the Bible in the same non-literal way, stripped of context and meaning at the isolation of other stories, and proof-texted their points in order to win an argument. We don’t like this method when its used against us so we shouldn’t use this method against others.

Understand what the Biblical text says and seek to present it fairly because friends don’t let friends misquote the Bible.

 

4 Responses to Friends Don’t Let Friends Misquote the Bible
  1. Sue Rogers Reply

    Kevin, just a quick note to say I sincerely appreciate & enjoy your writings. They are very much thought provoking, non-judgmental & very well written. Moreover, they are very “educationa!” You are wise beyond your years! Thank You!

    • Kevin Reply

      Thank you Sue.

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