Monday, December 27, 2010

Careful with that Proof-Texting

I'm accustomed to hearing a phrase similar to this: "We have to go by what the Bible says, not what man says."

And I agree that this is completely correct. But many in the Scripture-honoring crowd have adopted a mentality that they know what the Bible says, and they often have their favorite pet verses to "prove" their understanding. The problem with this is that sometimes an equally valid proof-text can be found for the other side.

For example, in a workbook for a Bible class is this question: "Did Paul desire the Corinthians' help to preach the gospel beyond them?"

And an answer given was "yes", and the proof-text for this answer was 2 Cor 10:15-16:
But we have the hope that as your faith increases, our area [of ministry] will be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel to the regions beyond you....
This indicates that Paul wanted the faith of the Corinthians to mature to the point where they could help spread the gospel beyond them.

But on the other hand, there is this proof-text in 2 Cor 11:6-9:
Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.
Here is a clear indication that Paul served them free of charge, without being a burden to them, and will continue to not be a burden to them.

So here the answer to the original question would be "no".

So which is it? Both sides have a proof-text. Both sides can claim that their side is going by what the Bible says and not what man says.

What's my point?

Just because you have a proof-text that "proves" your point, it may not actually prove your point. So perhaps we should be a little more cautious in claiming that we have the Truth because we go by the Bible.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

From what I have seen, I think that almost any position on any subject can be supported with a proof text from the Bible, when you take it out of context. Of course, we are always taking things out of context when we pull out just one verse--which frequently but not necessarily alters the originally intended meaning.

Why do we have to prove everything anyway? Is it a contest of I'm right and you're wrong? Or a genuine desire to be pleasing to God? And don't you think that when God wanted us to be precisely correct in how we do something, He would explain it directly and precisely,rather than leaving subtle hints requiring us to then tease out the meaning?