Skip to comments.The Danger of Picking and Choosing Scripture
Posted on 04/14/2018 11:42:11 AM PDT by pcottraux
By Philip Cottraux
Imagine casually thumbing through your Bible and coming across Job 4:17: Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? Your first reaction might be to praise God for showing you this wonderful scripture! Job, one of the poetic books of the Old Testament, is filled with amazing insight into why people suffer and how hard it is to see the big picture of Gods plan in our lives. Typical of the kind of thought-provoking and inspiring messages sprinkled throughout Job, this verse contains profound truth!
One of the deadliest follies believers and non-believers alike commit is cherry-picking scriptures. People do it all the time for a variety of reasons, mostly to prove that their beliefs are right and others are wrong. Christian denominations like to formulate their own doctrines and pick verses that support those doctrines, while ignoring others that might discredit them. This is one of the fastest roads to damnation we can take.
We are living in an age of rampant deceit. Deceit is everywhere. Its in the news, movies, television shows, and all over the internet and social media. You name a belief, and its out there somewhere with a large following and plenty of scripture to back it up. Preachers can say whatever they want on Facebook or YouTube and gullible Christians anywhere in the world will watch it and be deceived. A preacher using scriptures out of context to back up false doctrine is an especially insidious trap to fall in.
Some people call it buffet religion. Instead of taking in the wholeness of the Word, we reach and grab our favorite parts, crafting our own unique religious experience custom-fitted to our own tastes. But we ignore the rest of the Bible at our peril.
The classic example is the infamous feel-good gospel infecting todays American church. Be a better you. Learn to love and accept yourself. Be financially blessed by God. Talk all about the Lords mercy and forgiveness. Thats all people want. Telling them what they want to hear is big business. It refuses to warn about hell or the need to repent for fear of offending or being labeled judgmental. But a gospel that tells you what you want to hear isnt doing you any favors.
1 Timothy 4:1: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
But it isnt just Christians. People from all across the spectrum of human thought are guilty of picking and choosing scriptures. For example, Muslims like to use Luke 18:19 to deny Christs deity, while ignoring John 1 or 10:30. I cant tell you the number of times atheists have confronted me with scriptures from the Old Testament laws, as if theyre shocking me with scriptures Ive never seen before. The implication is that Christians preach love and forgiveness and are apparently clueless about the harshness of the Mosaic laws, which demand people be stoned for minor offenses. This misunderstanding, of course, presumes that believing the Bible is the Word of God automatically includes every scripture be taken literally and apply to modern everyday life (Sam Harris is notorious for this; in The End of Faith, he claims Christians should stone peace-loving Hara Krishnas if they truly believe what the Bible says).
But I cant say this enough; context is everything.
When people challenge me with a particular scripture and demand an explanation, whether theyre an atheist, Muslim, Jehovahs Witness, or what-have-you, I answer with a round of questions (usually met with confused silence): what chapter is it in? Who wrote it? What book is it in? What do the scriptures before and after it say? When was it written? And most importantly, why?
When Sam Harris and other atheists quote scripture from Deuteronomy that instruct the Israelites to stone people for adultery or idol worship, they come across as clueless about context. Even young Christians usually understand that the Mosaic Laws were a temporary bulwark to keep the wandering Israelites from being influenced by the surrounding cultures immediately following the Exodus, which were steeped in human sacrifice and child cannibalism (read more on this in my previous blog, Joshuas Conquest and World War II).
Furthermore, criticizing the Old Testament for cherry-picked scriptures about the harsh penalty for law violations fundamentally ignores Jeremiah 31:31-33: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
If you believe in the Old Testament, you have to believe that the Mosaic Laws were only temporary and have long since been done away with. Jeremiah demanded it. Jesus fulfilled it. Paul wrote a large portion of the New Testament to get this across. Many Jewish believers still wanted to abide by the oppressive laws, and Paul wrote Romans, Galatians, and many other books to specifically get this across. Romans 6:14: For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Christian theology has been clear for 2,000 years that the Old Testament laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy do not apply to followers of Jesus, because the crucifixion freed us from it.
Back to Job 4 to finish illustrating my point. As Im sure youre aware, Job is the tale of a righteous man who suffers terrible punishment by the devil in an attempt to get him to blaspheme God. Sadly, after losing his children, all his possessions, and being smitten head-to-toe with boils, Jobs wife and friends are of no help. While Job sits in silence, his supposed friends shake their heads and shame him for some unspoken sin rather than comfort him.
Job 4:17 sounds like a great scripture. But glance upwards to the opening verses: Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking? Eliphaz is one of the miserable friends who opens his speech by shaming Job. He even gets self-righteous enough to say that they cannot hold their peace seeing Job in the pitiful condition hes in.
Clearly Eliphaz has no right to speak for God. Now were starting to see that verse 17 has a cloud of suspicion over it. However, as we scroll down, things take a chilling turn. Eliphaz reveals that there is more to his visitation. He had a vision a few days prior and believes he is delivering a message from God. Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake (verses 12-14). A spirit had appeared to him, and the hair of his skin stood up at the sight. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: (verse 15).
Eliphaz thought this was an angel, but it was clearly a demon sent to deceive him. Which leads us to what we originally thought was a great scripture: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker (verses 16-17)?
It turns out verse 17 is actually spoken by a demonic spirit. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).
And this is the danger of picking and choosing scriptures. When someone, even if they agree with me, quotes scripture to prove a point, I get an uneasy feeling. The Bible must be taken in its entirety. Ive made sure in my life to place every scripture in its proper context, the totality of its chapter and all the verses around it, as well as who wrote it and in what historical context. This can help us discern the voice of God from the devil. Satan is a master of twisting scripture and leading us to subtly deny Christ. He rarely boldly lies to our faces, but is very good at twisting the Word of God out of context just enough to fool us. Lies can be dangerous, but lies mixed with some truth can be catastrophic.
Even the devil and all his demons know the Word by heart. James 2:19: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. The question is, do you? The whole Bible, not just select scriptures, is your best weapon against his lies and mistruths.
Thanks for reading/watching, and God bless!
This is the official ping list for Depths of Pentecost: Im a Christian blogger who writes weekly Bible lessons. Topics range from Bible studies, apologetics, theology, history, and occasionally current events. Every now and then I upload sermons or classes onto YouTube.
Let me know if youd like to added to the Depths of Pentecost ping list. New posts are up every Saturday.
Thanks for the thread.
It is a danger. Even Paul was fighting deception in the church from almost its very inception.
The Council at Jerusalem addresses some of the issues that had come up in just a few short years.
Yes, atheists and those opposed to Christianity are great at what they think is the *gotcha* game.
Except they really don’t know what they are talking about.
Please add me to your ping list.
You are precisely right about the passage in Job. A lot of what Job’s “friends” said sounds pious and like wise sayings from God. They have that ring about them. But they were wrong. God said so Himself:
And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”
In Job 42, God cancels the words of Eliphaz: “My wrath is kindled against Eliphaz; for he has not spoken the truth concerning Me as My servant Job has.
And, like the article says, we have people out there willing to make doctrinal statements based on what Eliphaz said, particularly in Job 22. Amazing, isn’t it? Like the essay here implies, context is everything when it comes to hermeneutics.
One of the biggest errors I see in denominations is the practice of eisegesis....reading something into the text that isn’t there to support a dogma. It leads to a lot of bad theology.
This is meant generally to everybody.
The danger in picking and choosing scriptures to form one’s beliefs on his very big and cannot be understated. That very thing is behind every erroneous teaching found in Christian religions today. I won’t go into specific examples because that would only invite debate with hard feelings all around. I will respectfully point out that selective use of scriptures as a basis for dogma goes back to the very first Council at Nicea in the fourth century.
In the 19th century, though, one-half of the Adventists present for the Great Disappointment, as some still call it, in 1844 chose to use actually look up all the scriptures in any way bearing on biblical topics and only articulate an understanding after doing that and exhaustively looking up all occurrences of keywords in those scriptures for the same purpose as well. If you would like to know why that last just look up the Hebrew word “nephesh” (soul) sometimes in a lexicon and it will become very clear why they did that. What they learned would surprise most and is why Satan has worked hard since to undo the results of their labors. Sadly one of his efforts that is to continue in the errors of William Miller, has been very successful in that effort of his.
I am not a Seventh-day Adventist and they would see me as in the part of the movement they still derisively still call the “Second Day” Adventists though that isn’t entirely correct either.
While laborious, that is the best way to figure out what the Bible teaches in my view. One irony is that I sometimes get accused of cherry-picking scripture by folks at times.
Except they really dont know what they are talking about.
I don't like to generalize, but that's simply been my experience debating atheists over and over again. Sometimes they call me a coward for declining to debate, but I've come to view it as a fruitless exercise. My experience is that most atheists are trapped in cognitive dissonance and are unable to see out of their naturalistic bubble...and the "debate" usually consists of gotcha questions and straw man arguments ("Hee hee! You believe in an invisible man in the sky!").
I find it intellectually unfulfilling and a waste of time. So many atheists are trapped viewing Christianity in the Sunday-school-religion form. Which is why they make stupid arguments like "snakes can't talk!" or what-have-you.
I used Job because it's one of the best examples of flipping through the Bible and stumbling across "great" scripture...only viewed through context, they're not so great after all. It's a great way to illustrate that believing the Bible is the Word of God doesn't necessarily mean that every isolated scripture is the absolute truth. If that were the case, we could pick out quotes from Satan and hail them as truth as well.
As I mentioned at the end, the most insidious lie isn't the bold-faced one, but the lie disguised in some truth. It goes all the way back to the garden of Eden: the serpent took God's Words, and twisted them enough to fool Eve.
So much of prosperity gospel preaching sounds just like Jobs worthless friends.
I’ve run into those on FR and told them that if they want an excuse to reject God, they need to find a better one because that’s pretty weak.
You could well be right about that, though I personally think that it goes back much further than that. The Nicene council did serve an important purpose at the time (condemning Arianism) but some ill came from it as well as you pointed out.
One could argue that selective scripture misreading goes all the way back to the dawn of Christianity itself. You can find numerous examples of the Pharisees doing this as they opposed Jesus, and many early church Christians themselves were guilty of it (as I often point out, is why many of the New Testament epistles were written in the first place).
I try to be sympathetic towards other viewpoints. But if I were an atheist, I sure wouldn’t behave or act like most of them do. I recognize that even if the Old Testament stories aren’t historically true (a view I don’t share), they still would hold value as mythological lessons in morality ...dismissing the entire Bible because “snakes and donkeys can’t talk” is a pretty bone-headed way of looking at it.
I’ve noticed that parallel before also.
We see the same with the corrupt leadership of Israel during Christ’s earthly ministry. Some of them were described as covetous. Annas was the high priest who, according to Josephus, ran the moneychanging operation in the courtyard of the temple where the Lord twice removed them. Jesus called it a den of thieves. Annas and his four sons and one son-in-law all took turns being priest due to his bribery of the Roman authorities. There positions as priest, high priest, and members of the Sanhedrin were lucrative jobs.
Contextually, when Jesus drove out the money changers, He was defending the right of Gentiles to worship outside the temple which the corrupt leaders had turned into a stinking zoo.
Jesus spoke of those who devoured widow’s houses. Yet they were glad to take the widow’s last farthing into the treasury. That last farthing was sort of a last straw with God. Jesus said the temple had to come down.
Some of these TV preachers will con widow ladies on a fixed income to donate money using credit cards with the premise that God will bless them financially, but this of course leads to financial disaster.
Bible Passage Tennis Volley. Theologians thrive on it.
“Sometimes [atheists] call me a coward for declining to debate, but I’ve come to view it as a fruitless exercise.”
Most of the time people do not believe the Gospel because of issues of morality and character rather than logic, reason, or evidence. That’s why these debates tend to be fruitless.
But sometimes God intervenes in their lives to prove He is real, if they are really open-minded enough to receive it. He did that for Larry Nevenhoven, who writes for WND:
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.