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Featured Proof-texting

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by rlvaughn, Apr 10, 2017.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    proof text: a Scriptural passage adduced as proof for a theological doctrine, belief, or principle (Merriam-Webster Online)

    Though Merriam-Webster defines "proof text" in neutral terms, many Christians have come to use it negatively. Zack Hunt claims, "Proof-texting is an intentionally deceptive practice that offers out of context proof while ignoring the greater witness of scripture..." Grant Osborne (The Hermeneutical Spiral) describes proof-texting as "that process whereby a person ‘proves’ a doctrine or practice merely by alluding to a text without considering its original inspired meaning." Another writes, "Proof-texting is when you start with a point you want to prove and then cherry-pick verses to support the point, regardless of the context and original meaning of those verses." If we accept these kinds of definitions, then proof-texting becomes an unredeemably bad thing. But is it, really?

    Sometimes verses of the Bible are misused as proof of something they do not prove. On the other hand, "proof-texting" has become a new "whipping-boy" for those who do not want to discuss the Scriptures specifically. If you have no text of scripture to instruct you, you have no proof of that instruction. Yes, taking random verses out of context is a bad thing -- whether as life guidance or doctrinal "proof texts". We've all no doubt been guilty of it at times. Let us repent and seek to study the Bible in toto and in context. We should not dismiss the legitimate criticisms, but proof-texting has a place.

    R. M. Allen and S. R. Swain wisely call for a more judicious approach, writing, "All of the charges brought against the use of proof-texts in Christian theology could be lodged against the Bible’s own use of the Bible." ("In Defense of Proof-texting," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 54, No. 3, 589-606) For example, "With respect to the first charge: 2 Cor 6:16-18 cites and/or alludes to a litany of OT passages (including Lev 26:12; Isa 52:11; 2 Sam 7:14) in support of the claim that “we are the temple of the living God,” but gives no indication of the distinct literary and historical contexts within which those passages are found." Allen and Swain advise us to "not commit the fallacy of confusing a method of citation with a hermeneutical procedure. Indeed, if there is an immediate lesson to be drawn, it is this: proof-texting (as a citation technique) has biblical precedent and therefore should not be too hastily dismissed." All of scripture matters. Don't discredit the use of Scripture as "proof texting". Don't chide people who produce texts of Scriptures to back up their doctrine and theology. We must first present texts so we have a basis to discuss what these Scripture texts teach. Absent bringing the Scriptures into the equation we are tossed to and fro, adrift to be carried about with every wind of doctrine.
     
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  2. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    I agree. But the problem with that approach is people are forced to recognize that doctrinal differences are sometimes differences in reasoning, understanding, presuppositions, etc., and not always one party denying Scripture itself. We (myself included) are not always charitable when it comes to differing positions. I think it is often because those differences are a rejection of our reasoning rather than Scripture and therefore personal, but we seldom admit to it.
     
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  3. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
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    it is an overly used accusation which denies that a single passage of scripture can be used to show evidence of a clear teaching of scripture. This is wrong. In fact a single passage of scripture or a single verse can and often does very clearly delineate a clear and undeniable teaching in scripture provided it is understood and applied in proper context.
     
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  4. reformed_baptist

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    There is a huge difference between 'proof texting' and 'mere proof texting' - to just throw out a text without any explanation and expect the people you are addressing to understand it in exactly the same light as you yourself do is not helpful and it inevitably results with people pitting scripture against scripture - and then we wonder why those outside of the kingdom, or those new to the faith, struggle to understand the bible and respect the bible - we have made it into a mass of unintelligible contradictions.

    However to provide a proof text, with the explanation of how you understand it and how it fits into your argument, and how it challenges you audience - that is to enlighten - it is to challenge presuppositions. However as one person has already noted, such challenge is often not readily received.

    This is, sadly a reflection on us all (I include myself), we are far more likely to be more interested in either cementing our own opinions, or demonstrating our prowess by crushing those who don't agree with us then we are is discussing the great truths of God's word in love, and we rarely set a good example of how to reason together - more often we fall into all the same traps that those without Christ are want to use in discussion (ad-hom etc)
     
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  5. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    True. I think the electronic format in which many of the discussions are had enhance the problem of not being charitable -- one, in that the "anonymous" nature of the discussion sometimes brings out the worst in us, and two, that it is a lot easier to misunderstand the "tone" in this written format than when we talk face to face. I hope to always be charitable, but sometimes don't achieve the goal, and might be misunderstood in some cases even when the intent is so.

    One thing I find troubling is that in many online biblical discussions -- discussion forums, blog posts, Facebook, and so forth -- that the Bible is never actually referenced in the discussion. I read what I thought was a good piece on a blog the other day that I generally agreed with, but the author never supported any of his points from the Bible. Instead, he related his experience. Experience can be a good teacher, but the Bible is the only inerrant one.

    I agree. Some of the "mere proof-texting" is basically like throwing a text down on the table in front of someone and shouting, "I won!" On the other hand, we do need to get the texts out there in front of us -- and then discuss them. No doubt we all fail on this at times.
     
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  6. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Claiming that the doctrine supported by specific verses or passages is merely "proof-texting" allows one side to dismiss scripture with an unsupported claim it has been taken out of context. The sad reality is most bogus doctrine has been taken out of context, and those push bogus doctrine then claim the rebuttal from scripture is "proof-texting." Without a commitment to truth, most any bogus view can be supported by cherry-picking verses then using them out of context.
     
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  7. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    The statement of faith at the church I attend recently updated its literature and added "proof-texts" to it. They can be useful for foundational learning and instruction. As a young Christian I memorized each verse offered in such a statement.

    Proof texting happens in posts and blogs and it's expected to a point but a place where it irritates me most is in systematic theology textbooks. You really have to read each verse they list!

    Rob
     
  8. kyredneck

    kyredneck Well-Known Member
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    Example. Do you consider this to be "proof texting"?:

    14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.
    34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. Mt 24

    So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world. Ro 10:17-18

    5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,
    6 which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth;
    23 if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister. Col 1:23

    25 Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal,
    26 but now is manifested, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith: Ro 16

    The 'proofs' were ignored on account I "took these out of context" on another thread when I'm actually attempting to show a redundancy, an underlying continuity of scripture that asserts the same thing. I was indeed applying "the greater witness of scripture". To me it's verification of an age old truth stated long ago:

    11 so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isa 55
     
    #8 kyredneck, Apr 10, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2017
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  9. reformed_baptist

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    If your asking for opinions, then I would call this 'mere proof texting' based on what you have shared (but remember I don't have the full context of the discussion so I might be wrong). The reason I am putting it in that that category is the highlighting of specific portions without apparent explanation as to why you think they are important/ relevant - it doesn't need to an exposition of each verse, often a single phrase is enough.

    I am pleased you gave this example because actually I think it leads nicely onto another point and that is that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore lovers of truth it is surely our responsibility to make the best arguments we can - that doesn't just mean putting thought into positively making our case, it also means anticipating objections and preempting them. So, for example, we know people are likely to say we have taken this or that out of context therefore we establish context where possible.

    That being said it is actually just as easy for us to dismiss a rebuttal because we believe the rebuttal dismissed rather then interacted with our arguments - I will often say to a person who says I have taken something out context, 'Ok, you establish the context and tell me what you think the text means.' To do something like this actually challenges the person to make a case, and how the respond is a good indicator of their ability to discuss (it is amazing how often the person goes silent when asked to back up what they say). However when the person responds positively it means the conversation is going somewhere and we are beginning to understand each others a priori assumptions a little better.
     
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  10. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    I would describe it as 'hobby-horsing.' If one takes the view that all things were accomplished in AD 70, then he can ride his hobby-horse of Matthew 24:14 over virtually any text of Scripture that has a prophetic element.

    That Matthew 24:14 is in the Scripture and that it has a meaning is undeniable. What its context is has to be discovered by proper Biblical exegesis.
     
  11. kyredneck

    kyredneck Well-Known Member
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    Good post. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment.

    Usually the one(s) that are being debated would/should know the point(s) being made from the highlighting, but I can see how one coming late to the discussion without reading all the way through the thread would be confused.

    Lol, then you're REALLY going to be accused of yanking out of context.

    I'm pressed for time this morning, glad this topic come up, will think about this 'proof texting' category.

    FWIW, the desire on my part to be concise and straight to the point, and to not bore and smother the discussion with long winded posts (that 99% of viewers are not going to read) is why I highlight and provide 'proofs' drawn out of context to make the point. It's as much courtesy on my part as anything.

    Revmitchell is totally opposite of me. He says a single verse can establish a doctrine, which I think is asinine. Do you agree with him? I believe redundancy within scripture establishes a doctrine and that's the whole point of my "proof texting"; to show the continuity of a thing.

     
  12. kyredneck

    kyredneck Well-Known Member
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    In the Olivet Discourse Christ stated that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in the whole world before that generation passed away, and Paul verifies it's fulfillment even before the completion of the NT writings.
     
  13. reformed_baptist

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    That isn't a straight forward question to answer, as in part in depends on what you mean by 'establish a doctrine.' I believe a single verse/ text can demonstrate or prove a single doctrine, for example John 1:1 is enough to demonstrate the doctrine of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in my opinion. However John 1:1 on its own does not establish that doctrine. Doctrines are established through the consistent exposition of the entire canon of scripture. A single verse/ text therefore might be able to disprove a doctrine, for example, someone tells me that, 'God the son is a lesser God then the father,' I find Phil 2:6 sufficient on it's own to reject that statement.
     
  14. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Yes, I would consider that proof-texting -- but remember I don't think proof-texting is an inherently bad thing. I won't say much more since reformed_baptist has already addressed this well. But in my case, with your just posting it here, I find it hard to understand what you're getting at. In the context of where you were discussing it, it might make more sense.

    I had a tendency to be long-winded, and it is good to take in consideration being concise. If there are folks who are interested then the discussion can be drawn out over several posts. On a computer screen I can take in several short posts better than one long one. If there is something lengthy online that I really want to read I usually print it out. If it is long and I'm not all that interested, I usually skim over it or don't read it at all.

    I think a verse can plainly teach a doctrine and we ought to believe what a verse plainly says. On the other hand, if there is only one single verse in the whole Bible that teaches a doctrine -- e.g. (proxy) baptism for the dead, 1 Cor. 15:29 -- we have reason to be suspect of the interpretation of that verse. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" is a good standard in regard to "establishing" a doctrine.
     
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  15. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    A bigger problem than "proof-texting" is "no-texting" at all.
     
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  16. Mr. Davis

    Mr. Davis Active Member
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    "Proof texting" is a very serious matter. Cults, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, rely on it for deriving their twisted doctrines. Also, the issue of slavery, was opposed by many, and they could quote passages in support of their position. But those who favored slavery did likewise. Thanks to prayers by Lincoln and many others, slavery was abolished, at great cost to both sides.
     
  17. reformed_baptist

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    Definitely !
     
  18. TCassidy

    TCassidy Administrator
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    If we don't use the text of scripture to prove (test) our doctrine, what do we use?
     
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  19. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Yet we all know it wasn't. Hmmm.
     
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  20. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    My main beef with other Christians is not that we all read to a degree our theology back into the Bible, but that we also make our theology on passages that clearly have no support our held positions...

    Believe in second coming as A/pe/post, fine, just use the svriptures to support that view, and not just assume it states that!
     
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