Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Proof texting

"Proof texting" is finding a phrase or verse in scripture that will "prove" your point, rather than allowing scripture, in context, to mean what it says. Blogational points to an egregious example of proof texting by Rick Warren, described at Extreme Theology:
In his column Warren makes the case that laughter is a good thing and that God has a sense of humor. Before I go on let me say that even though this is a shallow point to be making, I agree with Warren about the psychological benefits of laughter. I also believe that God has a sense of humor. .... The problem is that Warren supports his conclusion with twisted scripture.

Here is what Warren wrote:
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 2:4, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs.” Isn’t that a great verse? God has a sense of humor. God laughs!...Do you want to be more like God? Learn to laugh. A sense of humor can preserve your sanity.
So what’s the big deal? The verse says God laughs, what could be wrong with that?

Let’s look at this passage in context and you’ll see what the problem is. Here is what the passage says in context, pay close attention to verses 4 and 5:
Psalm 2:1-6
  1. Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
  2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
  3. “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
  4. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
  5. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
  6. “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
When this passage says that God’s laughs, it is not referring to a therapeutic, stress relieving belly laugh or sense of humor. The laughter it is referring to is the laughter of derision that is followed by terrifying wrath and fury. This verse in context doesn’t support the point that Warren is making. Yet, Warren says that Psalm 2:4 is one of his favorite verses in the Bible. How can this be unless Warren read’s Bible verses as if they were disconnected fortune cookies sayings?

One might hope that very popular preachers and evangelists would exercise great care in their use of Scripture. And that those of us with a much smaller public would, too. I have no doubt that I have been guilty of misusing verses to prove my point rather than trying to discern what they really say.

Extreme Theology: Warren's Use of Scripture is No Laughing Matter

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