The Blunder of Proof-Texting
One day my theological thinking about the gift of salvation was challenged by an individual who believed that “God wants ALL people to ‘be saved'”. By the way, there is nothing wrong with such a belief, but it is a broadly-debated opinion. I recognize that many people hold this to be true but some would disagree. What surprised me is how spirited and dogmatic the response of my conversational partner was. I quickly read over the verses my acquaintance offered as a proof of my erroneous thinking. I expressed a view that “God offers salvation to some and not others” (by the way, I do not know why…). And then I understood why my dialogue partner felt so strongly that I was so misguided in my thinking. Its the barrage of verses that seemed to disprove my supposition.
There are some common fallacies in arguing theology. The very practice of offering proof texts to bolster any theological position is a big problem if the text is severed from the context. It is a longstanding problem that began with early Christians who were barely aware of Jewish holy texts but separated themselves from Israel’s longstanding tradition of their interpretation. Being trained in Greek philosophy and rhetorics they thought for themselves and interpreted the Scripture the best they knew how. But the context changes everything. I will step out on the limb and say that even people called “church fathers” are guilty of careless proof-texting and they set a precedent for generations to follow.