proof text

There is a style of Bible study called “proof texting.” In it you take a verse in isolation, ignoring it’s immediate and global Biblical context, in order to prove your point.  For example you can cite Luke 19.34 to show that the Lord is in need of us, he has a purpose for us. But if you looked at the context you’d see the verse is really speaking of a donkey.

Conservative Christians, as they are labeled, are often accused of proof texting to prove their points. At first this seemed an odd accusation to me, as the typical method of study is to fully understand the text in its entire context. But it then occurred to me where these accusations might arise from. Often in sermons, and more so in Bible studies, the point gained by digging deep into the Bible is summarized by looking at a single verse. This looks like proof texting.

So the question is how to avoid this? The greatest challenge seems to be in the Bible study. Often there is not enough time to do an extensive study of each point covered in a study. And if the student is new to the Bible they may not have the knowledge to appreciate all the sources examined in the Word.

This is of particular concern to me giving Bible studies, often to new students of the Bible. The balanced approach, it seems to me, of respecting the students time and the Bible is to look extensively at one of the key verses, giving the student an idea of how to study the Bible of there own. Then for times sake take the more typical, one verse at a time approach for the remainder of the study so they may get the overall picture, but also have their appetite whetted to study each point in more depth. I’d appreciate any input on how to better balance a study for the time conscious student.


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October 2008
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