PALESTINE — QUESTION: I have a friend who is sharing some viewpoints on God with me that don't seem right. The way she views God, He is essentially a mean-hearted control freak of some sort. Even though in my heart I know this is not true-I have walked with the Lord for many years-my friend is using key Scriptures to back up her views, and her argument seems air tight. I know there's something wrong, but I don't know how to argue against her case because it seems grounded in Scripture. Can you help me know what to tell her?
ANSWER: Understand that the Bible can be used to prove just about anything. There is a common method employed when people want to prove a viewpoint that is out of balance. Scholars call this method proof texting. I often refer to it as selective assumption scholarship. In other words, a reader selects a key Scripture or passage of Scripture and makes a broad sweeping assumption based on a narrow view of a few verses or passages in the Bible. Sometimes, this is done by creating a whole doctrine based on 2-3 chapters in the Bible. Other times, it's done by hopping through the Word of God and choosing passages that support the pre-conceived concept. The next step involves ignoring any key passages or verses that refute the erroneous concepts. Finally, everything Jesus said and did and modeled along with all of the patterns of God's working in the lives of Bible characters is ignored or never even considered.
In contrast, truth emerges when readers dedicate themselves to a balanced approach to Scripture. This first involves consulting every passage in the Bible that deals with the topic in question. Use tools like www.biblegateway.com to search and discover truths in God's Word. Also, exhaustive topical Bibles are great for this purpose. Second, once every passage dealing with the topic has been examined, consult a Bible background commentary to discover the reason each passage was written and the audience to which it was written. Third, consult the teaching and sayings of Jesus Christ as well as the behavior He modeled. Whatever concepts are developed, if they violate what Jesus said or did then those concepts are not based on the true heart and nature of God. Remember, Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God. All concepts derived from other Scripture should be examined in light of His teachings and all that He did. If Jesus made a statement on a subject, then use what He said as the grounding force behind a viewpoint and interpret other similar passages in the light of Christ's teaching. Fourth, think about God's patterns in dealing and working in the lives of the people featured in the Bible. God will not violate His own truth-in what He says, does, or His patterns of behavior.
Well-meaning Christians are notorious for isolating a few verses and running with them to prove their unbalanced viewpoint. One of the most widespread, erroneous uses of the Word of God involves people who want to elevate themselves while ignoring everything Jesus said against self-elevation. Another equally poisonous use of God's Word is a misrepresentation of the nature of God, as you have already mentioned. The problem is that in order to understand and know Biblical truth, people have to dare to commit a lifetime to continuous reading and searching. And it is way easier to pick out a few favorite passages that serve a pre-conceived agenda than to engage the mind and heart in a perpetual journey of encountering the whole Word of God.
Remember, the Bible is a collection of checks and balances. If you ignore the checks, you lose the balance.
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org