I hate it when they put accolades on the back of movies. They might have one little line like, “very funny” attributed to some well-known film critic but in reality he could have said “this movie isn’t very funny” or “unintelligent people may find this movie very funny” or “I find it very funny that anyone would waste 10 million dollars making such an awful film!” Even worse is when they use ellipses. Always beware the ellipses (or in Seinfeld language: the yada yada yada)! If a movie endorsement says “I loved … this movie!” then you can probably assume the critic really said “I loved eating liver as a child more than this movie!” The phrases “very funny” and “I loved … this movie!” sound like endorsements but its hard to know what the critic really thought of the movie based on a few words ripped away from everything else he said.
Do we approach the Bible this way? To lend credibility to a film the marketers want to show that famous critics liked it. Sometimes to lend credibility to our theological opinions we want to show that the Bible says it. That is THE best and only real way of proving our positions as believers, right? A lot of people call this “proof-texting.” A lot of people, like myself, call it “the way I have always approached the Bible.” There are lots of reasons why we do it, some are based on pure ignorance and others may be more intentional but the bottom line is that it obviously is a misuse of the Scripture, just like the quotes on the back of the movie are a misuse of the critic’s comments.
So what is the right way to use the Bible? I don’t know if use is the right word here, but you understand. Well how would the critic want someone to use his review? To express what he actually meant when he wrote it, right? Well ultimately that is what we should be doing with the Scripture: finding out what the authors really meant, not what we want them to have meant, not what we can make it sound like they meant, not using their words to prove our theories. When we go to the Bible we must go to it to learn, not to prove. To understand it and not use it to endorse our ideas.