Cut-and-Paste Bible

Several people shared the above spoof advertisement on Facebook. I know that some conservative Christians will view the above as a jibe at liberals, whom they accuse of picking and choosing. But in my experience, liberals like myself are at least aware of what is in the Bible, warts and all, and for that very reason adopt the stance that we do, namely that we do not and should not try to believe or practice everything that is in the Bible. We recognize that the Bible tracks changing and developing beliefs, and thus what we focus on tends to be the key principles. And so we freely admit to picking and choosing, and are happy to explain why we do so and what our rationale is.

Conservative Evangelicals, on the other hand, tend to produce and read books and devotionals with “All God's Promises,” or all the verses about this or that topic, all nicely cut loose from their original contexts and pasted together to become something other than what they were before they were chosen, picked, and transplanted in that way.

I do not think that the problem is with not believing or doing what the Bible says in every detail, since there are diverse viewpoints enshrined in the Bible, and so one simply cannot embrace them all simultaneously.

No, the point is precisely that one must be aware of what is in the Bible, incuding things that one disagrees with, so that, if you then choose some “memory verses” and focus on them or collect them together, making them the slogans through which you articulate your viewpoint, you do not mistakenly think that by peppering your life and worldview with Biblical extracts, you are “doing what the Bible says” or “believing the whole Bible” or any number of other things that you aren't actually doing.

  • the_Siliconopolitan

    Finally! A Jefferson Bible in print.

    • http://twitter.com/jwilliams1454 jwilliams1454

      Although Jefferson’s had parallel text in four languages including the original Greek.

  • Alex Dalton

    James – how much of your day to you spend looking for cartoons, banners, etc. to take shots at conservative evangelicals? Just seems like a waste of a life….

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If I had to search for them, it would indeed be time consuming, although if I found them early it might increase the popularity of this blog, I imagine. But in almost instances the things I share are drawn to my attention by someone else, e.g. via Facebook or other blogs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003366527204 Steve Robinson

    We should all probably pay MORE attention to the verses we DIDN’T underline…

    • Chavoux

      Well, I find that as I reread the Bible the verses that I (want to) underline changes every time. For this reason I have decided early on in my Christian walk not to underline in my Bible since I will simply end up with everything being underlined! Instead, I like keeping a journal where I can also record my prayers, circumstances and the answers I found in the Bible concerning them. Rereading these old journals can be really faith-building! James, how do liberals tend to their devotional reading of the Bible? Do you tend to read whole books of the Bible, or pre-select which parts you will read (according to the parts you accept as “the Word of God” in some way)?

      • Steve Robinson

        Personally, I read all of it. I think “liberals” and “conservatives” tend to read all of it and just interpret the parts according to their tendencies. It is not a matter of “text” it is a matter of hermeneutic (in my opinion).


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