The myth of applying all scripture

The myth of applying all scripture October 8, 2007

An argument that I occasionally see floated in blogs is the argument that ideas are to be shunted aside simply because they neglect to consider all the scriptures. This is a strange argument to me. No single argumentative notion is capable of encompassing all scripture, or even most scripture. There may be one or two exceptions, but I would tend to think that they would be promoted by ideologues who dismiss counter-arguments without real consideration. Sure, all scripture may testify of Christ, but that argument reduces the Jews to a group of incompetents and ignoramuses. We need to accept that it helps us, in seeing the obviousness of Christ being testified of everywhere, that we are already Christian.

In any case, it seems that when people state that a given argument does not consider all scripture what they are really saying is that it doesn’t consider the particular scripture that they just thought of. Fair enough. In that case, you should mention the scripture and your interpretation of it in order to make your argument clear. Then it is possible to engage in dialogue and learn.

The secret that no fundamentalist/literalist hopes that you won’t realize is that no-one, no matter how literally they claim to read the Bible/Book of Mormon/Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price, reads the Bible completely literally. It simply isn’t possible; there are conflicting commandments and doctrines that render it so. Even the chronologically first commandment (Multiply and fill the earth) is contradicted by the second (don’t eat the fruit of that tree). You cannot do both. Or, to take a New Testament example, Christ in one place tells people to honor their father and mother (Matt 19:19) and in another says that he is come to set parents against children (Matt 10:34-35). In every situation, the individual, acting ideally in accordance with personal revelation, has to figure out their own path. There are situations where it is impossible to honor both father and Father. In such, even the most literal literalist must choose.

For that matter, most of us don’t wait for extremities like that in order to decide how we will read the bible. Everyone I know picks and chooses and I would deeply distrust anyone who claimed differently (or, at least, I would distrust their exegesis). If slavers and abolitionists can find justification for their acts in the same Bible, why should we assume that living according to every scripture is possible?

Finally, I, personally, feel that improbability for mortals of keeping all the commandments is built into the system. We are sent here to learn to rely on God and to allow him to change us to become more like him, not to figure out the grand hermeneutic that will allow us to escape all future sin by superior knowledge. God is quite clear that our job here is to repent and his job is to save; attempts to subvert that have not historically met with success. The purpose of the law is to remind us that we need God; I don’t understand why we need to come up with alternate explanations.

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