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Cherry picking the Bible? Yes and no

Cherry picking the Bible? Yes and no July 23, 2013

There’s been a little dustup recently about people supposedly “cherry picking” the Bible. Holy writ, goes the charge, is the highest authority in all matters, provided we can isolate certain verses and use them to support our predetermined positions.

Neale Donald Walsch started the ruckus at the Huffington Post saying that — surprise, surprise — people actually do this! In fairness, he invoked another loaded metaphor, the buffet.

Thomas Whitley responded for the Associated Baptist Press, not only serving our beloved fruit, but also leveling the table. “[E]veryone cherry-picks the Bible, he said.

This was more than Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council could stand. Whitley, he said, “wrongly conflates hermeneutical difficulties with selective application.”

Maybe. But isn’t there is a certain inevitability to cherry picking?

Can you hold the entire Bible in your mind at once? What about an entire book? Even a chapter?

Like all of us sorry mortals who lack omniscience, we cannot comprehend all of the divine revelation contained the scripture in a moment, which means we are forced to move from one passage to another and hold them together in some sort of sequence. It can’t be helped.

If that cannot be helped, then neither can selective emphasis. How we order and weigh the various patterns is subjective, no matter who we are.

The more useful questions concern whether the sequences we come up square with anything that passes for a traditional understanding of things. Have Christians arrived at this conclusion before or is it novel? Do our readings align with the general, historical understanding of the church?

In a reality where selective emphasis is inevitable, we should be wary of the novel, ready to submit to the traditional, and humble about everything else.


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