A common practice in defending a religious doctrine and practice is to offer isolated passages of scripture in its support, a practice referred to as “proof-texting”. In some cases lengthy formal debates have been conducted where each side of the issue in question has taken their favorite passages as the necessary proof for its position. In such debates each side tries to turn one passage of scripture against another in a series of logical leaps and twists. Such debates demonstrate more theatrical ability than instructional value.
Clearly this use of the Bible actually proves absolutely nothing except that used in isolation scripture can prove almost anything. Some argue that scripture can be understood correctly and thereby used as a proof text if it is used in context. The question then becomes one of what is the context of a particular passage. Is it the immediate chapter, the immediate book, or perhaps something larger?
There are 66 books in the scriptures as canonized in the early centuries after Christ and afterwards handed down to subsequent generations. We are told that the original texts had no chapter or verse divisions as we have them today. These designations were added later to facilitate referencing certain passages. Certainly these divisions facilitated the art of “proof-texting” which is so prevalent in religious discourse.
The notion that ones religious position can be proved by quoting a few isolated verses would seem to be ludicrous on the surface. The Bible has over 2000 pages of text in most versions. What other book can be evaluated and proved based on reading a minute fraction of a percent of any of its text? Such proofs seem even more suspect when one considers that the Bible is a really a compilation of many books by numerous authors.
What ties these separate books by different authors together as a coherent whole? It has to be the general theme or message of the Bible, the big picture so to speak. The big picture is spelled out in the complete context of the Bible which is Genesis through Revelation. The big picture does not require that I understand each and every verse, and it is definitely not demonstrable from a few isolated verses. “Proof-texting” is more than inadequate then; it actually suppresses our ability to see what God intended.
What is the big picture? How about this: God is Love and his mercy (loving kindness) endureth forever. Mankind is the object of God’s love. In fact, man was created to be the beloved of God. Once one grasps this reality, all scripture must be evaluated through the eyes of love. The eyes of love don’t require a verse by verse comprehension. All that is needed is faith in God and his commitment to be what he is and to do what he has promised: Love and Love.