Prooftexting

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This was originally published June 14, 2010 on Facebook as a Note. But I publish it here, to help tell about my faith journey.

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I am in the middle of writing some material and stumbled upon a great way to demonstrate the concept of prooftexting. I will not consider it an accident by referring to it as “stumbled” I will refer to it as the Spirit providing a moment of enlightenment.

Keep in mind that true context is not limited to only literary context. Understanding the true context means studying historical, social, cultural and theological backgrounds. But for our discussion I will limit prooftexting to taking a word, or a phrase of words, “out of context” making a new statement.

Prooftexting means everything. People take each other “out of context” every day, and some people make a living prooftexting. While prooftexting causes interpersonal problems, it seems to be nothing more than a big nuisance to resolving interpersonal conflict. But prooftexting is a big deal and becomes a real problem and prooftexting is one of the dividing forces among Bible interpreters.

Recall that true context is never limited to just literary context, which can be best illustrated by movies because movies become visual representations of someone’s written material.

Movies become an interesting vehicle to examine context and prooftexting because movies often refer to culture items that allow the viewer to participate in humor or on screen dilemmas. This is perhaps best understood by using spoof movies. Spoof movies are completely dependent on the context of other films, taking those contexts and switching them around and making the “out of context” moment funny. This is all fine and dandy until this “out of context” story making method is applied to the Bible. It is all too common to take different scenes from different Bible books and letters and make a new Biblical Narrative (in essence making a new letter, in essence a new movie) and this is in no way funny.

Allow me to demonstrate with the following statement – keep in mind that “Issue A” is generic and refers to nothing specific.

Original Context: The conclusion that I have found lies in Issue A.

Prooftext: I want you to know that in my conclusion I have found lies.

The prooftext utilized the Original Context, but obliterates the context. Here is how.
1. Take the original context:
The conclusion that I have found lies in Issue A.

2. Take from the original context what you need:
The conclusion that I have found lies in Issue A.

3. Take the edited context statement I have found lies and formulate it to say something the statement never intended:
I want you to know that in my conclusion I have found lies.

The new statement sounds good. Maybe even profound. But it is Totally Prooftexted and itself becomes the lie.

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