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Have you ever run into what I call a “scripture quoter?” Are you one? I use the term with a particular personality type in mind. The image I have in mind is the person who spits out bible quotes machine gun style. In one sense it’s admirable to have so much scripture memorized. Here’s the problem. In my experience, most of the time, the quoted scriptures are taken out of context.
As an ex-scripture quoter, I’m glad to have made a transformation. Rarely, in the course of a theological discussion do I fire off a barrage of scripture quotes. This is not to say that I never quote scripture verses. In fact, I know a lot of scripture and I actively work at memorizing scripture. Also, I see scripture as authoritative for doctrine and influential for right living. However, there are a few pitfalls to this approach of cranking out scriptures en masse.
Firstly, it often amounts to a game where the one who is able to quote more scripture wins. Unfortunately, it matters little who is making the better theological argument or who has done the best research or who has most humbly sought the face of God but rather who is able to burry the other in a pile of scripture so that even the best theologian could never dig out from the pile. This game is a game where power matters and power is gained by the ability to quote scripture.
Secondly, it gives an indication that the person is spending more time thinking of what to say than seriously considering the possibility that what the other person is trying to communicate may be true. Related to this, there is a certain humility that is often lacking. The person’s character comes across as having the attitude that “I must be right because I just quoted this scripture that seems to support my argument well.” Unfortunately, in my experience, I’ve rarely been able to suggest a re-look at the scripture and whether it actually fits into the conversation because I’ve not been given enough time. Before I can even suggest that the scripture does not properly fit into the converation the scripture quoter has blasted another scripture or two at me. Sometimes, I’ve even just flat out said, “Hey, you gotta slow down on the scriptures and give me a chance to handle them one at a time.”
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, most of the time I’ve run into this situation, I’ve been able to find out that the person has not done any slow, careful, in-depth exegesis of any of the scriptures quoted, much less all of them. (For those who are unfamiliar with the term exegesis, it means something far more than a simple reading of scripture like the casual way in which we’d read a newspaper or magazine. Exegesis done right takes a great amount of study regarding cultural background, authorship, narrative analysis (when applicable), genre, and of course context, to name a few.)
Finally, many times, rapid scripture quoting acts as a wall to new thinking for many people. My observation has been that rather than facing the fear of having ascribed to a whole system of erroneous theology many people would rather block you with a meteor shower of out-of-context scripture that any good theologian would be sure to get lost in. Instead, the scripture quoter settles back into the safe world of only partially understood verses. I know because I was one.
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