I get a little anxious when I hear someone say, “All you have to do is look to this line of scripture and everything is clear.”
I mean– if the Bible is, indeed, the infallible word of God, why shouldn’t I be able to follow that philosophy? It really shouldn’t make me leery, I suppose.
But I’ll just go ahead and say it– when I read an article or position proclaiming a viewpoint that appears cruel, unloving, and, sometimes, discriminatory, my back goes up when I read the disclaimer, “It’s all in the Bible. Scripture makes this perfectly clear.”
[[If you're struggling to know what types of positions I'm referring to, I'll give you a really quick cheat to spotting them-- 98.4% of the time, they will be accompanied by either the phrase "truth in love" or "love the sinner, hate the sin." If you see either of those lines, there's a good chance you're reading just the sort of thing to which I'm referring.]]
It’s not that I think the Bible is wrong, certainly.
It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with reading and interpreting scripture.
It’s not even that I think the Bible can be misused–
it’s that I KNOW the Bible can be misused.
One only has to read through the gospel of Matthew (chapter 4, here) to know this is true:
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
Let me perfectly clear here–
not only can we logically see, clearly, that people misquote, misuse, and take out context various verses of scripture, but scripture itself flat WARNS us that this will be done.
Satan isn’t randomly testing Jesus here– he’s deliberately quoting scripture (Psalm 91) in an inappropriate way.
And Jesus admonishes him.
I can honestly find no biblical passage that teaches that Scripture is the formal authority or rule of faith in isolation– I’ve looked– and I think a reason for that might be that we can be a cruel, dangerous people when left to sling verses around willy-nilly. I think Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we need to be taking a more global approach– we can’t limit our “argument” to this verse or that chapter or even that book. . .
But, if we’re going to limit it to a verse, I confess that I lean toward this one:
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13)