Sunday, March 29, 2009

proof texting

Hebrews 5:5-10

Our celebrant began his sermon with the opening lines of L. P. Hartley's novel The Go-Between: "The Past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." He was referencing today's lesson from Hebrews, in which over a third of the epistle quotes the Old Testament

He launched into one of his erudite discourses, analyzing the points taken from the liturgy for Yom Kippur, providing a thorough examination of the rights and regulations of the tribe of Levi, the Order of Melchizedek and Abraham, all proving that it was certainly okay for Jesus to be the High Priest as well as the slaughtered sin offering.

He spoke of this quoting practice as it applied to the writer of Hebrews. The writer felt strongly that his listeners needed insight into exactly what God had done in Jesus Christ, but today we might label it "proof texting" (finding a piece of scripture that seems to support what you've decided you already believe.) He told an amusing anecdote of a fellow who brought a finished sermon to him and asked him to supply a Bible text to support his thoughts.

But our celebrant went on to explain that the opposite approach "anti proof texting" is where we simply ignore the scriptural passages that don't support what we've decided we already believe. 

His implication was that both practices are lazy ways to approach an understanding of what God is doing in the world. They do not engage the text, they simply use or discard it. "Even disagreement is a form of engagement." he explained.

Ahhh now there's hope for me. I can tell.

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