Proof Texts and Their Misuse

Somewhere along the line, the communications train got derailed.

A former Catholic had posted his Catholic credentials on a message board, and they were impressive. Then he tried to he had decided to leave the Catholic Church:

I don't know if it was the pop-psychology, the marriage counseling, the 'no one really believes that, just go along. . . ' or seeing seminarians walking around the campus holding hands

One of the Catholic participants in our exchange seemed to agree with the suggested reasons for Bill’s upset with the Catholic Church, and added that he and other Catholic conservatives were even more upset by things such as Bill had mentioned, as well as ideas that “scandalize and mock the authentic teachings of the [Catholic] Church."

There's nothing like seeing people not living up to ideals to sour a person. And Catholics like myself are even more distressed by and have even less respect for modernists and the ideas that scandalize and mock the authentic teachings of the Church.

A non-Catholic apparently misunderstood the Catholic's words. Her response gives the impression that she thought his reply implied that he had mocked “God or the N.T. Church or the Bible.”

It always cracks me up when someone claims that a Bible Believer, a Person who takes the Bible and applies it to their lives, one who reads and studies the Bible, the one's who knows it is God's Word and it has authority, are always told that they mock God or the N.T. Church or the Bible.

I agree with her position. I do believe, however, that it could have been presented in a way more suited to the ambiance we were attempting to maintain on the board. We were looking for an exchange of ideas that, hopefully, might help visitors to get a firmer grasp on sound doctrine. I responded to her angry post with these words, which I intended as a gentle admonition to aid her witness

In our discussion, you provided statements of fact, as I understand biblical truth, in a manner comparable to a drive by shooting. You provided no support for any of those statements. Who was edified?

Apparently, she was unwilling to accept any form of correction, not even constructive criticism, for she picked up her marbles and left. In her farewell post, she wrote:

I understand your position Ron, As I spoke the Truth in my post, I will not apologize for that truth. And I am sorry for not posting Scripture behind the statements in which I posted! I will say that I was wrong in that!

As I wrote in the post she was responding to, everything she had included in her previously posted laundry list of what she considered necessary for believers, was biblically correct. There was no need to apologize for any of it. In fact, I don’t know why she felt it necessary to add that disclaimer, in that I had not suggested she make any apologies. I had hoped that my comments might induce her to gentle her posts a bit and to enhance their usefulness to readers by providing support for her arguments. It seems she did not care for that idea, for she continued:.

I refuse to candy coat anything for anyone! The Truth needs to be spoken, and I refuse to allow someone to tell a born-again Christian that he mocks God, especially when that someone continues to mock God over and over!

How taxing it must be for her to live her life always “cocked and locked,” ready to deliver her thoughts with all the subtlety of a .45 caliber bullet to the gut. I wonder at the source of all this hostility. I do not believe that it is necessary always to deliver "truth" in a harsh and brittle manner. Sometimes, it is appropriate or useful, and I have many times used an aggressive method to make my points. However, there was nothing in the post to which she responded that merited such an acerbic reaction. Actually, as I pointed out above, she had misunderstood or misread the Catholic’s post. She had responded to a non-situation.

Apparently to justify her manner, she cited a proof text:

For so is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: I Peter 2:15.

As so often is the case with folks who select proof texts without regard to context, her selection provides no biblical support for her rudeness. The verse she selected has to do with the believer’s relationship to government. Let’s see what the Lord really is saying here:

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
--1 Peter 2:13-17

Believers, though we are God’s people, still live in the world and are under civil law and authority. While here, as the passage makes clear, we are to live in a peaceful and submissive way, even though we might find ourselves in the midst of a hostile, godless society. Just a little farther down the chapter, in verses 21-23, the Apostle offers the life of our Savior as an example. Similar teachings are to be found in Jeremiah 29:4-14 and Romans 13:1-7. Peter tells us that we must live as obedient citizens in the world in order that the Lord will be honored and glorified.

Peter makes it clear that believers are to live in obedience to every institution of civil and social order. He’s talking here of obedience to national government, state government, police and judges. N.B. It is only when some agency of government attempts to force Christians to contravene some law of God that is explicitly stated in Scripture that we must refuse to submit. (Acts 4:18-20; 5:28-29; Titus 1:6; 3:1-2).

And why should we be in submission to authority? Verse 15 tells us why: in order that we might avoid condemnation and win commendation. This should have the effect of shutting the mouths of those who obstinately contend against the faith and are always on the lookout for reasons to criticize believers.

The next verse admonishes believers to enjoy our freedom in Christ, but not to use that freedom as an excuse to do what really is wicked (1 Corinthians 7:22; 8:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).

In the final verse in this passage, the Apostle admonishes believers to honor, or hold in high esteem, all people. I believe that Christians should do this not just as an external duty, but with an inner respect.

Her choice of a proof text suggests, at least, that when receiving her knife-edge declarations of God’s truth, one must do as the Bereans and search the Scriptures in order to determine “whether those things were so.” (cf. Acts 17:11) Actually, this should be one’s practice, regardless of who is proclaiming “God’s truth.”

She posted a surprising response:

I am not here to edify the Catholic! Although, we are to edify the brethren! As for those who are spreading their false doctrine:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned: and avoid them.

"For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."--Romans 16:17-18.

In her opening words here, I sense that she considers all Catholics to be unbelievers. If that is the case, I am saddened by the hardness of her heart, for her words indicate no wish to help believers still sheltering under Rome’s umbrella, or Catholics who may be seekers or others thirsting for the truth of God that she says she proclaims. There is a real possibility that, by her desire not to edify Catholics, she may be denying edification to her brethren.

The verses from Romans were well chosen and appropriate for that board. In that representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and other ‘non-Protestant’ communities were invited to post on that board, there always existed the possibility that “divisions and offences contrary to” sound doctrine would be introduced. When introduced in conformance with the guidelines established for that board, such material provided useful opportunities for myself and others who “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”(Jude 1) to gain insights into the religious systems we daily contend with.

Iron sharpens iron. Just as a soldier or boxer needs to train continually if he is to be at the top of his form, so must apologists and polemists maintain and sharpen their skills by “working out” against informed opposition. The more capable the opposition, the more the boxer, soldier, apologist or polemist is forced to stretch if he is to hold the field. Should the situation get out of hand, with the possibility of doctrinal injury to the spiritually immature, it is a given that the confrontation will be brought under control or terminated. In the process, it was anticipated that believers and seekers would grow in knowledge and understanding of our faith, even as should those in the trenches.

She had more to say:

We are to have no fellowship with those who are in darkness. We are to be ye separate! And the only time we should engage anything with them, is when we are giving them the truth.

If I were called to give a name to the above words, I believe I would coin a new term and call it ‘hyper-separatism.’ As is often the case with things hyper, this position is based on a misinterpretation of a clear doctrine. In this case, the doctrinal source appears to be an unfortunate, and improper, blending of the teaching in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 and 2 Corinthians 14-18. Let’s examine the passages separately, which should make clear why their doctrines should be held separate.

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
--2 Corinthians 14-18

In this passage, the Apostle is not addressing every day interaction with those one considers to be unbelievers. Look at the analogy he uses in verse 14. This is a reference to the Old Testament prohibition against yoking two different kinds of livestock together in order to work them (Deuteronomy 22:10). Paul’s teaching here is that it is not right to join in common spiritual enterprise with those others who do not have the same nature (unbelievers). Under such an arrangement, it would be impossible to accomplish anything to God’s glory. This is a biblical argument against ecumenicalism. Christians are not to be bound together with non-Christians in any spiritual relationship that would be detrimental to the believer’s testimony within the Body of Christ..

The admonition in verse 14 was especially important for the Corinthians, surrounded as they were by pagan idolatry and being vulnerable to false teachers. Please understand this command does not require that believers should end all associations with unbelievers, as I shall demonstrate in detail when I examine the other passage in question. For believers to end all associations with unbelievers would be contrary to the purpose for which God saved us and left us on earth (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Verse 15 contrasts Belial, an ancient name for Satan, who is utterly worthless, with Jesus Christ, who is the Worthy One with whom believers are to be in fellowship.

We are reminded in verse 16 that true Christianity (the temple of God) is utterly incompatible with idolatrous, demonic false religions (idols). (1 Samuel Chapters 4-6; 2 Kings 21:1-15; Ezekiel Chapter 8). Each believer is a spiritual house (1 Corinthians 5:1), in which the Spirit of Christ lives (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:22). Paul offered support for what he said by drawing on a number of Old Testament texts (Leviticus 26:11-12; Jeremiah 24:7; 31:33; Ezekiel 37:26-27; Hosea 2:2-3).

In the final verse in this passage, Paul draws from Isaiah 52:11. He elaborated on the prophet's command to be spiritually separated. It is not only irrational and sacrilegious, but also disobedient to be bound together with unbelievers. When one is saved, he must break free of all forms of false religion and from all sinful habits and old idolatrous behavior. (Ephesians 5:6-12; 2 Timothy 2:20-23; Revelation 18:4). The command is clear: be separate. The command is that believers be as Christ was (Hebrews 7:26)

In verse 18, we are assured that as a consequence of separating ourselves from false doctrine and practice, we will discover the full richness of what it means to be children of God.

Okay, now. As I have shown, this passage deals with the believer’s relationship with unbelievers in spiritual endeavors or enterprises. Examples that come to mind are Promise Keepers, ecumenical prayer services that include non-Christians, joint sunrise Easter services with non-Christians, etc. It is not commanding that believers have nothing at all to do with unbelievers. Quite the contrary, in fact. After all, it would be impossible to comply with the Great Commission, for example, were one to scrupulously avoid all association with those in darkness.

It seems that her statement that we are to have no fellowship with those who are in darkness cannot be supported by 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. Perhaps the other passage will provide that missing support.

9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
-- 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Verse 9 refers to an earlier letter Paul had written to the church at Corinth in which he directed them to have nothing to do with immoral brethren (cf. Verse 11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).

Evidently, the Corinthian church had misunderstood the Apostle’s advice and it’s membership had disassociated themselves completely from the unsaved in the world, while continuing to tolerate the sins of those in the church; a situation far more dangerous to the fellowship. The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that God intends us to be in the world as witnesses (John 17:15, 18; Matthew 5:13-16; Acts 1:8; Philippians 2:15)

In verse 11, Paul makes clear what he had meant in his earlier letter. He had expected the Corinthians to separate themselves from all those who claimed to be brothers, but had a consistent pattern of sin. The reason for the command to not even eat with such is a cultural thing. In those times, sharing a meal was a sign of acceptance and fellowship.

Paul makes it crystal clear, in the final two verses of this passage that it never was his intention that either he or the church was to judge unbelievers outside the church. We are to judge those who are inside the church. Those who are outside the church, the unsaved, will be judged by God and are to be evangelized by believers. Those who sin on inside the church are to be put out. (Deuteronomy 17:7)

Looks as though there’s no support for her position in that passage either. This is one reason why it is so important to cite support for one’s declarative statements; it is easier on those who would like to do as the Bereans and check the sources.

She had still more to say:

Since my post was so strong, and It offended the brethren here, I will not post such post's no more! But yet, I will not fellowship with those who are in darkness neither will I edify them!

Her transgression was not that big a deal. Certainly not big enough that she should have felt it necessary to “post such posts no more” and withdraw from the board. As to her adamant refusal to “fellowship with those who are in darkness” or to edify them, I can only hope that my study above will have helped her to understand that her position not only is wrong, but it stands in defiance of God’s stated wishes.

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