“Cherry Picking” Scripture
Three Quick Thoughts on Scripture and its Authority:
- Ambiguity exists in scripture. Its isn’t the voice of God – it is voices about God and God’s people. This doesn’t mean it lacks authority and insight into deep truths. It means that this authority is more complicated and nuanced than simply saying it is the Word of God, for it is filled with alternate voices, worldviews, and sensibilities about the life of faith. It is a mosaic of faith which is, at times, at odds with itself. And yes, somewhere in this stream of its voices we believe God to be revealed by God’s own will. But let us take some care not to misrepresent the clarity and consistency with which that is true.
- We all cherry-pick scripture. This isn’t an indictment, its just true. Its necessarily true. The diversity of scriptural voices means that we cannot help but lend greater authority to some voices within the text. We all – ALL – will pick and choose what stays front and center, what shifts from the foreground to the background, and what we exit stage right/left. I would contend even that you cannot actually hold yourself accountable to the whole of scripture simultaneously in all its parts for within the texts themselves there are voices vying against each other for the stronger truth claims.
- Idolatry of God and God’s Word is inevitable. The life long challenge scripture’s ambiguity presents us is that we will gravitate to texts that confirm our own desires, fears, and sense of self. We will want to give greater authority to that which agrees with our notion of faith and diminish the voices of scripture that challenge our worldview – no matter how cosmopolitan we think ourselves. This is the insidious way we create God in our own image. We make God and scripture into idols that are less than the whole and fashioned from ourselves, and we worship our own image/imagination.
This three-part nature of scripture means we must acknowledge ambiguity lest we forget the interpretive task and make rigid something that is a living text. We must place ourselves in diverse communities that hold together the tensions of life and resists monolithic faith. And we have to be willing to constantly be placed outside our comfort zones to be de-settled… set apart from our own self to encounter the God who is holy-other.