On Proof-text Theology

BibleOne of the biggest stumbling blocks for dispensational believers to begin to understand the more historic  view of theology is their  insistence on clinching tightly to, what I call, proof-text theology. Proof-text theology has, like all theological camps, its own hermeneutic. Its particular hermeneutic involves…yes, you guessed it, proof-texting. I’m sure you have heard, when discussing theology with your dispensational friends, how this particular theology is not found in the Bible and that particular theology is not found in the Bible and that there simply is not enough “scriptural support” for your Orthodox argument.

The modernists assume that the Bible has been written in propositional terms, as if the Apostles set out to write a New Covenant Leviticus of some sort that is completely adaptable to all future didactic arguments. There is no evidence that the Apostles had these types of intentions; to write a series of propositions for the sake of the entire future of systematic theologies. One simply cannot say, “there is no verse for you to refute my theology.” This, many times, depending on the context of the argument, assumes that the Bible is written in this propositional manner.

Proof-text theology is the theology of cut-and-paste. Verses are cut out and pasted on ones wallboard to support a particular theology, and are then placed into theological papers with parenthesise securing the verses in various places for support. But if this same artist would turn around to carefully notice all of the left over scraps of their Bible, they would notice that there is a tremendous amount of narrative with no home. This is not to say that proof-texting is somehow not necessary. On the contrary! Proof-texting is, in some cases necessary, but it is not to be used as the sole authority of the Church or the overarching rule of theology.

Without going into thesis mode I would like to state in a concise manner that the historic faith sets out to capture the entirety of the Bible and cannot be reduced to a sentence here and a sentence there from the Bible. The Bible is an exhaustive narrative of God and his covenant promises to His people. This involves a vast amount of narrative in both the Old and New Testament. One must be able to grapple with hard-to-digest facts such as Old Testament evangelism and New Testament monasticism that are clearly found in the narrative but are not necessarily concisely proposed in one sentence here or there.

Proof-text theology is certainly appealing to the novice in that it involves bite-sized nuggets rather than the full course of the Bible; all books in their entirety. How does Genesis relate to Revelation, for instance, and how is the Gospel found in the Old Testament and to what affect does it have on the New Testament people? Proof-text theology cannot answer these simple questions. A Sacramental theology can, though. sacramental theology involves God dealing with His people as a Church rather than short propositions of didactic dogmas.

Orthodox Christians are actually STILL LIVING the New Testament age. We have a succession of authority that is not so much after a new revival in the world but  after an ancient revival in the world; not that we are seeking to bring back everything old but that that we are seeking to grow from this “old” and ancient tradition as our foundation. This means that WE are the same people that God spoke of in the Old Testament (Galatians 3:7-9).

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