I just realized something, while commenting over at Pastor Marty’s outstanding blog:
There’s a difference between thinking God’s word is divinely inspired and thinking that every single verse in scripture is self-sufficient.
People begin, often times, by emphasizing the fact that every word in The Bible comes straight from God’s mouth. (I think they are right, by the way.)
Then they provide a verse on whatever subject is at hand. And that single verse is supposed to clinch whatever deal is under discussion.
There’s a faux pas here. To suggest that any single verse is sufficient and authoritative on every issue is to take a much more radical position than to say the Bible is the word of God.
I’ll leave aside the question of how the magic verse is chosen. The problem with this approach is bigger than the importance of context or what to do when verses seem to conflict.
The bigger problem is that this position implies that grappling with the whole bible is irrelevant.
If everything we need is in every single verse– or chapter, or book, or even testament– then why even bother with everything else? Why not simply grab on to that smaller unit, and use it for our whole lives? Why not throw away everything else? Why would God even both with the whole cumbersome, confounding, confusing, and amazing bible?
It seems like the implication is that God should have come to use for some help with editing. We could have helped him whittle the whole deal down.
The only alternative I see is this:
If every word of the bible is inspired, then every word must be given weight. (Perhaps equal weight? I don’t know about that. What do you think?)