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Questions and Proof Texting

Proof-texting, where we come already armed with answers, can be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Bible study should be about discovery.
By RICHARD MORGAN
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Doing good Bible study means asking a lot of questions. Bad Bible study is already having all the answers and finding Bible passages that fit in with your ideas, something called proof-texting.

Proof-texting means, “I do know already and will see how this passage fits in with it.” Our aim in Bible study should be to find out what the text means rather than what we want it to mean. It requires a humble approach to the Bible with an “I don’t know, but I hope to find out” attitude.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of proof-texting, particularly if we’re studying a first principle doctrine and trying to defend our faith. With that defensive mindset, we automatically enter the mode of finding Bible passages to match our preconceived ideas, forcing them to fit what we need them to say. We even sometimes call it looking for proof texts—and that’s all it is. Proof-texting!

A far better practice is to approach the Bible with a fresh pair of eyes, armed with questions rather than ideas.

Bible study should be about discovery.

An excellent way to remember what questions to ask is the CoFoCoFu method:

  • Context—Who said it, Where, and When?
  • Form—How did they say it?
  • Content—What did they say?
  • Function—Why did they say it?

The context and content provide the background for a Bible passage, but it’s when we get to the form and function that we understand its message. Asking these questions also enables us to enter the minds of Bible characters. For instance, answering the question, “Why did they say it?”, may reveal the motivation of characters in the story.

Proof-texting, where we come already armed with answers, can be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Bible study should be about discovery. I liken it to an archeological dig where you brush away at the surface, slowly revealing what is underneath. It’s only when we have an inquiring mind that we find the gems in God’s word.

 

Richard Morgan
(Simi Hills, CA)

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