I have had many letters that say that I am guilty of twisting the Word of God to fit my own position, the same as the Christian Rock critics. Let's examine the way I approach the Word of God, and use it in these essays.
There is a crafty art of using the scriptures known as prooftexting. It is a very popular way for some people to build doctrines. The way it is done is to take a Bible concordance, and look up verses until you find one that seems to agree with your point of view. Then you quote it as unshakable authority that your point is correct - the last word from God on a particular issue.
I happen to think that prooftexting is not good Biblical scholarship. It is quick - but does that automatically make the results correct? My page on prooftexting shows its dangers. My example is a bit extreme, but even the most Biblically illiterate person knows the joke about the person flipping pages in the Bible for life instruction:
Old joke - but a lot of the Christian rock critics go right out and hang themselves - at least their scholarship - when they flip through the pages of the Bible for little snippets that seem to support them. In many cases, I can use the exact same scriptures - put in proper context - to prove the exact opposite point!
I have done a lot of reflection on how to study - and how NOT to study - the Bible. I could prooftext, too. Psalms 33:3 in the King James seems to say to perform music loud
KJV Psalm 33:3 "Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise."
So lets crank the volume - no matter what style, right?! WRONG! I could not simply quote Psalm 33:3 without quoting the entire thought:
KJV Psalm 33:1-3 "Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise."
The entire thought adds the reason for praise - it is befitting and appropriate for the believer. The entire thought also suggests specific instruments (that I have studied in detail in another essay). But this version - the King James - still supports loud music. If I were the other side, I might stop right here and say that the Bible supports loud Christian rock concerts. But I am NOT Dial the "Truth". When I approach the word of God, I approach it with respect. I have no desire or need to "twist" it so it seems to support my point of view. I have approached the subject of Biblical truth with the courage to change my position, if that is where the Bible leads me. My personal taste is unimportant. I am not afraid to speculate about the meaning of a passage that is obscure, but I am also not afraid to submit myself to God's word, even if it contradicts long held, cherished beliefs. In this, I believe I am different than the Christian rock critics. So - instead of leaving my readers with the mistaken impression that all praise music should be LOUD, I dig just a little deeper. To do this, it is necessary to abandon the King James and look closer the actual words penned in Hebrew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
Literal Psalm 33:1-3 "Sing, ye righteous, in Jehovah, For upright ones praise [is] comely. Give ye thanks to Jehovah with a harp, With psaltery of ten strings sing praise to Him, Sing ye to Him a new song, Play skilfully with shouting."
This changes the meaning yet again, this time to mean just the lyrics, not necessarily the instruments, should be loud (and Joyful). I I were quoting this thought to young people, I would go back to the English translations and try to find one that ACCURATELY translates the thought into easy English. In this case it is the NIV:
NIV Psalm 33:1-3 "Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy."
Not perfect, but a lot better than the single verse of the King James we started with! This is the process I go through with the scriptures in these essays. I would hardly call it "twisting" the Word of God. I end up with the vast majority of NIV references, but quote plenty of literal translations and the King James as well, when they express the thought accurately.
Even with this level of analysis, I would still not consider my job done. I would look at many other scriptures that talk about the same subject, such as:
NIV Ephesians 5:19-20: "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Whoa! We are supposed to speak the words of psalms to each other, and keep the melody inside? That sure contradicts all of those instruments in Psalm 150! Perhaps the NAS translation is better, when it says "make music WITH your heart". But that is not what the literal Greek says. At this point, it is intellectually honest to point out that those two verses are a portion of a larger thought:
NIV Ephesians 5:1-20 "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
This clears it up beautifully. This passage is primarily about the company you keep - your peers, and the influence they will exert upon you for good or bad. It is also talking about purity of mind - things that you put into your mind that will dwell there. Among them, that "song running through your mind" that happens when you hear a song too often. What a blessing if that song is a Christian song! And what a blessing it is to be able to quote the lyrics to each other, and have the other person bring the whole song into their mind when you merely speak a line from the lyric! Just TRY to get that blessing out of Dial the Truth's simple minded interpretation.
I am concerned only with the TRUTH in God's word! Unlike the other side, I do not specialize in propagating lies. I have documented outright lies on their site many places. If you ever find a lie or a mistake on my site - email me and it will be corrected in days or even hours! In my search for the truth - I have but one standard, and that is the Word of God. I will look at entire passages to get the context of the scripture, look at historical descriptions of the setting and the culture. I will read different translations - but high emphasis on what the original language actually was saying. All of us, even King James only advocates, are at a disadvantage. The Bible was not written in English, and our understanding is clouded by that fact. None of us who read an English language Bible, no matter what translation it is, are reading the inerrant word of God. Period. Translations lose information! Not enough to invalidate the truth of the Bible, but there are additional shades of meaning that can ONLY be resolved by the original language. For every candidate "inerrant" English Bible, I am always going to come back at you with "why did it translate ____ this way?"
In matters of the Truth, I believe my process - looking at the entire chapter or even book, in the light of the history and culture of the time, and cross referencing with other scriptures on the same topic, is VASTLY more correct than lazily prooftexting out of only one translation like Dial the Truth and other anti-CCM organizations do. I would hardly call Biblical scholarship on the level presented in these essays "twisting" the Word of God to my own opinion.