Robert Anton Gollwitzer

Seelsorger. Berater. Aktivist. - Politisch. Katholisch. Leidenschaftlich.


Proof Texting

Posted on July 6, 2022 at 2:30 PM

One common practice among many "Bible churches", especially though in Church of Christ denominations seems to be "proof texting". You come up with an idea of your own and add a number of Bible verses (the more the better) to make it seem the Bible supports your theory. That looks like an undisputable statement at first, but more like rather poor theology at second sight. No serious Bible scholar or theologian would approach the Bible like that. There are a number of points to ponder if you want to do that.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for example states this:


"Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria: 1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture; 2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church; 3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves." (19)


(See also:


In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read:


"According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs. – The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.– The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.– The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”;). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem. (CCC 115-117)"


Keep that in mind when you face more or less simplistic proof-texts that seem to more or less try to prove the author's opinion. You do not come up with an idea and then google Bible verses that seem to match your (!) point, take them completely out of context (especially referring the connection of Old and New Testament - the Old Testament is revealed in the New and the New hidden in the Old) and make them say whatever you want them to say. This is at best naive and poor, even though maybe well intended (if you have no theological background), at worst it is intentional - and dangerous beccause of that.


Likewise it makes no sense at all to try to show people who argue like that how wrong this approach is. You could contradict each one of their statements and they would probably stubbornly come up with new ones.


I am ever so glad I got out of this practice and started years of studies in theology in order to somewhat still my thirst for more.


Greetings from Munich, Germany,