Text Without Context is Pretext for Proof Text (And a Person’s a Person no matter how Small)

Hold onto your hats! I, your Rent a Friend, have just made an amazing discovery which will shift the balance of religious debates forever! I was considering the declaration of such people as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) of there being NO God. As a Christian I know the Bible is completely true and free of errors, so I did a quick search on Biblegateway.com to see what the Bible says about that. And you know what I found? The Bible says “There is no God!” It says it fifteen times!

You think I’m lying. Well, let me quote you few verses:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “There is no god…”

2Samuel 7:22 “…there is no God…”

Psalm 14:1 “…there is no God.”

Over and Over! You think I’m messing with you? You think I made these up? On the contrary. These verses are in no way altered from the original! I looked it up, and then I coped and pasted it here! Have I just BLOWN YOUR MIND?!?!?!

Some of you are probably asking what I’ve left out. And that is an excellent question which brings us to my topic for the day: CONTEXT. When searching for truth in words or the universe around you, the CONTEXT is an important starting point. The Context is, in short, the big picture- the when, where, why, and who which will make clear sense out of the ideas, facts, or events being investigated. In my quotes above, for instance, I’ve left out a little context. When you put it back in, you find the first verse is God saying “There is no god BESIDES ME,” and the next is someone saying to God, “There is no God BUT YOU.” The best one here is Psalm 14:1 “The FOOL says in his heart, “There is no God.”” A little bit of context changes things a bit, wouldn’t you say?

Sorry Richard Dawkins. I guess I can’t help you after all.

Let us now consider the Metaphysical Duck. Our ducky is a small yellow rubber ducky. Suppose I am holding him as I’m typing and I write, “I am holding the ducky right now.” However, you don’t get around to reading this for weeks later. By then, not only am I NOT holding the ducky, but I can’t even find him since having done laundry. He’s lost under the pile of clean clothes that I am lax in putting away. So, is the statement TRUE or FALSE? In order to decide, you must consider the CONTEXT. The context of the statement was the time at which the statement was written. It does not say I am ALWAYS holding the ducky, it only says I am holding him “right now” with the understood context to imply that “right now” tells us that, at the time of the writing of that sentence, I was holding the ducky. It does not say anything about the time AFTER the writing of that sentence.

Similarly, if I were to say “Ronald Regan is the president of the United States,” this would be false because I am saying it NOW, in 2010. If I found that exact same statement having been said or written in 1983, it would be true because the statement IMPLIES the time. The time at which something was said or written, and the person who said or wrote it is its context. Without the context, there is no way to determine if the statement is true of false.

Another piece of CONTEXT is Prior Knowledge- the things you have already learned. Consider this statement: “MY rubber duck is exceptionally large!” IS this true or false? If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know the ducky of which I speak to be around 4 inches tall. This doesn’t answer the question, but it helps. If you also know how big an average rubber ducky is (between 3-5 inches tall), you will know that, in the context of typical rubber ducks, my statement is false. If aliens somehow have transformed him into an 80 foot tall mecha-ducky, we could all agree in THAT context that he was exceptionally large, and fairly likely at some point to wind up fighting with the Power Rangers.

Here is the trouble with some words. How big is “Large”? Is it 200 pounds? Is it six miles? Is it twenty five liters? $4,000? There is no answer to that, because it is a term relative to the context. Compared to the starting lineup for the Miami Dolphins, my ducky is VERY SMALL. Compared to a dust mite, he is HUGE. Thus it is the responsibility of both the speaker/writer to convey the context clearly and the listener/reader to discover the context. Without an understanding of CONTEXT there is much which cannot be determined to be true or false. I think you’ll find that lots of arguments are really based on this misunderstanding. Just listen to anyone arguing about which of two movies is BETTER. Do they mean, “Better at showing alien heads exploding?” or “Better at not whipping the camera around until I want to hurl,” or “Better at making me laugh with inappropriate sound effects,” or “Better at bringing in ridiculous amounts of money at the box office,”? Most of the time people will rant and rave at each other about which is BETTER without ever defining the context of BETTER AT WHAT?

I think we could avoid a lot of angry cafeteria fights (And probably most of those Political News shows) if everyone spent more time defining their context and less time assuming what it might be. One thing which is true no matter who you are or when it happens is this: If you spend an hour fighting with someone, using all of your reasoning skills and college style vocabulary words to demolish their position, but then you both find that you actually agree but simply had no idea what the other person was talking about, you are going to feel REALLY stupid. In this context, I’d like to suggest that maybe listening is better.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what the title of this post means (Text without Context is Pretext for Prooftext), it simply means this: Scripture without context will be used by people to try and get the Bible to say whatever they want it to say, instead of (With context) what it actually says. But as Dr Seuss taught us, everything is more fun to learn when it rhymes.



About rentafriend2000
Rocking my 40's with a heart full of love and muffins, science and technology. Jesus loves me and wants me to totally rock! And I am here to help.

One Response to Text Without Context is Pretext for Proof Text (And a Person’s a Person no matter how Small)

  1. Pingback: 2 + 2 = 7 (Because sometimes what you DON’T know matters) | Rent-A-Friend 2000's Biblical Thinking and Good Times!

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