by Daniel Goepfrich
– I am conversing with a person via email right now who has a bad case (maybe even a fatal case) of what I call “Cut-and-Paste Theology.”
In a previous post, I gave two reasons for why studying biblical theology is necessary: because you learn what God says about himself, and because it is God’s will for every Christian.
Let me give you a third one: a biblical theology saves you from a cut-and-paste theology.
What is “Cut-and-Paste Theology?” In Bible college, we called it “proof-texting” – finding the Scripture passages that supported your belief and made you seem to be correct.
The internet has made this so much easier. A quick search can provide us with thousands of websites dedicated to various factions of just plain bad theology. Armed with those, we can, like my email friend, argue any heretical idea we want, simply by copying someone else’s bad theology and pasting into an email or blog post.
Even more dangerous, though, is when we paste it into our minds and hearts in place of the truth.
So, how do we know if we’re dealing with a Cut-and-Paste Theologian (or if we are becoming one)? Here are four characteristics that I have found to be common in people I’ve debated before and in the man I am emailing with right now:
1. Cut-and-Paste Theologians focus on a short list of favorite passages, sections, or doctrines. They refuse to go outside of a very confined selection of Scriptures that seem to support their beliefs. Regardless of your response, they will keep going back to the same place.
2. Cut-and-Paste Theologians almost always ignore the context of the passages they cite. The whole chapter or book may go against what they believe, but if they can find a verse (or sometimes even just a phrase!) to “support” them, they will blindly ignore everything around it.
3. Cut-and-Paste Theologians often get very defensive if someone tries to correct them. Now, none of us likes to be corrected, but in my experience, nearly every Cut-and-Paste Theologian I have come across eventually gets belligerent if the conversation goes on long enough. They are simply not open to anyone who disagrees with them. This often results in them name-calling and making disparaging remarks about the other person. (My current email friend has questioned my salvation and called me a “blind guide,” a “blind fool,” the “devil’s kid,” and “biblically stupid.”)
4. Cut-and-Paste Theologians like to pick fights, under the guise of humility. Nearly every discussion I’ve had like this has been initiated by the other person who just wanted to argue. In my current email case, the man contacted me through our church website asking me to read his email and tell him where his thinking was not “biblical truth.” Knowing what was coming, I took the bait anyway. (I actually like it because it drives me back to the Scriptures and helps me stay sharp.)
God does not look kindly on those who misrepresent him. His condemnation of Cut-and-Paste Theology is a common theme in both the Old Testament (false prophets) and the New Testament (false teachers). Fortunately, the solution is very simple.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18
What safeguards have you placed into your life to keep your Biblical Theology from becoming Cut-and-Paste Theology?
Originally posted by Daniel Goepfrich.
Excellent article! The best safeguard, I would say, is learning sound hermeneutics principles.
Good warning. I’ll add that a good safe guard against ‘cut n paste’ theology is to avoid letting one’s interpretations be driven by a system. Dispensationalism for example can drive the interpretation in a different direction when a literal reading is heading in another direction.