Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Quotable Gerstner: Spoof-Texting

Here's one of my favorite quotes from John Gerstner's Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (pp. 93-94):

I mention, finally, another of the Dispensationalists’ devices (though they have no monopoly) which I call “spoof-texting.” It is simply the cumulative effect of massive citation. The reader is so busy reading or listening to the volume of citations (each text carrying the solemn dignity of being the inerrant Word of God) that he has no time to ponder the meaning. He tends to assume they do teach what the dispensationalist says that they teach. John Nelson Darby himself may have been the pioneer: “I prefer quoting many passages than enlarging upon them.”

Bear has noticed this spoof-texting. Dispensationalists, he observes, are content to reiterate the catch-phrases which set forth their distinctive principles, supporting them by reference to Bible passages of which they do not stop to show the validity. They usually do not attempt in their books to follow out their principles to their logical conclusions, and one often wonders if many who call themselves “Dispensationalist” have ever actually faced the conclusion which must flow from the principles which they so confidently teach.

Sandeen, on the other hand, throws out the baby with the wash. He simply indicts dispensationalists for holding the classic orthodox view of inerrancy from which he himself has departed. Dispensationalism, he argues, has “a frozen biblical text in which every word was supported by the same weight of divine authority.” Luther, too, had an inerrant Bible, one word of which would “slay” the devil. We should praise the dispensationalists for their virtues and censure them only for their faults.

The vice of “spoof-texting” is not to be confused, as Sandeen and others do, with the virtue of proper proof-texting. Luther is right that one little word (rightly interpreted) will destroy the devil, but a hundred words used only for cumulative effect have no effect on any argument. At the same time, however, those who would interpret God’s Word have the duty to use it responsibly and not to trade casually on the authority of Scripture as a means of endowing dubious arguments with divine sanction.

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