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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cherry Picking Scripture

Religious folks often excoriate each other for cherry picking Scripture, but the reality is that EVERYONE does it. For instance, the group which I was formerly affiliated with said that they were observing God's festivals (Torah); but they ignored the instructions contained in those same scriptures about where to observe those festivals and how to construct temporary shelters for one of them. They also ignored the feasts of Purim and the Dedication (Hanukkah) - both of which are also mentioned in Scripture.

In similar fashion, many Christians point out the condemnations of homosexual practices in the book of Leviticus while ignoring the prohibitions concerning sexual relations during menstruation, tattoos, trimming facial hair, raising and harvesting crops, and wearing blended clothing. Likewise, many folks have created authoritarian governments within their groups while ignoring Christ's statements that he didn't want his followers lording it over each other. Oh sure, they all have reasons/justifications for why they accept/emphasize this while they reject/ignore that.

Now we all know that cherry picking involves suppressing evidence which contradicts your position or only using the evidence which supports your position. When it comes to the Bible, it seems to me that this practice is universal. That being the case, it is natural for us to wonder if some cherry picking is superior to other cherry picking. Stated another way, does cherry picking ever serve a positive or legitimate purpose?

A little over a year ago, Valerie Tarico addressed this very question in an article entitled "In Defense of Cherry Picking the Bible." see the full article here https://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-tarico/in-defense-of-cherry-pick_b_7305860.html In the article, she contends that cherry picking is the proper approach to using Scripture in a positive way.

Tarico contends that the way many folks use the Bible amounts to book idolatry. She maintains that regarding Scripture as flawless and completely authoritative in all matters spiritual/religious/moral amounts to worshiping a book. Hence, for her, in the instance of Scripture, it is a mistake to regard all of the material as valid/legitimate evidence.

She maintains that " No parent with a backyard cherry tree would pick every piece of fruit on the tree and feed it to her children. No matter how excellent a tree, some of the fruit is wormy. Some of it is bird pecked and moldy. Some wasn’t pollinated properly and has been hard and shriveled from the beginning. A loving parent culls through, discarding the bad fruit and feeding her children the cherries that are juicy and nourishing."

I agree with Valerie. Where Scripture is concerned, cherry picking can be a very positive exercise. In fact, because I reject the notion that Scripture is on a par with God, I would say that cherry picking is essential. For me, it is obvious that some of the material contained in the Judeo-Christian Bible should NOT be regarded as the Word of God. Jesus said that we can recognize false prophets by the fruits which their works/teachings produce. It seems to me that a similar formula could reasonably be applied to evaluating the merit of certain scriptures. What do you think?

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