Thursday, March 24, 2005

Verses out of context

Perhaps the thing that irks me most in theology is when people take verses out of context.

The single verse that seems to keep coming up is Isaiah 64:6. Here's an example:
""All our righteousness is like menstrual rags" (Isa 64:6) You see, the best of human righteousness compared to God's is seen to be like the filthiest of garments. This demonstrates the total inability of any human to save themselves by their own righteousness..." and so forth.

I don't know what moron came up with that verse as a proof-text but I am constantly amazed at just how many people are happy to quote that verse without paying any attention whatsoever to the context. I suppose it just demonstrates how enthusiastic people are to believe things if those things agree with their established beliefs. They want to believe that the bible says all human righteousness is worthless... so every verse that could be construed to say that is believed to actually say it.

For anyone who cares, the passage in context is talking about the fact that Israel had recently turned to evil and rejected God, and Isaiah recalls a time when people lived "who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways" and contrasts it with the depravity of the Israel at the current time whos level of righteousness by comparison is like filthy rags. In short:
It is NOT talking about ALL MEN at ALL TIMES.
It is NOT saying that ALL MEN are totally UNRIGHTEOUS.
On the contrary, the passage strongly implies that humans can indeed be righteous and that many people in the history of the world have indeed been righteous.