I’m frequently on Twitter interacting with theists and atheists alike. Both sides have a tendency to be woefully ignorant of biblical passages and both have a tendency to want to display that ignorance by commenting on or using biblical passages in this or that argument. The atheist wants to find some contradiction or historical and scientific error and the theist wants to find some proof-text for a doctrine to support their belief. Others still want to use the Bible to support their political affiliation: peace and love Jesus for the liberal and fire and brimstone Jesus for the conservative. Now, these are all generalizations, I know, but if we were to take a random sample of Christians and atheists and surveyed them for their political affiliations and views on the Bible, by-and-large we would find these very trends among them.
One of those politically charged Christians is Greg Locke, pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, who recently took to his Twitter feed to show his appreciation for the recent Supreme Court decision upholding some aspects of the President’s travel ban.
This is par for the course for Locke who loves to use his Twitter account and his pastoral title to support the Right’s politics and to alienate the Left. But he always gets push back.
Donald Bowlin has a point. Locke could have left that entire last sentence off and it would not have affected the tweet at all. In fact, had he done so it would have largely been innocuous seeing as how SCOTUS’ lift of the ban was not a complete lift and they would consider the ban more in the future. But Locke simply cannot resist putting down his detractors, especially “leftists.” And fortunately for him, he has his own minions to come to his defense.
“I don’t see an attack.” Of course she doesn’t. Claiming that “leftists…love chaos” and engage in “violent protests” surely isn’t an attack. To blind followers of blind guides, it is merely the truth! Thankfully, Donald Bowlin responds.
Now, if I were Locke and felt that Bowlin’s tweet was erroneous, I would have said something like, “I didn’t insult or name call. I’m simply telling THE TRUTH,” or some such cop-out. But instead, Locke goes to his trademark move of sticking the Bible where it doesn’t belong.
“Oh, it’s not okay to insult and name call? Well, Matthew 10:34!” I could not help but interject at this juncture.
Proof-texting? In what way was Locke proof-texting? Well, let me explain.
What is Going on in Matthew 10?
Matthew 10:34 is not a verse that stands by itself. It is part of a larger context wherein Jesus sends the twelve disciples on a mission (10:1-4), gives them specific instructions for that mission (10:5-15), prepares them for the inevitable persecution to come because of that mission (10:16-23), teaches them the proper response to that persecution (10:24-33), and explains what effect the mission will have (10:34-39). But what is the mission? Jesus tells us: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.'”(10:7*) In other words, the mission is the proclamation of the gospel. It isn’t proclaiming this or that political party’s position. It isn’t trying to alienate a whole swath of political opponents. Those things have nothing to do with the mission.
Locke’s reading of Matthew 10:34 is definitionally eisegesis because he 1) ignores the context of the passage and 2) employs it as evidence that he has the right to insult, name call, and stereotype. But the division Jesus speaks of in verses 32-36 is the result of proclaiming the gospel, the good news from Jesus. Politics doesn’t come into it.
Though it is clear Locke is using Matthew 10:34 as a proof-text, he tries to skirt the issue.
Now, I’ve listened to excerpts of Locke’s Wednesday night series’, particularly on the book of Revelation, and what he means by “verse by verse” exposition and what I mean by “verse by verse” exposition are two entirely different animals. For example, in his video on Revelation chapter one he says, “Normally, you see me I just kind of read the text and go with it but I’ve got some things I’ve jotted down tonight.” To me, you don’t come to a text as complicated as Revelation with “some things” you’ve jotted down. And you don’t ever just read the text and “go with it.” That isn’t expositional preaching; it is reading an English translation on the fly and trying to make sense of it. Now, he admits also in that video that he is doing an overview but that isn’t the opposite of exposition. In fact, an overview can only be derived from doing exposition of the text. But it is his pulpit and he is free to do with it as he pleases. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that Greg “Context is My Life” Locke used Matthew 10:34 as a proof-text.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the doubling down.
Locke freely admits that he used Matthew 10:34 “to refute the ‘Jesus taught us to act the opposite’ statement” of Donald Bowlin. So now we must ask, what was the context of Bowlin’s “Jesus taught us to act the opposite” statement? Here it is again.
So in response to Bowlin’s claim that Jesus taught us to do the opposite of insulting, name calling, and grouping those that don’t agree with us, Locke inserts Matthew 10:34. And yet Locke somehow thinks that he isn’t proof-texting. So much for the claim that “context is [his] life.”
Evangelical eisegesis, everyone.
*All biblical passages, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version (National Council of Churches, 1989).