In my previous post, I attempted to clarify some confusion caused by differing views on biblical interpretation. Today, I’d like to address another subject that often complicates this further; Selective interpretation, otherwise known as cherry-picking. Here’s the thing about it in Christianity: everyone does it to some extent, but many of us are unaware of it. Most reasonable people will admit to points of confusion in their own attempts to interpret scripture, but others will become very defensive. Much like the assertion that “The bible is true” can mean several different things, “Cherry-picking” has its own problems associated with it in conversations about belief.
Here’s a personal story by way of explanation: As a teenager, I took biblical knowledge very seriously. I’d read the entire Bible multiple times; I competed in a competitive biblical study program; I could recite entire books verbatim in King James English. I prided myself on knowing scripture, and was more than willing to discuss my religious views. But if someone brought up cherry picking, my first response was to feel deeply insulted. The reason for this was that I was raised in a literalism tradition, and when someone asked about cherry-picking, what I heard was this:
“You haven’t read the Bible for yourself.” or “Why are you lying to me about your beliefs?”
In reality, what was usually being asked was: “To what degree are you a literalist?/Do you agree with the traditional interpretation of passage xyz?”
I won’t try to excuse my own defensiveness, it was the product of immaturity and arrogance. The reason I bring it up now is because my biblical knowledge actually made it harder to get over. Because I was well-versed in biblical literature, it was easy for me to dismiss alternative views. It took me a long time to realize that I, like everyone else, organize information according to my own agenda because I was swamped with information. I see similar things happen a lot among my fellow Christians. Some of the most hard-line literalists are also the most educated about he contents of scripture and its historical context. The problem of creating productive dialogues isn’t as simple as educating people.
I don’t believe that I have a final answer to this problem. At this point I’m very open to suggestions. Apart from that, the question I’d like to leave you with is this:
In your opinion, is there an equivalent to dogmatism in the secular community? If yes, what is an appropriate response?