I’m reading a book by Derek Flood titled, Disarming Scripture–Cherry Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did. That’s quite a title for quite a book!
According to Flood, “Cherry-picking is a classic logical fallacy that involves misrepresenting evidence–citing only the good parts as if they are representative of the whole, while ignoring the bad parts as if they were not there.” (p.23).
Flood’s book is about how to deal with the problem of violence in Scripture. He points out that Bible skeptics often accuse moderates and liberals of “cherry picking” Scripture, focusing on social justice and compassion, while overlooking the unseemly parts of the Bible that seem to condone genocide, infanticide, and other abhorrent acts of violence. Bible conservatives, on the other hand, tend to take the equally unsatisfactory position of trying to justify it in some way. Extremists actually use these passages as a pretext for their own horrific acts of violence.
The painful but historical fact is, many heinous crimes of genocide and violence against humanity have been justified by extremist views of the Bible. For this reason, the blame for war and violence is often laid at the door of religion. Whether we like it or not, we must be honest and admit there’s some truth to these accusations.
So, how do we stay faithful to Scripture, avoiding “cherry-picking” and ignoring the distasteful parts, or allowing it to be used to justify violence? Flood suggests we read the Bible like Jesus! As he points out, Jesus never cherry-picked Scripture nor did He try to mitigate the violent passages. He turned it all on its head!
For instance, in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), Jesus said several times, “You have heard it said, but I say…” (Matt.5:21-22, 38-39, 43-44). And where did they hear such things said? Right, from the Law of Moses! Here’s Flood’s take on this:
Jesus prefaces these above statements by declaring, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt.5:17). This is often taken to mean that Jesus is in complete agreement with the Law, ignoring the rather obvious fact that the very next thing Jesus does after saying this is to proceed to blatantly contradict and overturn multiple Old Testament passages and principles in the rest of His sermon. (p.32)
I have pointed out several times in the past that Jesus not only fulfilled the Law but gave us a serious upgrade in properly understanding God’s ultimate intention for mankind. This is why we cannot rightfully read the Bible indiscriminately, as if nothing changed with Jesus. We must read all Scripture through the interpretative lens of Jesus and New Covenant truths. Flood seems to agree with this, explaining that Jesus was enlightening His Jewish brethren about God’s true position on violence and justice:
He takes the command of an “eye for an eye” which is already limited retaliation, and now takes it to the next level, saying not to retaliate at all, instead proposing a superior way which seeks to restore enemies, rather than to destroy them.
He continues, explaining that God’s justice is restorative, rather than retributive:
So while it is true that He is thus fulfilling the Law in the sense of bringing it to its ultimate goal, the way He is doing this is by overturning the very system of retributive justice embodied in the law, and replacing it with the superior way of God’s restorative justice rooted in the enemy love that Jesus to demonstrate with His teaching and life. (p.34)
That, my friend, is sheer brilliance! I highly recommend Disarming Scripture and say, amen, let’s read the Bible the way Jesus did.
I also really appreciate Derek Flood’s teaching in general. I already wrote about his book, Healing the Gospel here. As I said there, our gospel message desperately needs healing–both for us and for the people of the world that the Father loves so much that He bankrupted Heaven so He could be with them forever. Thankfully, Jesus is the Savior of the Bible, too.