“People twist the Bible all the time to make it say whatever they want.”
Ever heard that one? Have you ever been the one who said that? Perhaps you just finished giving your view on homosexual behavior. In the process, you cite a Bible verse or two, and the person you are conversing with responds with the above. Where to go from there?
This can be difficult to respond to. I mean, on the surface the claim looks solid. Who can disagree with that? I see people twist Bible verses all the time, so I’m sympathetic to the charge. Yet, something odd is lurking under the surface, and it can be hard to suss out.
Really, most of the time, that one liner is merely a dismissal of your case. You give a verse, explain the context, and give an argument for its meaning, and someone merely dismisses it with a “ah, people twist the Bible all the time.” You’ve made a specific case, and somehow, just by making the general observation that people twist the Bible, your whole case is defeated. Really? No, not really. It’s a hand wave, not a substantive response.
Greg Koukl, in his book Tactics, gives another example conversation that shows this very well:
Johnny (your conversation partner): People twist the Bible all the time to make it say whatever they want.”
You: Well, you’re right about that. It bugs me, too. But your comment confuses me a little. What does it have to do with the point I just made about homosexuality?
J: Well, you are doing the same thing.
Y: Oh, so you think I’m twisting the Bible right now?
J: That’s right.
Y: Okay. Now I understand what you were getting at, but I’m still confused.
Y: Because it seems to me you can’t know that I’m twisting the Bible just by pointing out that other people have twisted it, can you?
J: What do you mean?
Y: I mean that in this conversation you’re going to have to do more than simply point out that other people twist the Bible. What do you think that might be?
J: I don’t know. What?
Y: You need to show that I’m actually twisting the verses. Have you ever studied the passages I referred to?
Y: Then how do you know I’m twisting them?
Perhaps the person has studied the passages…but I’m venturing a guess that most who throw out the one liner I led with haven’t…they are just trying to dismiss your argument because they don’t like it.
Regardless of whether or not the person has actually studied the passage in question, they must do better than just say “people twist the Bible all the time.” What the person means to say is that *you* are twisting the Bible, but the general observation that others twist it doesn’t demonstrate that you are wrong.