Why “proving” things with Biblical quotes is a mug’s game

So the Jehovah’s Witnesses came round this morning. Woke me up, in fact. And they gave me a lovely little pamphlet (this one).

Now, what really struck me is this one quote:

The Evil One controls the whole world.
John 5:19

This presents a problem, since Matthew 22:21 tells us to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and Jesus told that “My Kingdom is not from this world” (John 18:36), which seem to imply that since this world is the Evil One’s, it therefore belongs to him and should remain his. I mean, what does God care, he’s got a whole other kingdom, right?

Of course, that’s just the one problem with this specific tract. But wait, there’s more. In fact, there are two much larger problems that any attempt to “prove” something from the Bible is doomed to fall prey to. It’s unavoidable.

The first of these is that the Bible’s claim to inerrancy rests upon itself, in perfectly circular logic. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” and Hebrew 6:18 states that “It is impossible for God to lie.” This is the basis of the claim to inerrancy – if God is responsible for all scripture, and cannot lie, then the Bible is inerrant. In other words, the Bible is inerrant because the Bible says it is inerrant. Except of course, that God does lie. He even admits it – in Ezekiel 14:9, he boasts “I the LORD have deceived that prophet“. So the claim of Hebrews is invalid, casting doubt on all the Scripture God has breathed out.

The second problem is a worse one for the quoters of scripture, because even if the Bible were inerrant and every word in it true, it could still be put to evil use. In fact, this problem gets worse if the Bible is inerrant. As Shakespeare points out, in “The Merchant of Venice”, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose” – and while this line appears nowhere in the Bible, it does have scriptural support. In Matthew 4:1-11, when the Devil tempts Jesus, both of them quote from the Old Testament, with the Devil quoting from Psalms 91:11. It is also well established that the Devil can take on any form he likes. How then are we expected to tell that the person quoting the Bible to us is not the Devil?

Also, Jehovah’s? Next time you raise me from my sleep to answer the door to you, I’m not putting clothes on first.