Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 01/20/2010 by Chad Vandervalk.
Not Recommended. Seeks to combat a major problem within North American evangelicalism, but this purported cure falls short.
There are times when I am sent a book for review and I get really excited by the title. I have to admit, my expectations were pretty high as I peeled back the wrapping around this book and caught a glimpse of the title. Unfortunately, Biblical Freedom from Religious Oppression by K. Scott Schaeffer fell far short of those expectations and I do not recommend it.
To his credit, Schaeffer does recognise a problem within current North American evangelicalism; the tendency to proof text:
You find yourself discussing the very important issue again, perhaps even with the same person with whom you disagreed before. As the discussion begins, you get excited, because you know that this time–you have the ultimate weapon in your arsenal. You wait for the perfect moment, open your Bible to the correct page, and recite the magic verse that proves you are on the side of God. …Much to your surprise, you opponent opens his Bible and does the unthinkable–he quotes a Bible verse that refutes your Bible verse.
Schaeffer argues that much of the disagreements about various issues can be solved when we take a look at all of the verses that relate to the issue. He calls this the “Every-Verse Method”. When we take a look at all the verses that discuss a certain issue, and properly analyse them, we will be able to come up with the true Biblical teaching on an issue.
This is a very good thing to promote. We need to understand the context of a given statement in the scripture, and its relation to the scriptures as a whole. The following, in a nutshell, is Schaeffer’s hermeneutic (the method he uses to interpret the scriptures). Essentially you pick up a concordance and look up every passage that refers to the issue at hand, then analyse the various passages, and voila! - you have the answer you are looking for.
No longer should we seek out verses that support what we want to believe and ignore others that don’t. From now on, when seeking to determine our beliefs regarding a specific issue, we need to look at every verse in the Bible addressing that issue.
This, however, is a rather tedious task. To look up every verse that relates to some issue can be somewhat daunting given the size of the Bible. But Schaeffer claims to have done most of that work for us.
Looking through the entire Bible to collect all the verses addressing a specific issue can be tedious work, and most Christians have no time for that. That’s where I come in. Throughout most of this book’s chapters, I will present you with every verse in the Bible that deals with each chapter’s subject.
The rest of the book consists in Schaeffer walking the reader through his “every-verse method” and leading them to his ‘impartial’ conclusion. He deals with issues such as alcohol, divorce, creationism, pride and judgmentalism.
While I applaud the goal of Schaeffer in this book it is a very poor example of Biblical exegesis. Schaeffer continues to view the Bible as an answer book to the issues we bring to it, a book that can be segregated into small little proof texts. It treats the scriptures not as God’s historical revelation of himself and his love for us in Jesus Christ, but rather as a collection of disconnected verses that relate to each other in some way and can tell us how to run our lives.
I appreciate his attempt to free people from a very narrow view of the scriptures. He falls short, however, in providing a comprehensive view of the scriptures which moves us away from the practice of proof texting, toward seeing the book as a whole.