Of Dangers, Pitfalls and Fallacies

Published: February 16th, 2004

One of the books I end up recommending again and again is D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies (Baker, 1996 - 2nd. ed.) We can hardly deny the need for careful exegesis these days, when so much wishy-washy preaching and teaching seems to be in vogue. And I say this because Bible software is a great thing, but it needs to be handled with care. Cars are great tools, but I just saw one bumping into another on my way home today… So, watch out!

A few years ago, Terry Taylor wrote a short article on Computers in Bible Teaching: Bible Study Software, where he warned against a number of traps to be avoided by people using Bible software. More recently, David Lang has written another interesting piece along the same lines: The Dangers of Bible Software.
It may be old hat to many, but it is something worth reminding ourselves.

I can think of a few of these pitfalls to avoid off the top of my head. They relate to the use of Bible programs, but are in no way limited to it. Maybe we could build a more comprehensive list another day.

1. A very frequent thing that can happen to us when we use Bible software is that we reach a point where we can’t see the forest for the trees. Terry Taylor calls it the “tunnel-vision trap”. The need to stay in context, as David Lang also alerts us, is something we have to have clearly before us all the time. In this age of increasing
specialization we must never lose sight of the larger picture.

2. We must also carefully avoid the cut-and-paste syndrome. This reminds me of the preacher who had jotted down the following remark in his sermon notes: “Weak point. Shout louder!”. The equivalent to that would be the urge felt by some people to back up some particular point with tons of references taken from the myriads of electronic tools available nowadays (including Internet resources, of course). Terry Taylor’s “laziness trap” and “verse dumping trap” would fall under this category. An off-shoot of this syndrome is the pitfall of plagiarism. Let’s try to think things through for ourselves, and if we want to quote some interesting or witty sentence or paragraph, let’s
give credit where credit is due!

3. We have all heard that “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”. Well, it surely can in the field of Biblical languages. There was a thread on B-Greek a while back where members discussed at great length the danger of knowing just a little Greek. Bible software grants us access to the underlying original text of any given passage like never before, but getting to know how to perform word studies and other similar exercises
will not turn us into Greek or Hebrew scholars overnight! As David Lang puts it, we must avoid the danger of becoming “gnostics” (or falling into the “Greek geek trap”, in Terry Taylor’s words).

4. Last, but not least, there’s the danger of suffering from an information indigestion. This happens when we cannot process the huge amount of information we have at our disposal, and simply pile it up. Computers can retrieve
information at great speeds, but it is up to us to analyze and reflect on it. Maybe one of our main problems is that we need time. After all, exegesis will never be an instant, ready-made, computer-generated product…

There was a quote I once read (not sure where it came from) that said: “With computers we can now misinterpret Scripture at speeds never before possible”.
Well, I think whoever said it got the point across pretty nicely. I’m not a pessimist, and I firmly believe in the advantages of using new technology, but we would do well to keep our eyes wide open in order to avoid, to the best of our ability, some of these traps in the course of our study. BTW, If you want to share more dangers and pitfalls, by all
means do!

This entry was posted on Monday, February 16th, 2004 at 7:28 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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