I was at Alpha a few nights ago, and Nicky Gumbel gave a wonderful illustration of the hazards of using the Bible as a “magical answer generator”, and also of reading verses out of context. I might be paraphrasing it slightly, but here’s the gist of it…
There was a man who was feeling depressed and confused, and he thought he’d look for answers in the Bible. So he opened it up at random, closed his eyes and dropped his finger on the page. When he opened his eyes, he saw that he had selected Matthew 27:5, and he read:
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
“Oh dear”, he thought, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging! Let me try it again.”
So he repeated the exercise and this time his finger fell on Luke 10:37, which said:
Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
“This really isn’t working very well,” he thought. “But let me give it one more try.”
Again he opened the book and selected a verse at random. Again he looked at where his finger lay, this time on John 13:27, and he read:
Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”