Just the Facts? The Problem of Text without Context...

“Let the science speak for itself,” my boss told me.  As scientists, we look at the facts.  But it’s never just the facts.  Facts have to be interpreted.

So I did. I re-evaluated the facts and drew my conclusions. 

Then, my boss tells me in frustration, “You can make science say whatever you want it to say.”  

Rather, what I think he meant was that you can start with a biased conclusion and then pull out the facts that you want to support it.  We both had the same sets of facts but were drawing different conclusions.

Not just in science, but in theology, this occurs as well.  The Bible contains the ‘facts’. Sometimes people start with a biased conclusion and then pull out the facts from the Bible that support it.  This is called ‘pretext’.  The facts may be taken out of context in such a way to support the already-determined conclusion. Thus, the saying that originate with D.A. Carson, “text without context is pretext.”

We should let the Bible speak for itself, to let God speak to us for Himself through His Word.  It is impossible to approach the Bible and science with a blank slate and no presuppositions, but awareness of our presuppositions is a good start to right interpretation. 

I resolve be a theologian and a scientist who is not guilty of pretexting.

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