“Skillful Scripture Study” was the one class I enjoyed teaching the most during my tenure as a Prof at Christ for The Nations Bible College in Dallas,Texas. I endured the angst of many irate students by challenging charismatic myths fostered by those ignoring hermeneutical norms so that they could play fast and loose with a biblical text.
Binding and loosing, Satan comes to kill,steal and destroy, and Pulling down strongholds are but a few of the texts I showed to be selectively abstracted from the contextual flow of a favorite verse.
Selective abstraction is a type of cognitive bias in which terms are taken out of context while everything else in the context is completely ignored. Credo House Ministries posted this great example of how Matthew 18 is often de-contextualized by making it a proof text for having others simply agree together in general prayer.
I selectively abstracted a section to entice you to read the entire artlicle. Now thats funny!
“… I sat there praying with this group of people, saying my “umms” and shaking my head at the appropriate times (I hope). Then something made me hara. I tried to brush it off, but it was too difficult. She said the unthinkable . . . I cannot believe she used this verse. It was manipulative, irresponsible, and downright misleading. What was her crime? She used the “where two or three are gathered in my name . . .” trick. She misused Matthew 18:20. Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek. She did not really have any ill-intentions. She was just following the folklore about this verse, which she had probably heard herself countless times in the past. We have all done it so don’t get smug. Let’s look at the verse.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
It happens all the time: Prayers which invoke the presence of Jesus during the gathering . . . well, so long as there are “two or three.” What does this mean? Does it mean that Christ is more likely to answer your prayer? Does it mean that Christ’s actual presence is in the middle of your prayer circle . . . a ghost, phantom, or floating entity? Maybe he is there holding our hands. And which is it, for goodness’ sake? Two, or three? The idea is this: we have to have more than one person to get this mystical real presence of Christ invoked and some people have made a sacrament out of this.
However, this is not what this verse means. And I do get somewhat red-nosed about this because it can mislead us about the power of God and our prayer life.
Matthew 18:20, like every other passage of Scripture, has a context. When we look at the context we find that the pericope (single unit of thought) in which this verse occurs starts in verse 15…..”