What is Cherry-Picking and When Does it Happen?
Cherry-picking is a logical fallacy, which is when someone chooses to concentrate on the evidence that supports their own perspective. It is the act of choosing and presenting just the evidence that supports a position while omitting the evidence that would support the opposite position resulting in a defect in thinking that undermines the argument.
While it is a frequent mistake in circumstances like political arguments when the participants constantly strive to make their points stronger and more convincing to the audience, it also happens in the forming and defending of spiritual arguments found in the Bible. Sadly, even well-meaning Christians fall into the trap of believing something that is true but is proven to be only applicable in certain conditions.
An example of this would be the false teachers that Paul and Timothy fought against while they were leading the church in Ephesus. There were certain people who were propagating wrong teachings in order to gain power and influence over the lives of the believers.
Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy:
2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
1 Timothy 4:2-3
While Jesus clearly taught on this matter, there were still people who tried to distort and cherry-pick it based on their preference and selfish gains. Jesus said it in Matthew 19:
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.
But despite this clear teaching on marriage and singlehood, there have been some people in the church who were manipulating this specific teaching from the Bible during the time of Paul and Timothy. According to Bible scholars, it was an early form of Gnosticism that resulted from Jewish mysticism and legalism.
What are the Dangers of Cherry-Picking the Verses from the Bible?
Those who cherry-pick verses from the Bible, intentionally or unintentionally, in order to defend what they believe in, fall into a dangerous possibility of being deceived, disillusioned and eventually departing from the orthodox Christian faith. Though a person can still manifest genuine-saving faith, the believer who cherry-picks verses will have troubles with the assurance of his or her salvation. What happens when a person cherry-picks verses?
They become deceived.
The apostle James warned the believers during his time that they have to guard themselves from being deceived. The word “deceive” has the idea of being trapped and ensnared by false appearance or information.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Those who cherry-pick verses from the Bible deceive themselves because they chose to not see the whole counsel of God through His revealed Word. In the same letter, James likened the Word of God to a mirror and said that those who have seen the Truth and the true condition of their hearts and chose to not do anything about it, deceive themselves (James 1:22-24). Deception is dangerous because it may cause a person to think that his salvation is real when it is not and it also hinder a genuine believer to live out the purposes of God in his or her life in light of the Scriptures.
They become disillusioned.
The definition of the word “disillusioned” is having lost faith or trust in something that was once thought to be excellent or worthwhile. This refers to a person who formerly held on to a specific belief but then turns or falls away because he or she no longer sees this specific belief as true or beneficial.
Cherry-picking Bible verses might lead to a person being disillusioned because he or she might come to a conclusion that because this specific belief is wrong or is proven to be a lie, the person might conclude that everything he or she believes in is entirely wrong and so therefore, he or she falls into an illusion that there was nothing right or true in his or her beliefs at all.
They depart and deviate from the faith.
The departure and deviation from the orthodox Christian faith is the ultimate destination of a person who is deceived and disillusioned by the realization that his or her belief is not true. The Bible speaks of such people in John’s first letter and the letter to Hebrews.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
1 John 2:19
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
While these two sections have a different context and audience, they both teach about the characteristics of a person who formerly upholds the Christian beliefs and now turns away from them and no longer identifies with any of it. The sad and sobering truth about those who formerly “embraced” the Christian faith is that they did not truly embrace it, instead they only deemed it true when it was beneficial for them.
What is the Cure for Cherry-Picking?
Due to their sinful nature, all believers are prone to cherry-picking verses left and right. Believers still have the tendency to give in to pride and attempt to prove themselves right. But when a believer encounters the truth about his faith, how he responds will determine the condition and outcome of his faith. How does a believer fight his tendency to cherry-pick verses?
Sober-mindedness refers to the state of not being “intoxicated” or under the influence of unbiblical mindsets and teachings. It refers to the virtue of clearly and objectively assessing one’s condition in light of the truth of Scripture. Peter pointed it out in one of his letters to the church:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8
Our enemy is cunning and deceiving, this is why we have to be sober-minded and watchful. The enemy will try to make use of every opportunity to sabotage our faith, even making us think and believe something that is not true. But having sober-mindedness empowers us to dispel the intoxicating ideas of the world.
Sincerity and Humility
You will always find genuine sincerity and humility in one place and it is always present in the heart of a genuine believer who has been corrected by the truth of the Scripture. An example of this would be the prophet Isaiah when he encountered God and HIs holiness. He responded by saying that he is a man of unclean lips and that he deserves to be obliterated. His encounter with God revealed the truest condition of his heart but instead of hardening his heart, he responded with sincerity and humility.
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