Paul told the Ephesian elders, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). But not all can truthfully make that claim.
Early on in my Christian life, I was exposed to the deadly danger of taking a concept, phrase, saying, metaphor, or even truth, extracting it from the rest of the Bible, free-associating, and then erecting a structure on it.
My first regular pastor post-conversion was a deeply-Biblically-educated man. He had been reading the Greek NT for some thirty years at the time, and stressed the need for the pastor to be "immersed" in it. He was very patient with me, encouraged me, got me started in my Christian life and in pastoral training.
But he had this theory, this paradigm, of preaching. He believed in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. "Me too!" you all say, and, well, me too. It's a true concept. But here's how he applied that true concept: he refused to prepare or outline sermons. He disdained the very idea of following any structure whatever in constructing his sermon. (A friend of his, not very kindly, once observed to this pastor that he made his way through a sermon like a drunk through a church.)
This pastor read the passage in Greek, did some kind of study, prayed, trusted that the Holy Spirit would guide him, got up, did a free translation of the text, straight from Greek — and then talked about whatever came into his mind. Whatever came into his mind. And, sadly, what came into his mind seldom had the slightest relationship to the text: Nixon going to China, nuclear physics, life in general, anything, everything. Except the text.
How serious was he about this? Very. Once a Christian friend and I grew so concerned, and were so starving, that we shared our concerns with him. We noticed that nobody brought Bibles (go figure). Even more, we knew that he had so much to give — we just wanted him to give it! "Feed us!", we were pleading.
He did not receive it well.
"Gentlemen," he replied very intensely, leaning towards us and fixing us with his eyes, "when I get up to preach, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. If I believed that He could mislead me, I would leave the ministry!"
We were devastated. We didn't want him to leave the ministry! We walked away, abashed, shamed, crushed.
Was it bad of us to ask him to "preach the Word"? No. What was the real problem? The real problem was that he had abstracted one Biblicaloid notion from all the rest of the Bible. If he'd taken the whole Bible into account, and all the data it provides, his distaste for planning and order and structure would have met a lot of counter-evidence and correctives. He would have noted (say) the intricate, ingenius, and very deliberate design in many of the psalms and prophecies. Here were men writing under the direct inspiration of the Spirit, yet they framed and structed what they said like master sculptors. Taking in all the data, this pastor would have pondered the structured art-form that of the Proverbs, from verses like 2 Timothy 3:15-17, and 4:1-4.
But he did not. Bereft of Biblical controls, the concept he had isolated and developed his own way had taken on a life of its own, like a deadly virus.
This dangerous practice of extrapolating erroneously from a truth is extremely common, and often subtler still.
Here's a warning-sign: beware when someone says something catchy, cute, and memorable, and then goes on to develop that idea, build on that metaphor or paradigm, perhaps with a couple of fleeting Biblical allusions, rather than building on a carefully-laid (and demonstrated) Biblical foundation.
Craig Schwarze put it really excellently in the meta of a post from 2006:
...we can't abstract the attributes of God from the scriptural revelation of them. The Bible not only tells us that "God is love" - but it also tells us what that looks like.What Craig wisely says we "can't" do is precisely what too many do do.
For instance, take Steve Brown. He takes the very rich and Biblical concept of grace, and erects a superstructure on it that makes me pretty uncomfortable, to be charitable. His way is winsome, engaging, interesting; he clearly delights in his self-image as an iconoclast. But Brown has taken a golden concept (grace), and abstracted it from such texts as Titus 2:11 — 3:1, to say nothing of John 14:15; 15:16, 1 John 5:3, and so forth. So instead of a well-balanced, full portrait, he's sketched out a giant nose, with a few vestigial appendages tacked on as afterthoughts.
You could suggest many others, no doubt. Many who stress a "relationship" with God define and develop that relationship by modern standards ("Now, in a relationship, you do X, you don't do Y"), rather than by the whole Biblical picture. Or they stress the living nature of the church, and its disconnection with any business model — but downplay (or deny) extensive Biblical teachings of the organized nature of the church and the gifted men God gave to lead it. Or they are all about "transparency," but to the exclusion of balancing concerns for the love for God or man.
There is a reason why we hold a Bible as the word of God, and not a sack-full of isolated inspired fortune-cookies. God means us to grasp, and be grasped by, "the whole counsel."
Otherwise, our counsel will be full of holes.