10 common abuses of Scripture: a case study

Here are notes from a case study on Joshua 1:1-9 in Richard Coekin’s seminar ‘A Rough Guide to Preaching’ at New Word Alive 2010. You can buy and download the recordings from the New Word Alive Media website.

  1. Subjectivism
    Exploring emotional issues not addressed by the author.
    E.g. Using ‘After the death of Moses’ (v1) to teach that ‘following a great one is always difficult’ or for bereavement counselling. Is that what the author was writing about?
  2. Normalisation
    Assuming that past events will be repeated for us.
    E.g. ‘every place where you set your foot’ (v3) means that we should be claiming ground for God. But this is what God said to Joshua concerning the Promised Land, not what he is saying to us concerning our towns.
  3. Mysticism
    Providing accidental rather than theological parallels.
    E.g. Using the phrase ‘from the desert to Lebanon’ (v4) to teach that in all situations God will be with us, both in spiritually dry and lush times. The phrase is part of a description of a geographical area, not part of a metaphor for our spiritual condition.
  4. Substitution
    Assuming words spoken to others are spoken to us.
    E.g. Applying God’s words to Joshua, ‘no-one will be able to stand up against you’ (v5) to us. A better equivalent for us is as the people of Israel and Jesus as Joshua.
  5. Distortion
    Elevating insignificant details to displace primary issues.
    E.g. Going from ‘I swore’ (v6) to say that God may swear but we may not and then on to talk about young people today swearing far too much…
  6. Literalism
    Insensitivity to literary conventions and genres.
    E.g. God says about Scripture that we can ‘meditate on it day and night’ (v8). This shows we can meditate on the Word while we’re asleep… using dreams for Bible study? Actually it’s an idiom meaning ‘all the time’.
  7. Selectivism
    Over emphasis upon favourite themes.
    E.g. Using the words spoken to Joshua, ‘Be careful to obey all the law’ (v7), to teach that we need to keep all the Old Testament laws as Christians.
  8. Isolationism
    Persisting in apparent meanings qualified elsewhere.
    E.g. Using ‘you will be prosperous and successful’ (v8) to teach a prosperity gospel.
  9. Godlessness
    Emphasising human issues to the detriment of the revelation of God.
    E.g. At a school prize-giving speech, using God’s words to Joshua, ‘do not be terrified’ (v9) to teach that we should be brave like our hero Joshua when facing challenges, instead of emphasising the sovereignty and power of God.
  10. Jumping
    Bouncing from one text to preferred passages.
    E.g. Jumping from ‘I will never leave you not forsake you’ (v5) to Mark 15:34 or Matt. 28:20 instead of teaching Joshua 1:5.


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