What is cherry picking?

We say that someone is cherry-picking when they pick and choose scripture verses to support their position while ignoring others that would not. But how is that different if the Church picks the books that will form the canon because they support the Church’s teaching but reject others that don’t? This is an argument someone recently thrown at me.

The Church has the authority to do so, the individual does not. Said authority comes from God. A non-religious analogy would be claiming that scientists and researchers that study space are cherry picking what is actual science from garbage (see Ancient Aliens) in order to support their views.

Good analogy, thanks.

The clear evidence supports the fact that the writings of the early Church were products of the disciples (those who had minimally some direct experience) of Jesus or of the “elders” (those in the second generation of the Church who were close to the disciples and intimately familiar with their eyewitness testimony.)

What this means is that the body of tradition encompassed by the oral teaching and early writings (letters of Paul, Peter, James and the Gospels) all conformed to the teachings of Jesus. It was the determined and conscious effort by the leaders of the Church to retain the integrity of the Gospel message that lead to the selection criteria as more and more written accounts appeared.

The oral testimony had been firmly and clearly established by the first generation of disciples and their followers. This means the “message” was established and consciously preserved as an orally intact and understood testimony within the lifetime of the Apostles. The writings came from the oral tradition, which remained strong, and served as a means of “checking” the authenticity and accuracy of the written form for at least two generations (well within the time frame that all the canonical writings originated.)

Consistency with the Gospel message was not the principle characteristic for whether a work was considered part of the canon. It would be difficult to make a case that the Didache, for example, has issues regarding orthodoxy, but it was not included, though known.

The key characteristic, besides integrity to the teachings of the Apostles, was that the work had to have its direct origin in the person of, or community surrounding, one of the Apostles or, minimally, a person who knew them and their message intimately. The work itself would require the clear and authentic endorsement of the ‘witness,’ the community of that witness and the Church at large.

Richard Bauckham’s book called Jesus and the Eyewitnesses looks deeply into the concern of the early Church to reliably pass on the message of Jesus as it had been received and the methods by which reliability was achieved by ancient cultures, generally.

The idea that the Gospels resemble development of myth doesn’t have a leg to stand on when the actual historical incubation of the New Testament writings is seriously studied.

Another way of addressing this is that if Jesus had a distinctive message to pass on, the Apostles would have heard and known THAT message and would have been in a preeminent position to judge whether ideas were consistent with that message and they would have had powerful incentives (this was the teaching of God himself, after all) to keep it as pure as possible. This wouldn’t have been ‘cherry picking’ but rather more like determining whether ideas were ‘true to’ the original message or not.

The difference is context.

This is the idea I was trying to get across, but someone who is not inclined to believe in the truth of the gospels sees this as just picking and choosing stuff that furthers the cause.

On a side note, in reading some of the epistles I found it interesting that already the church was being cautioned that there were people among the faithful preaching false gospels.

Thanks Peter, that was very helpful.

Cherry picking is taking one line out of a paragraph or chapter and using it out of context of what the writer meant to say and missing the whole point of what was written. Happens all the time with the bible - people only see what they want to see and ignore the rest.

“Cherry Picking” is an accusation that your debate opponent will throw at you when you are able to produce facts and data to support your argument…and he doesn’t like it.

Along this line, teaching and informing is what your side does–brainwashing and propaganda is what your opponent’s side does:D

No, but seriously–and I don’t mean to derail this thread–but I’ve seen so many nasty new verbal tricks to shut down serious debate and discussion of issues. People get mad if you want to define your terms, or they assume that anybody who doesn’t agree with them are stupid and crazy.

sigh I weep for our culture.

On the other side when someone selects only those Scripture vrrses which supports his opinion, while at the same time ignoring the context the verse came from or other passages which contradicts his opinion, that’s cherry picking.

Or another example is when a protestant cites only those parts of the Catechism, while ignoring the rest of the Catechism and denying the authority by which it was written.

You have to remember that it’s an informal fallacy, so be careful how you apply it and make sure that you’re applying it properly.

All arguments start upon common ground. If you are arguing the truth of Catholicism you must start with something you both can agree upon. If you are discussing it with an atheist, you don’ quote the bible as a source of evidence. You would start with basic reason and logic.The bible isn’t proof of the truth of Catholicism. It is an expression of the faith of Catholicism. So agreement with the faith of the Church was a requirement for canonization. That might be a problem if the bible was meant to be proof, but it isn’t.

It doesn’t look like an argument. It looks like a disguised unconditional surrender. Did your opponent really admit that his position is inconsistent…? :slight_smile:

Presumably, someone who “cherry-picks” Bible verses believes that the whole Bible (including the verses that he ignores) is inerrant. But it is inconsistent to believe that some statements are true and to argue as if they were false.

On the other hand, the Church does not hold a belief that all writings are books of the Bible, thus there is no inconsistency there in rejecting some writings.

I’m not debating the bible using the bible. I posted Jon Sorenson’s article about the Jesus-as-Horus myth on Facebook for my son, an atheist, with whom I’ve been discussing stuff like this. He thought it amusing that the article states “advocates of the view must cherry-pick bits of myth from different epochs of Egyptian history” and compared it to the way (as he described it) the Church “cherry-picked” which books would make it into the canon. I knew there was a huge difference in the 2 but couldn’t verbalize it.

Thanks for all your help.

If you’d like to familiarize yourself with a real world example of cherry-picking, study the 2nd Century heretic Marcion.

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