Citing a passage or passages of the Bible to support a particular theological assertion; or, negatively (as this word often—usually?—is used), citing a biblical text to to prove a theological assertion without regard for the context of the passage cited.
- From The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame:
A proof-text is simply a Scripture reference that is intended to show the basis for a particular theological assertion. The danger in proof-texting is well known: proof-texts are sometimes misused and their contextual meaning distorted in an attempt to use them to support teachings they do not really support. But it has never been shown that texts are always or necessarily misinterpreted when they are used as proofs for doctrines. And after all has been said, theology really cannot do without proof-texts. Any theology that seeks accord with Scripture (that is, any theology worthy of the name) has an obligation to show where it gets its scriptural warrant. It may not simply claim to be based on “general scriptural principles”; it must show where Scripture teaches the doctrine in question. In some cases, the theologian will display this warrant by presenting his own contextual exegesis of the relevant passages. But often an extended exegetical treatment is unnecessary and would be counterproductive. The relationship of doctrine to text might be an obvious one once the text is cited (e.g., Gen. 1:1 as proof of the creation of the earth), or it may simply require too much space to go over the exegetical issues in detail. In such cases the mere citation of a Scripture reference, with no extended exegetical discussion, may be helpful to the reader. To forbid proof-texts would be to forbid an obviously useful form of theological shorthand. I can see no argument against this procedure, except one that comes from an extremely rigid and fanatical anti-abstractionism. Furthermore, the Bible itself uses proof-texts as I have defined them, and that should settle the matter.
Obviously, we should not cite proof-texts unless we have a pretty good idea of what they mean in their context. We do not, however, have an obligation always to cite that context with the text, and far less do we have an obligation always to present an exegetical argument supporting our usage of the text. Scripture can, and often does, speak without the help of the exegete (page 197).