When I hear people claiming that their theological position is correct, one of the most frequent statements is something like “The Bible is clear…” The point is that since the Bible is clear, people should not be disagreeing with this theological position.
But how clear is the Bible?
I recently did a Twitter poll and the results were surprising.
Over half of the respondents totally disagreed that the Bible is clear about every topic that it deals with. Do those results shock you?
This seems to contradict a popular doctrine called the perspicuity of Scripture. What does that mean? Here is a summary by Don Stewart from the Blue Letter Bible.
The clarity of Scripture is also known as “perspicuity.” Basically, this means that the message of the Scriptures can be understood by the great masses of people who wish to understand it. God’s Word has been revealed in such a way that everyone who wants to know what it means can make sense of what it says. In addition, they are able to live in accordance with these truths.
This brings us back to the question of whether the Bible is clear or not. I would say that it depends on what topic you are discussing.
For example, is the Bible clear on:
The nature of baptism (sprinkling, immersion, pouring, infant, believer’s, etc).
How Jesus’s crucifixion saves us.
The role of spiritual gifts in the post-apocalyptic age.
The role of women in leadership and teaching.
The events surrounding the second coming.
Now people who hold strong views about those issues would say that the Bible is clear. Then why do people have such different interpretations about the same topics?
I hesitant to write about this because people sometimes think that I am claiming that the Bible is hopelessly confusing and it all comes down to personal interpretation, with no confidence in interpreting it correctly.
That is not what I am suggesting at all. I read, study, and teach the Bible regularly because I believe that God communicates to us through the Bible.
I would say that the Bible does clearly teach certain things:
God exists and wants a relationship with us.
Humanity tends to stray away from God.
God sent his Son Jesus to save us.
Jesus died and rose again.
Jesus will return and this will coincide with the general resurrection.
Jesus’ followers will be recognized by their love for one another.
I believe that the Bible is pretty clear about that. I have other convictions and interpretations. I am a Baptist and I hold to believer’s baptism even though I understand where others get infant baptism. I believe in an earth that is millions of years old even though I understand where creationists get a young earth.
If the Bible was completely clear on every topic it touches on, we would not have all of the different interpretations that we have within the Church. These differences are not because the other group are sinners who reject the truth. Godly people look at the same passages and come to different interpretations.
The next time you want to say “The Bible is clear…”, please ask yourself if what you really mean is “I am very convinced of my interpretation of this passage.”
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