Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Utter Nonsense of the Clarity of Scripture?

One of my fans writes:
I can’t believe how many times I have been subjected over the years to the utter nonsense about the “clarity” of Scripture. People who believe that Scripture is “clear” such that all Christians can correctly determine Christ’s Doctrines can’t agree about very much with people who also make that claim.
Matthew 22
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” 29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

The Lord Jesus clearly held these men responsible for knowing and understanding the Scriptures. Were the Sadducees supposed to respond, "How could we? We did not think the Bible was clear and we all disagree about what it says!"

Who should one trust? Those who attack the Bible in the name of Rome or Jesus? This person says the Bible isn't clear and to think it is is "utter nonsense." Jesus says "have you not read what God said to you" and holds those hearing him responsible for what they read. Think about it.

15 comments:

EA said...

"I can’t believe how many times I have been subjected over the years to the utter nonsense about the “clarity” of Scripture. People who believe that Scripture is “clear” such that all Christians can correctly determine Christ’s Doctrines can’t agree about very much with people who also make that claim."
The "solution" to this "problem" in Catholicism is the "infallible teaching Magisterium".



Norman Geisler articulates several issues with this very well:

"How is an infallible interpretation any better than the infallible revelation? Divine revelation is a disclosure or unveiling by God. But to claim, as Catholics do, that God's infallible unveiling in the Bible needs further infallible unveiling by God is to say that it was not unveiled properly to begin with."

When Catholics like TimMD see different interpretations of Scripture within Protestantism they see confusion. When they look at different interpretations of Scripture within Catholicism, they see liberty.

Ryan said...

The Lord Jesus clearly held these men responsible for knowing and understanding the Scriptures. Were the Sadducees supposed to respond, "How could we? We did not think the Bible was clear and we all disagree about what it says!"

An interesting point. Might the RC go the way of the Calvinist and argue that "ought" doesn't necessarily imply "can"?

louis said...

It's clear on essential doctrines. And it's clear in the sense that if one searches and studies it diligently, using all ordinary means to that end, then one can sufficiently understand those doctrines.

Jim Paton said...

Curious - can anyone show me where Sola Scriptura is clearly taught within Scripture?

Or is Sola Scriptura not a major doctrine?

(Genuine curiosity)

Turretinfan said...

Sola Scriptura as the formal and material sufficiency of Scripture is clearly taught in, for example, each one of the following:

Psalm 119:105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Other aspects of the bundle of doctrines referred to collectively as Sola Scriptura may be less clear, but are also not as significant.

-TurretinFan

EA said...

In addition to those given by Turretinfan, other verses include:

Scripture is the necessary and sufficient source of saving knowledge (2 Tim 3:15-17).

Paul warns the Church not to go beyond what is written: (1 Cor 4:6)

Numerous verses refer to writing down the Word of God in response to a command or as a way to keep it in perpetuity:
Ex. 17:14; Ex. 24:3-4; Deut. 33:9,22,24-28; Josh. 24:26; 1 Sam 20:25; Rev. 1:11,19; 21:5

Lastly, loyalty to God’s Word and revealed will, rather than tradition, is the test of faithfulness in Scripture.

steelikat said...

"...'ought' doesn't necessarily imply 'can.'..."

"Ought" doesn't necessarily imply "can." Anyone, Calvinist or not, ought to be able to understand that. Only Calvinists can, however.

Seriously, though: Does anybody who has taken the time to think about it carefully really think that "ought" always implies "can?" I ought to pass the exam, but I cannot pass the exam (because I didn't study).

steelikat said...

Better:

I ought to feed my family, but I cannot feed my family (because I'm a lazy feckless jerk who, as a result of his laziness, doesn't have a job).

James Swan said...

An interesting point. Might the RC go the way of the Calvinist and argue that "ought" doesn't necessarily imply "can"?

LOL.

I've never read an RC explanation of Matthew 22:31, at least none that I can recall.

I would be very interested in any sort of response from their side of the Tiber on this verse.

David Waltz said...

Hello EA,

In your first post you wrote:

== When Catholics like TimMD see different interpretations of Scripture within Protestantism they see confusion. When they look at different interpretations of Scripture within Catholicism, they see liberty.==

I think this is because the "different interpretations of Scripture within Catholicism", do not cause ecclesiastical division/schism, whilst in hundreds of cases, the "different interpretations of Scripture within Protestantism" do just that.

From your second post:

== Lastly, loyalty to God’s Word and revealed will, rather than tradition, is the test of faithfulness in Scripture.==

The Baptist pastor, Kent Brandenburg, has recently turned the 'spotlight' on the above principle in his conference lecture on John 17 (see this thread).

After listening to his lecture twice now, I am left asking a very important question: who is truly being 'loyal' to God's Word?


Grace and peace,

David

EA said...

David Waltz said: "I think this is because the "different interpretations of Scripture within Catholicism", do not cause ecclesiastical division/schism, whilst in hundreds of cases, the "different interpretations of Scripture within Protestantism" do just that."

Leaving aside the degree of division within Catholicism for the moment, I would ask the following question: If Protestants have different practices or even denominations as a result of having different interpretations regarding Scripture, so what?

During Jesus' day there were a number of Jewish sects (Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, Zealots, Herodians, God-fearing Gentiles, etc.) each with their own practices, yet He didn't find those "divisions" condemnable.

David Waltz said...

Hi EA,

Thanks for responding; you wrote:

==Leaving aside the degree of division within Catholicism for the moment, I would ask the following question: If Protestants have different practices or even denominations as a result of having different interpretations regarding Scripture, so what?

During Jesus' day there were a number of Jewish sects (Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, Zealots, Herodians, God-fearing Gentiles, etc.) each with their own practices, yet He didn't find those "divisions" condemnable.==

Good point. I don't know that our Lord had any direct interaction with an Essene during His ministry (I at least find nothing in the NT that suggests this, being unconvinced with the attempts by some to paint John the Baptist as an Essene), but with that said, I think it is important to point out that two very important elements bound all of the groups together: first, the acceptance of the Pentateuch (and the Mosaic legislation therein) as authoritatively binding; and second, temple worship. We know from the OT that attempts by dissidents/separatists to establish temple worship apart from the one in Jerusalem were condemned. (I personally believe that the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD was a sign from God that Mosaic dispensation had ended, and was superseded by the New Covenant/Christian dispensation.)

Certainly our Lord knew the Mosaic dispensation was at its end, that is was merely, "a shadow of good things to come", even prophesying that the temple was to be destroyed. I cannot help but think that our Lord had much more important things on His mind than correcting the "divisions" that existed in a paradigm which was soon to become "obsolete", and replaced by a dispensation of so much greater glory.

But more importantly, that new/greater dispensation has given its adherents explicit warnings against "divisions" (i.e. schisms). You may easily brush aside such warnings, 'winking', so to speak, at the scandalous divisions that do in fact exist, but I personally am not comfortable at all with such a view.

A question before ending: do you think that Jesus viewed the Sadducees restriction of the canon to just the Pentateuch as an non-essential 'practice' that did not NEED correction?


Grace and peace,

David

EA said...

"I think it is important to point out that two very important elements bound all of the groups together: first, the acceptance of the Pentateuch (and the Mosaic legislation therein) as authoritatively binding; and second, temple worship."

Hi David,

Regarding Temple worship, where did Jesus most frequently observe the Sabbath? At the temple in Jerusalem or in a local synagogue? We have two recorded instances of Jesus at the Temple prior to the beginning of his public ministry. As a practical matter, Jews in the first century probably visited the Temple in Jerusalem as a special pilgrimage. The vast majority of Jews worshiped in the local synagogue.

"You may easily brush aside such warnings, 'winking', so to speak, at the scandalous divisions that do in fact exist, but I personally am not comfortable at all with such a view."

Do you have Scriptural warnings in mind or something else?

At least as far as the Reformation goes, I regard the divisions as being necessary rather than scandalous. Perhaps Catholics regard unity with Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X, etc...preferable to division, I don't. How did Catholics maintain unity during the Avignon Papacy?

In general though I think that the characterization of denominations being scandalous trades on a presumption of what God prefers. If God is so opposed to divisions why did He see fit to have twelve tribes of Israel rather than one?

"do you think that Jesus viewed the Sadducees restriction of the canon to just the Pentateuch as an non-essential 'practice' that did not NEED correction?"

Since I don't see Jesus anywhere in Scripture correcting it though He presumably knew about it, I conclude that He did not find the practice in need of correction.

Jessie Lange said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessie Lange said...

Psalm 100:97-105 and Luke 1:1-4 also provide great cases for the perspicuity of Scripture!