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The Perspicuity of Scripture


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Protestant Christianity has always affirmed the perspicuity of Scripture. That means we believe God has spoken distinctly in His word. Not everything in the Bible is equally clear, of course (2 peter 3:16). But God’s Word is plain enough for the average reader to know and understand everything necessary for a saving knowledge of Christ. Scripture is also sufficiently clear to enable us to obey the Great Commission, which expressly requires us to teach others “all things” that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

Two thousand years of accumulated Christian scholarship has been basically consistent on all the major issues: the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, containing every spiritual truth essential to God’s glory, our salvation, faith, and eternal life. Scripture tells us that all humanity fell in Adam and our sin is a perfect bondage from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Jesus is God incarnate, having taken on human flesh to pay the price of sin and redeem believing men and women from sin’s bondage. Salvation is by grace through faith, and not a result of any works we do. Christ is the only Savior for the whole world, and apart from faith in Him, there is no hope of redemption for any sinner. So the gospel message needs to be carried to the uttermost parts of the earth. True Christianity have always been in full agreement on all those vital points of biblical truth.

As a matter of fact, the postmodernized notion that everything should be perpetually up for discussion and nothing is ever really sure or settled is a plain and simple denial of both the perspicuity of Scripture and the unanimous testimony of the people of God throughout redemptive history. In one sense, the contemporary denial for the Bible’s clarity represents a regression to medieval thinking, when the papal hierarchy insisted that the Bible is too unclear for laypeople to interpret it for themselves. (This belief led to much fierce persecution against those who worked to translate the Bible into common languages.)

In another sense, however, the postmodern denial of Scripture’s clarity is even worse that the darkness of medieval religious superstition, because postmodernism in effect says no one can reliably understand what the Bible means, Postmodernism leaves people permanently in the dark about practically everything.

That, too, is a denial of Christ’s lordship over the church. How could He exercise His headship over His church if His own people could never truly know what he meant by what He said? Jesus Himself settled the question of whether his truth is sufficiently clear in John 10:27–28, when He said “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

—John MacArthur, The Truth War (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 157–158.



Posted 2008·01·15 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Emergent/Postmodernism · John MacArthur · Perspicuity · The Truth War · Truth

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