Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perspicuity Doesn't Mean You're Qualified To Teach

One of the keystones of the Reformation is the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, which means the "understandableness" of Scripture, or clarity. This is not something that is imposed upon the text, rather something taught by it. For example, Deuteronomy 30:11-14 says, "For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it."

Again Scripture says of itself, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether." (Psalm 19:7-9)

And "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple." (Psalm 119:105,130)

Paul asserts that same regarding his letters: "For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge--just as you did partially acknowledge us, that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you." (2 Corinthians 1:13-14)

"All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained." (Philippians 3:15-16)

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Peter echoes these thoughts on the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture -

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." (2 Peter 1:3-4)

"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:16-21)

What I wish to hasten to add though, is this: Just because Scripture is clear, and intended by God to be clear, that does not necessarily qualify everyone to pontificate upon its meaning. Many people have taken the idea of perspicuity to make themselves the supreme authority on the meaning of Scripture, claiming revelation from the Holy Spirit to authenticate an interpretation not necessarily validated by the Church as a whole.

Timothy was exhorted, in the famous words of 2 Timothy 2:15, to "study." The Apostles left of serving tables so that they could devote themselves to the study of Scripture. Ergo, just because Scipture is clear, one still needs to study it and interpret it properly.

If you don't know what the word "theopneustic" means, then don't argue about the inspiration of Scripture. You don't know what you're talking about. If you aren't familiar with the terms, ousia and hypostasis, then don't get involved in debates about Trinitarian theology. You aren't qualified. Just because you've read the Bible, that doesn't qualify you to teach it.

I want my doctor to have the appropriate degrees, and good grades at that, from an accredited medical school before he treats my ailing body. It seems like unspeakable chutzpah on my part to try and treat ailing souls without having been trained in proper hermeneutics.

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