The Perspicuity of Scripture

One of the strangest doctrines that the Protestant communities believe is the belief in the Perspicuity of Scripture.  According to the Westminister Confession the doctrine can be stated as follows:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. [6.007]

This doctrine necessarily follows from the doctrine of sola scriptura.  If the bible is the final authority on matters of doctrine and practice then it better be clear enough for an ordinary person to be able to understand and learn the doctrines from the bible alone.

This is the doctrine on which I believe Protestantism stands or falls.  If the bible is not clear then there needs to be an interpreter that can guarantee the correct interpretation on those things that pertain to matters of doctrine and practice.  If the bible is not clear, then the doctrine of sola scriptura falls, if that falls then every other protestant doctrine falls.

So is the bible clear on matters of doctrine and practice?  Well the obvious answer is no.

If the bible was clear on matters of doctrine and practice then there would be a uniformity in Protestantism on matters of doctrine and practice.  This is obviously not the case.  We have large number of Protestant denominations preaching contrary teachings.  Just as one example, baptism.  We have some groups that  teach that baptism regenerates, some that teach that it does not, some teach that we should baptize infants, some teach that we should definitely not baptize infants, some teach that the matter in which baptism is performed is important, some teach that it doesn’t matter.  This one example is enough to prove that the bible is not clear on this issue of doctrine and practice.  At this point you can’t just say that all the other protestant groups except for your own got it wrong, to do so would be calling everyone that is not in your group as stupid and unable to determine the clear biblical teaching.

Other examples can be named, there are protestant groups that deny the doctrine of Trinity, the most basic of Christian doctrines! Some believe the once saved always saved doctrine, some teach that salvation is a process. Some insist on liturgical worship, some don’t even require you to belong to any faith community. The fact that Protestantism is so divided is a proof against perspicuity of scripture.

Another obvious example of lack of perspicuity of scripture is the church councils.  The councils are usually called when someone disagrees with the common teaching of the Church.  The councils are called precisely to clarify what the scriptures teach! All heresies start by people that see their heresy clearly thought in the bible. If you need to clarify what the scriptures teach than it was not clear in the first place. Also the councils, especially the early councils of the church always ended with a creed.  A creed is not a restatement of what the scriptures teaches.  A creed always goes beyond the scriptures.  It does so in order to clarify the scriptures. There are of course some protestant groups that reject the councils and the creeds they produced, and not surpassingly embrace the old errors of the heretics of the past.  Jehovah Witnesses being the modern day Arians.  Or the case of William Craig (who I love watching debating Atheists) who holds the old Monotheletism heresy.  This man made protestant doctrine throws open the door to all the old errors to once again confuse the faithful, and the protestant system has absolutely no way to deal with it.

The third way to see that the scriptures are not clear is because the scriptures tell us so.

15 And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

Peter clearly states not only that there are ignorant people that twist the scriptures to their own destruction, but also that Paul’s letters themselves are “hard to understand”.  If something is hard to understand (and anyone who read St. Paul must admit that he is sometimes very hard to understand) then it is not clear!  Reading other parts of the bible also doesn’t present a very clear picture as to what the bible author was trying to convey.  If anyone tells you that they read the book of Revelation and find it clear then I think they are lying.  I most certainly do not find it clear.

Is the bible clear on matters of doctrine and practice?  I say no, the history of protestantism says no, the councils say no, the bible itself says no.  If you think I’m wrong then pick up the bible and start reading.


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