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Monday, January 16, 2006

Perspicuity 101 

WordNet at Princeton has the following entry for perspicuous: "limpid, lucid, luculent, pellucid, crystal clear, perspicuous ((of language) transparently clear; easily understandable)." has the following: "Clearly expressed, easy to understand. Used in logic to describe a language or notation, such as that of formal propositional calculus, where the process of inference from premises to conclusion is explicitly laid out."

God in His wisdom anticipated that we would fumble on this idea about whether or not His Word would be misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied, and addressed this very issue through the lips (and pen) of His servant Moses to His children -

Deuteronomy 30:11-14
"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."

God's Word was never intended to be esoteric, dark, enigmatic, cryptic, abstruse, obscure, ambiguous, occluded, enshrouded, inscrutable, or vague. Rather, it is a perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true light, illuminating the character and plan of God -

Psalm 19:7-9
"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 119:105,130
"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."

Paul asserts to the church in Corinth that his letters have been straight-forward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing we can't understand -

2 Corinthians 1:13-14
"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."

Paul also exhorts and encourages the church in Philippi regarding the clarity of God's message -

Philippians 3:15-16
"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."

Paul also tells Timothy (who had understood Scripture from childhood) that the Word of God is profitable. How is it to be profitable if it is not understood? Furthermore, its purpose is that the man of God may be competent. He does not say that only the competent man of God will be equipped. No, he indicates that the Word itself has the power for teaching, reproving, correcting and training -

2 Timothy 3:14-17
"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."

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God's Word is not some lifeless document that needs some kind of special insight to comprehend it, but that it is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

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

2 Peter 1:3-4
"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 1:16-21
"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."
Singer/songwriter, teacher/preacher, religious satirist, biblical reformer and evangelical provocateur Steve Camp has written an excellent article (jumping into the fray on cessationism and continuationism) which concludes with some notes on this "something more sure". But I'm going to let my friend Martin Luther have the final word on today's topic:
"But, if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise
from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from [our] own blindness or want of
understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of the
truth... Let, therefore, wretched men cease to impute, with blasphemous
perverseness, the darkness and obscurity of their own heart to the all-clear
scriptures of God... If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one
iota in the Scriptures, but he that hath the Spirit of God... If you speak of
the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all
things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the
clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world."

- Bondage of the Will

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