Monday, March 08, 2010

Scripture's Clarity Confirmed Against Smudges - 1/25

Dave Armstrong has posted a series of "25 Short Arguments on the Difficulties of Perspicuity (Clearness of Scripture for Salvation)" (link) from his book "501 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura: Is the Bible the Only Infallible Authority?" I can see that his list of arguments has received nearly a thousand views, so perhaps it makes sense to provide a response to each of these. The arguments themselves are not long - individually they are no more than smudges that aim to obscure Scripture's clarity. This is number 1/25 of my wiping away of the smudges.

Armstrong's Argument

1. The Bible is only clear to the extent that various Protestant factions agree on any one of its teachings.

Short Rebuttal

The argument confuses subjective clarity for objective clarity.

Longer Rebuttal

The idea that Scripture is only clear to the extent that people agree seems to assume that the different opinions of people come from ambiguity or lack of clarity in the text of Scripture. In fact, however, sometimes the different opinions come from other sources.

For example, tradition can be a powerful influence on one's views. If someone has grown up in a community in which the Scriptures are interpreted in a particular way, that can exert an influence on the person's perception of the text. For example, people will think that Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 because they have so often heard that, although the text doesn't actually say that.

In another example, one's sin can influence one's views. Those who insist on various forms of sexual immorality will find ways, in their own mind, to justify their behavior despite Scripture's clear prohibition of their deeds.

We could go on and on with examples, but perhaps we should simply state what Scripture says:

The light is light, even though the darkness doesn't understand it.

John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

The darkness doesn't embrace the light because of sin.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Wicked men wrest both the difficult sayings of Scripture, as well as the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

One way that men obscure Scripture is through Scripture-invalidating Tradition:

Matthew 15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

But in contrast, the Scriptures are clear to those who love God and seek His instruction:

Proverbs 8:9 They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.

The fathers of the church also recognized this. They explained:

Alexander of Alexandria:
Oh, the impious arrogance! Oh, the immeasurable madness! Oh, the vainglory befitting those that are crazed! Oh, the pride of Satan which has taken root in their unholy souls. The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame, nor did the consentient doctrine of our colleagues concerning Christ keep in check their audacity against Him. Their impiety not even the demons will bear, who are ever on the watch for a blasphemous word uttered against the Son.
- Alexander of Alexandria, Epistle to Alexander of Constantinople, Section 10

Cyril of Alexandria:
All things are plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge, as it is written, but darksome to the foolish is even that which is exceeding easy. For the truly wise hearer shuts up the more obvious teaching in the treasury of his understanding, not admitting any delay in respect of this: but as to the things the meaning whereof is hard, he goes about with his enquiries, and does not cease asking about them; and he seems to me profitably to press on to do much the same as they say that the fleetest dogs of the chase do, who having from nature great quickness of scent, keep running round the haunts of their game.
- Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Book 4, Chapter 2, at John 6:52-53

And we could provide many more. The bottom line, however, is that the argument fundamentally confuses the objective clarity of Scripture with the subjective obscurity, the latter being caused by a variety of factors, such as sin and human tradition.

- TurretinFan


steve said...

Of course, an obvious and elementary problem with Armstrong's position is that he can't simultaneously prove Catholicism from Scripture while disproving the perspicuity of Scripture.

Turretinfan said...

Yes, one of the ironies is that Armstrong titles his personal blog "Biblical Evidence for Catholicism."