Saturday, March 13, 2010

Scripture's Clarity Confirmed Against Smudges - 2/25

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 2/25 of my wiping away of the smudges.

Armstrong's Argument

2. [Roman] Catholics have every confidence in Scripture. What we lack confidence in, is the ability of men to "rightly divide the word of truth."

Short Rebuttal

If they had every confidence in Scripture, they would have confidence in Scripture to communicate clearly. The point of Scripture is not to impress the possessor with the beauty of the script in which it is written, or the luxurious feel of the paper on which it is written, or even the sturdiness of its binding. The point of Scripture is to communicate to the reader.

Longer Rebuttal

This argument is a very pious-sounding argument. The argument purports to honor the Word of God while humbly disparaging man. This sort of false humility is not new. The prophet Isaiah described it long ago:

Isaiah 29:9-14
Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, "Read this, I pray thee:" and he saith, "I cannot; for it is sealed:" and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, "Read this, I pray thee:" and he saith, "I am not learned."

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
The purpose of Scripture is to communicate. It is consequently written in a way that, as to the necessary things, it is clear.

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Furthermore, we are given encouragement to read, study and meditate upon the Scriptures:

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Furthermore, God has given us his Holy Spirit, and one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into truth:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

The verse to which the argument alludes similarly undermines Roman skepticism:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

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

A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:27:1

For generally the servants also have their characters formed after their master's, and are fashioned after their humors, love the same objects, which they have been taught to love, speak the same language, and engage with them in the same pursuits. If thus we regulate ourselves, and attentively study the Scriptures, in most things we shall derive instruction from them. And thus shall be able to please God, and to pass through the whole of the present life virtuously, and to attain those blessings which are promised to those that love Him, of which God grant that we may all be counted worthy, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, together with the Holy Ghost, be unto the Father, glory, power, and honor, now, and ever, through all ages. Amen.
- Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians (concluding lines)

And we could provide many more. The bottom line, however, is that the argument is an example of false humility. While lip service is paid to Scripture, it is nevertheless treated as though it cannot communicate clearly on the things necessary to salvation.

- TurretinFan

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