If God Spoke Would We Understand? (Part 3)

Over at the Christward Collective, I wrap up my series on the perspicuity of Scripture in history and today.

In the first two posts in this series, we considered the way in which the Reformers viewed the Scriptures as to its authority and clarity. In this final installment, we turn our attention to the need for clarity in the propagation of Scripture for reformation today. For those committed to the Reformation project today, the doctrine of the clarity of the scriptures has certain implications that we should not ignore.

This job though, of making the text clear and easy to understand is not merely the work of missionaries and translators.  It is not merely the work of pastors either, though it is that to be sure.

It is the work of all Christians whether you are a parent struggling with how to form the thought processes and desires of your child in a biblical way, a member of a Bible study casually debating the meaning of that week’s biblical passage, or a student attempting to explain to a friend why you don’t partake in the same “social practices” as the others in your school. We are all to give an answer, a defense of what we believe for the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15), and that defense should be clear and intelligible in order to be a proper defense.

The teaching has implications for Christian ministry today:

The medieval church against which the Reformers were reacting, is not the only institution to ever use theological learning as a barrier to protect themselves from those they deem undesirable, unworthy, or threatening.  The complex matrix of interpretative tools used by the medieval church, was not the first nor was it the last, attempt to make knowledge a weapon against faith.

As a seminary professor, I have been tempted this way myself by the temptation to introduce into my teaching just enough obscurity to ensure job protection.  After all, if the students have to keep coming back to the experts for answers, then the experts can ensure their own continuing relevance.

I think Reformed Christians are particularly susceptible to this temptation.  Our system of belief is so well-defined, so rigorous, that we might be tempted to see its preservation as an end unto itself. Many of us have committed hours of study to the great minds of our tradition.  We have poured over the theological debates, the heresies, and the treatises, and so we should not be surprised by the temptation to hold up our unique positions as a shibboleth.  We’ve done the hard study, why not distinguish ourselves from the unwashed evangelical masses? Don’t we deserve it?

Read the rest here.