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Tuesday
Sep252007

Theological Term of the Week

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This is  a new feature I’m introducing. Once a week I hope to give a very brief explanation of a theological term, include a few quotes on it, and link to some resources that may explain the term and the issues around it more fully.

perspicuity of scripture

The teaching that the ordinary reader can understand from scripture what God requires as long as they are willing to seek God’s help to understand and obey it. It does not mean that the scripture contains no passages that may be difficult to understand or that all passages are equally clear. This is the older term for what is now most often called the clarity of scripture.1

  • From scripture:
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130)
  • From The Westminster Confession of Faith,  chapter 1, section 7:

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.

  • From Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will:
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 [i.e. lack] 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.

Learn more:

  1. Theopedia: The Clarity of Scripture  (This is the source of the Martin Luther quote above.)
  2. Blue Letter Bible: What Is The Clarity of Scripture? (Perpescuity)
  3. Wayne Grudem: The Perspicuity of Scripture
  4. Gerald BrayThe Clarity of Scripture
  5. Francis Turretin: The Perspicuity of Scripture
  6. Wayne Grudem: The Clarity of Scripture (mp3)
  7. Timothy George: The Perspicuity of Scripture (video)
Related terms:
1One thing is clear about perspicuity: It is commonly misspelled. In an older handbook to Christian doctrine that I have (and that I shall not identify by name) it is spelled perpiscuity. A Google search for that same misspelling yields many articles on the perpiscuity of scripture. In the article at Blue Letter Bible….well, see for yourself. And they are not alone, either. Yet another reason to embrace clarity, right?

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References (4)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (9)

Oh, another of your great series! Excellent!

I'm linking! (hey, want a sidebar button?)

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKim from Hiraeth

I love this idea! I actually knew what perspicuity meant (and how to spell it) thanks to my husband...however, I hadn't read the quote by Martin Luther. Now I am off to check out "Bondage of the Will" and read it in its entirety.

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKaren @ Simply A Musing Blog

(hey, want a sidebar button?)

You mean for this series? I'd love it!

September 25, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

OK, I'll make one and send it to you via email.

I've got a couple of things ahead of that, so it'll be a few days but I'll try to get something to you before your next weekly post.

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKim from Hiraeth

oooh...I'm excited.

September 25, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

You've taught me something new, Rebecca. Thanks for doing this series; I look forward to the next installment.

September 27, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrosemary

Very nice! I was just listening to a James White debate about Open Theism, and they kept using that word over and over. My Google search for the word (which I totally misspelled) led me here, and now I'm enlightened, errr illuminated :)

December 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Well, I'm glad you found this helpful. :)

December 26, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

Thanks for this link! I am a new reader and didn't think to look at your archives. I've been thinking a lot about this concept as I hear so many people doing "hermeneutical gymnastics" in order to explain the "true" meaning of a passage.

July 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

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