One of the basic tenants of scripture that I was taught was the Perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture. As Hodge stated, “Protestants hold that the Bible, being addressed to the people, is sufficiently perspicuous to be understood by them, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and that they are entitled and bound to search the Scripture, and to judge for themselves what is its true meaning”
(Systematic Theology Vol. 1
). When you are in the “Christian bubble” this sounds true and reasonable. Overall, the scriptures appear to make sense. They seem very clear to you (excepting some difficult passages). Others can’t see what you see because of sin or an unwillingness. I thought that the scriptures clearly taught Calvinism. Others didn’t see it because they didn’t like the implications. We had the truth. They ignored it. The truth is, the scriptures appear clear because in your “group” it is clear. Everyone confirms each other. The books you chose to read confirm it. Everything appears good, reasonable and clear. However, when you begin to think about it, a clue should have been that there are disagreements. There are different denominations that think differently.
In 2001 The World Christian Encyclopedia listed 33,000 Christian “denominations” with 39,000 listed as of mid-2007 and 55,000 projected for 2025 (see Facts and Stats on 33,000 Denominations
)! If this isn’t to your liking (some might not like the definition of a “denomination”), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary maintains a detailed listing of 9,000 of these denominations (World Christian Database
). Even the smaller number should give one pause when the Perspicuity of Scripture is brought into play. Every one of those 39,000 denominations defends their beliefs from the bible and many think the others are heretics, cults or worst. (They just don’t see what the scriptures clearly teach!) Even if we narrow the scope down to conservative evangelical Christians, they can’t agree on:
1. Baptism – infant, believers only, baptismal regeneration
2. Lords Supper – transubstantiation, consubstantiation, Zwinglian (symbolic), Calvinist (symbolic + spiritual)
3. Salvation – faith alone with no proof in your life (say a prayer), faith + Lordship, faith + works, faith + baptism, faith+baptism+works, faith + gifts of the spirit as evidence, etc.
4. Worship – what goes into a worship service and how we are to worship
5. Prayer – what exactly does it do and whose benefit is it for
6. The Cross – did Christ actually purchase redemption or did he just make it possible
7. Spiritual gifts – Pentecostal gifts or not
8. Not to mention Calvinism vs. Arminism vs. Pelagism
I could go on, but even in this brief list there are huge issues. I know Christians like to make light of these differences saying they are basically “internal” issues and they agree on the majors, but his just isn’t so. Take worship for example. If the Calvinistic position is correct and God has a set way to worship and He takes that seriously, then those who disregard those instructions are calling down wrath upon their heads every time they gather for worship. And if it really doesn’t matter, then the Calvinists are “adding to scripture” and placing a burden on people when no such burden should be imposed. In regard to baptism, if Christians are to baptize infants, those who don’t are breaching the word of God. And if it is incorrect, baptizing infants would be a sin against God. Not to mention that Calvinsim, Arminism and Pelagism are essentially different Gospels. Who is correct? Which one of the 39,000+ Christian variants is the truth?
Is the Holy Spirit then incompetent? Couldn’t a sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent God present his words and commands CLEARLY in the Bible? If you want to play the sin card, go right ahead. It basically means then that no one has the ability to correctly interpret the scripture. How can a Christian possibly know which of the 39,000 variants (if any) has the true Truth? The scripture is about as clear as mud and perspicuity is just a myth to any impartial outside observer.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist, but if the Christian god does exist, He is incompetent at best or truth doesn’t really matter to Him.