Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Perspicuity

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Introduction 
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The Canonization of Scripture
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The New Hermeneutics
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Faith and Practice
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Walter Bauer Thesis
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Progressive Revelation
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Redaction Criticism
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Final Word on Redaction Criticism
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Perspicuity


The chapter I most looked forward to reading in DA Carson's book Collected Writings on Scripture was his final chapter on the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture. It is unfortunate, I believe, that orthodox evangelicals have failed to emphasize this bibliological doctrine. We do so to our peril especially in our postmodern society.

Carson begins his chapter stating the following:
The question raised by the title assigned to this essay is of enormous importance, for both a general and a particular reason. the general reason is perennially pressing: one can talk endlessly about the centrality of Scriptures, the authority of Scripture, the truthfulness of Scripture, and so forth, but none of this has more than theoretical interest unless some form of responsible doctrine of claritas scripturae . . . can be sustained. (179)
I agree!

Before surveying Carson's brief survey of both the biblical and historical evidence, this point needs to be emphasized. As I have argued elsewhere on this site (see the links below) the real debate in the Reformation was not over sola fide or over sola scriptura, but over perspicuity.

The reason is simple: the Roman Catholic Church stands on a denial of perspicuity. If Scripture is not clear, then either a recognized authoritative figure or council of figure-heads need to interpret Scripture for the rest of us. This explains the apparatus of the Papacy, church councils, and emphasis on traditions. To the Romanists, common Christians cannot be trusted with Scripture because they would corrupt true doctrine.

Perspicuity undermines all of this while at the same time strengthens and explains Protestant theology. Instead of emphasizing tradition, Luther emphasized the priesthood of all believers. Zwingli preached expositionally because he was confident in Scripture's perspicuity. The Bible was translated into vernacular languages because Scripture is clear.

There is no Reformation without perspicuity.

Now it is under attack by the rise of postmodernity. Postmodernism flinches at clarity and truth statements. To the postmodernist orthodoxy is dangerous and arrogant. Therefore a clear (no pun intended) defense of perspicuity ought to be a priority among theologians.


For more on perspicuity:
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 1
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 2
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 3
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 4
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 5
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 6
"The Clarity of Scripture": A Sermon Preached by Kevin DeYoung
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