Monday, December 29, 2008

The Utter Inclarity of Scripture

Tonight at our house a bunch of my parents friends from my old Baptist church came over for a dinner party. I was listening to my mother trying to defend the doctrine of purgatory by calling it a harmless 'extra' to the real Christian faith and that even a man like C.S. Lewis could be misled into such popery. Then someone said to me "I was reading the story of Jesus with Nicodemus and being born again and honestly it's SO simple Andrew, it's not difficult to understand". I respect the person who said this very much and so I didn't want to argue theology, my dad also covered his face in anger as we were about to hear a lecture on Redemptive Baptism and I excused myself so that I wouldn't ruin the night.

All of this pointed out to me the utter inclarity of scripture. One Protestant doctrine is "The Perspicuity of Scripture" or the Clearness of Scripture. I decided to show how ridiculous that idea is by beginning with John - which I've been told my whole life is where we are supposed to start. A professor once said to me at Brock, 'I have no problem with the Bible but you can make it say anything you want, it isn't incorrect, it's just ambiguous'.

John 1:1-14 - The Word
This passage which describes Jesus as the Word is one of the most debated passages in all of scripture. Jehovah's witnesses think that it says "and the word was A god" not "and the word was god". Aside from translation, what does 'word' or logos mean. Logos is a platonic term that carries with it lots of baggage. Does it mean 'the word of God' as in his voice in Genesis 1 or his word - like the eternal law. OR does it mean the logos -the logic of the world personified. Is it the goddess Sophia - Who knows!

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" v 14 - Enter Gnosticism, Docetism, Arianism, and John Shelby Spong/modern liberalism. Very few people believe Jesus 'actually' was God incarnate, or the rational principle of the universe incarnate etc and see it as an impossibility etc.

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." 1:18 - every world religion is wrong because only Christ has shown us God?

1:32 "John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him" - is this the moment Jesus became the son of God as Adoptionism teaches and many believe?

"I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." 1:34 - Does Son of God mean God incarnate or does it mean political leader as Dominic Crossan and others have proposed. How could God have a Son?

John 1:49 "Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." How is Jesus the King of Israel? he has no political power. Does this show that Nate thought Jesus would become a political ruler or does it mean Israel as in 'God's people'?

1:51 "He (Jesus) then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." - When did Philip see heaven open up? The ascension? maybe it's not mentioned, is this a lie? who knows? What is Jesus referring to?

John 2:4 "Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." - then Jesus performs a miracle... was he lying, how had his time not come but then he did it anyway. How does God change his mind? isn't he omniscient (all knowing) so why would he say his time hadn't come if it actually had and isn't that a lie, and how can God lie? (see Descartes). With Catholics, why is Jesus so dismissive of Mary, but then bends to her will? is this proof of Mary's greatness or inferiority?

"In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." - How isn't beating people with a whip a sin? Ya I've heard 'righteous anger'...don't think it works.

3:5 "no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" - Here's the clear verse that was clearly about baptism for over 1000 years. Now being born again apparently means going to a Billy Graham crusade. I've argued about this before but I'm tired, and I'm clearly right, it's about Baptism, give it up. And what kind of a controversial passage is this? You have to be baptized for salvation? Crazy as the thief on the cross wasn't baptized. Catholics fix this with 'baptism by desire' as the Calvinists and Pentecostals fix it with 'baptism of the Spirit'.

3:13 "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man" Does this mean that no Jews went to heaven? what about David, what about Abraham who is apparently feasting with God (see parable of the rich man and lazarus). What about Enoch, Elijah, etc? and those who ascended to heaven.

3:15 "everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" - What about James 2 which says that even the Demons believe and tremble. do they have eternal life?

this one is interesting:
3:18 "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" - So God didn't send Jesus/Himself? to condemn the world but because he came into the world everyone who doesn't believe in him (the overwhelming majority of the world) stands condemned. Quite contradictory.

I obviously believe it does have a true meaning as infallibly interpretted by the Catholic Councils and the Magisterium, but I just find the idea that any individual can fully understand the bible or that it is 'clear' in meaning, ridiculous.


  1. I understand the frustration you feel in reading the Scriptures. Though there are passages that are difficult, many of our questions can be answered by a thorough knowledge of grammar, the rule of faith and the rest of Scripture. John 1 for instance is not able to be interpreted any number of ways without violence to basic grammar, the rule of faith and the whole council of Scripture. Some of the study notes here can help with the language:

    To deny the clarity of Scripture, however, is Gnostic. There is not a secret way to understand Scripture or a super-apostle status for the Pope that allows him not to be vexed with the same problems we are in reading and understanding Scripture. Though Scripture can be used in an evil way, that does not mean that Scripture is a mystery book for which we require a Gnostic leader to interpret them. We do need teachers, but they understand Scripture by training and the common Spirit of all believers.

  2. Ya I kind of threw in that bit at the end to feel Catholic, because in all honesty I feel like the scriptures are just an enigma, I have no idea what some of them mean or meant to the people then, I know a ton of them have been misread by millions because of a lack of knowledge about the 1st century, 2nd temple judaism, or other exegetical and historical keys. I've said before in cynicism that I like Church History and the Church Councils more than Scripture because at least I can understand them or what they mean, they're much more clear. Scripture seems to be a mess.