When I was a missionary in Hungary, we used to visit a refugee camp populated with thousands of people from muslim-majority countries, with whom we didn’t have a common language. Everyone in the camp got by with a mix of English, Russian, and sometimes German words that formed a special form of refugee pidgin. But this was insufficient for deeper conversations, such as those about God, Jesus, and salvation.
So, with the help of the International Bible Society, we were able to get New Testaments in Urdu, Dari, Farsi, and other languages, and we handed these out along with humanitarian aid, telling those we met to read them, and then we would follow up. For many of them, this was their first time ever having access to the New Testament in their own language, and by God’s grace, we did see many of them become followers of Jesus.
But this approach to ministry was based on an underlying assumption: that anyone with average reading comprehension skills can sufficiently understand the meaning of the Bible when it comes to what it says about who Jesus is and how salvation is possible through Him.
This assumption is known as belief in the “perspicuity,” or clarity of Scripture.
Not everyone embraces the idea that Scripture is perspicuous, notably the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches – as well as fringe groups including the Mormons (AKA Latter Day Saints) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It was after a friend of mine converted to Roman Catholicism based on claims he had heard about Scripture not being perspicuous that I was intrigued by this topic and wanted to research it further. I ended up writing my Masters dissertation on the topic – specifically looking at the question of whether the concept of the perspicuity of Scripture was novel to the Reformation, or if it is also found in the writings of the early Church Fathers – which would mean that the insistence on the perspicuity of Scripture in the Reformation period was actually a return to the way the early Christians understood and viewed Scripture.
In this week’s episode of the Theology for People Podcast, Mike asks me questions about the perspicuity of Scripture; what it is and why it matters, and what is at stake when it comes to this issue.
You can listen to the episode in the embedded player below, or by clicking this link: The Perspicuity of Scripture: Is the Bible Clear? Can Everyone Understand It?