Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

The perspicuity of scripture

The Bible is perspicuous - that is, it conveys specific information or instruction about the things that it speaks about.

The Bible claims to be perspicuous

It also asks us to respond to its perspicuity. See points 11 and 12 at Bible Authority

The denial of perspicuity

Now there are problems:-

  • A lot of supposed Christians do not take the trouble to read and study the Bible carefully, so they don't know what it teaches. They then conveniently assume that the Bible is not perspicuous.
  • Some Christians have vested interests - taking a stand on an issue may make them lose favor in the eyes of others. Not wanting to become unpopular, they deny the perspicuity of the Bible.

Here are some representative statements by deniers of perspicuity:-

"In essentials unity, in non-essentials (or doubtful things) liberty, in all things love". This is used as a retort when a sincere Christian points out something wrong in another Christian. This retort includes the claim that the issue pointed out by the former is "non-essential", and therefore should not be raised. There are several problems with this motto:-

  • What is essential or non-essential is not self-evident. So instead of reprimanding someone for taking a stand on what you think to be a non-essential issue, you need to prove that the issue is "non-essential". The very fact that he takes a stand on it shows that he consider it to be an essential one.
  • This statement gives the impression that the Bible contains some non-essential content. The Bible instead claims that all its content is essential and important. The Bible offers liberty only on those things which it does not give any commandment.

Further discussion

"I don't fully understand what the Bible says about homosexuality. What I do know is this: the Bible calls us to treat everyone with love". Well, you would understand the Bible's position on homosexuality if you were willing to (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27). Your second statement, while true, serves no useful purpose here. It distracts from your willful blindness and tacitly suggests that those who point out the sin of homosexuality don't love the sinner.

"I know that Jesus is coming back, but don't know how or according to what sequence of events. I'm neutral about pre-mil, post-mil, etc." The Bible is specific on these things.

"We're not dogmatic about a peripheral issue like baptism: if you want to be sprinkled or immersed as a baby or adult, we're okay with anything." See What the Bible teaches about baptism

"We follow our own principles of church government because we think the Bible provides none". It does.

"The Bible does not tell us how to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so we follow two medieval inventions: Good Friday and Easter". Yes it does. See The Lord's Supper .

"Genesis 1 is a piece of sublime Hebrew poetry. Don't look to it for factual information." No. Genesis 1 is actually written as a simple narration of events. It means what it says and says what it means


Going by the logic of those who deny the perspicuity of scripture, God has pathetic communication skills and He has given us a vague, irrelevant book. The reality is that God does have communication skills. His message to man, the Bible, while not written like a theology textbook, is nevertheless clear about all the subjects it addresses.

Belief in the perspicuity of scripture is the balance between two errors:-

  • Subtracting from God's word: No Christian would actually tear off pages from his Bible. However, claiming that the Bible is clear only about the gospel, some ethics and inspirational stuff amounts to subtracting from God's word.
  • Adding to God's word: The old lady who cannot miss her traditional "Easter Service" but forgets that the Bible has no such thing as an "Easter service" is not literally adding pages to her Bible, but is adding to God's word. The same applies to the supposed prophecy expert who predicts the date of the rapture or claims to know who the antichrist is.