“I wanna play tagerit!” Those were the words of my dear sweet nephew and I had no idea what they meant. I am not very good at translating the language of other kids. Now I usually know what my kids mean even when their pronunciation is weird, but I could not figure out what “tagerit” was. So I listened carefully for clarification. “You know, we chase each other.” Now it was clear, “Tag You’re It”. Clarification makes all the difference, doesn’t it. It’s important that we feel like we can understand someone else, it’s how our relationship grows. So it is with Scripture. If I know I can understand and comprehend Scripture than my relationship to it can grow and flourish. If God has spoken to me I want to be able to grasp the content of His speaking. The doctrine of clarity is key for our theology of Scripture. After all, if we can’t understand the Word of God it doesn’t make much difference if it is authoritative or inerrant. So we need to spend some time digging into this doctrine.
It’s not uncommon for people today to speak of Scripture in terms of this ambiguous text which requires arbitrary meaning supplied by the reader’s own interpretation. Fixed meaning, and the ability to comprehend that meaning are seen as impossible attainments. But the Scriptures themselves testify to God’s desire for people to understand His Word. Wayne Grudem points us to Deuteronomy 6:6-7. Here it is assumed that Israel is able to understand the commands of God, for they are to “teach them diligently” and “talk of them” constantly. Psalm 19:7 says, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm 119:130 states, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”Furthermore, as Grudem points out, the books of the New Testament are written to churches, that is real people, average Christians, in real life. They are not academic dissertations, theological treatises, or philosophical textbooks. These are letters written to Christians just like us.
Now this is not to say that everything in the Bible is easy to understand, and we will talk about how the difficulties in Scripture relate to this doctrine of clarity, but it is to say that it is possible to understand Scripture. Not that we ever 100% perfectly interpret things, we will talk about hermeneutical humility and the nature of knowledge (though we have mentioned this before), but we can distinguish generally between sound and false interpretations. Even as Peter admits that there are some things in Paul that are hard to understand, we note that Peter does not say impossible to understand. And those who “twist” the text, do so “to their own destruction.” Even though Peter sees a level of difficulty in understanding all of Paul, he admits that there is possibility to distinguish between good and destructive interpretation.
Clarity is a majorly important doctrine for any discussion of Revelation, especially in our day of postmodernism. A simple glance at postmodernity’s influence of understanding Scripture will help us to build a solid theology of the Clarity of Scripture.