If the Bible Is Clear, Why Are There So Many Opinions?

bible

Leaders of the Protestant Reformation, particularly Luther but also Calvin, affirmed the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture. Basically, the doctrine (as it has developed) teaches that all Christians can and should read the Bible with spiritual profit, no magisterium necessary.

And yet one of the biggest arguments against this view is the sheer size of the Logos Bible Software products list: if the Bible is so clear, why do we have so many commentaries and journals and books and dictionaries, all of which by no means agree and some of which exist for the major purpose of disagreeing with all who have gone before?

In a series of three articles, I want to clarify the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, show the value of Bible difficulties, and suggest a way forward in a world full of conflict over the Bible.

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Why Difficulties in the Bible Are a Good Thing

bible difficulties

Jen Hatmaker recently launched a kerfuffle in the evangelical blogosphere (meteorologists have started to assign these kerfuffles their own names, like hurricanes) by reconsidering her stance on a hotly contested biblical doctrine. I won’t get into that particular issue here (though I do not think it is trivial). It’s part of her reasoning for changing her position that interests me in this post:

Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions…. Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.

Empirically, she’s got a point. Lots of them, actually. Logos sells the Counterpoints series, after all. Christians of all sorts disagree about all sorts of Bible statements. Combine this fact with our culture’s viewpoint that what one sees has everything to do with where one is standing—and what do you get?

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Why Do So Many Christians Disagree over the Bible?

bible difficulties
Does widespread human disagreement over Bible interpretation reveal some flaw or weakness in God or his word—or some flaw or weakness in us? Or neither, or both?

This is the third of three articles on the clarity of Scripture. I’ve clarified the doctrine to show what it’s actually claiming, I’ve shown some of the benefits of interpretive difficulties in the Bible, and now I want to go a bit beyond what Protestants have historically agreed on and give a pastoral response to the sometimes very emotional question: why do so many Christians disagree over the Bible?

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