Two sibling doctrines: One gets all the attention. The other goes unmentioned. Actually, one is the darling of preachers. The other might well think we are out to get it.
Authority and clarity.
These two doctrines matter. Authority speaks of whose Word the Bible is. It speaks of how His Word got to us. It speaks of why we must hear it and apply it.
Clarity speaks of whose Word the Bible is. It speaks of how well His Word got to us. It speaks of how we can grasp it and apply it.
Some speakers overtly present the process by which the Bible got into our hands: how God was involved in revelation, inspiration, transmission, canonization and even in translation. Other speakers don’t get into specifics, but they keep on affirming that this is the Word of God.
Few speakers overtly present the clarity of Scripture: how God has communicated so well that His great book is able to be understood through diligent observation and interpretation, with prayerful reliance on His Spirit for illumination. Many speakers don’t get into clarity at all; if anything, they keep on giving the impression that God’s Word is out of reach to the average person.
That is the issue. While authority gets regular affirmation in the church, clarity is not only oft-ignored, but also oft-undermined. How so?
How easy it is to give the impression that people need the preacher in order to make sense of the Scriptures. How easy to undermine the listeners’ confidence that they have the necessary competence for reading and understanding the Bible.
I’m sorry to suggest this, but we need to ponder this issue: too many of us undermine the confidence of our listeners to take up and read.
Here’s the bottom line for today: the clarity of Scripture and our preaching. It is not about whether our sermons are clear or not (let’s hope they are). The issue is whether our listeners perceive themselves to be competent to pick up their Bibles and read.
That is a big part of our task. That is why I think clarity deserves a break.