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A clear and present word: The Clarity of Scripture (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – 16 Jun 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: IVP (16 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844741400
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844741403
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 21.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 809,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Certainly there are few topics more pertinent in the first decade of the twenty-first century. . . . The 'perspicuity of Scripture' (often designated claritas Scripturae) has fallen on hard times. Dr. Thompson's clearly written and robust articulation of the clarity of Scripture will help many people think about these matters knowledgeably, crisply, faithfully, pointedly. The purpose . . . is to handle Scripture itself with greater wisdom and confidence."--D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

. . . a solid and clearly written introduction to the biblical and theological issues that frame the conversation.--John R. Franke for Religious Studies Review, April 2007

. . . Timely and relevant in a climate where attacks on the character of Scripture as God's word are radical and far-reaching.--Gordon Cheng for The Briefing, December 2007" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

In this excellent restatement of the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, Mark Thompson surveys past and present objections, engages with contemporary hermeneutical challenges, and expounds the living God as the Guarantor of his accessible, written Word.

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Format: Paperback
Mark Thompson has contributed the latest volume to this excellent series on the clarity (or `perspicuity') of scripture, and he analyses the issue with thoughtfulness, clear headedness and insight.

Thompson's thoughtfulness is shown in the historical perspective he gives, from the early church, mediaeval writers and the Reformation, as well as more recent times. He shows the contemporary relevance of the Reformers' debates with the Catholic Church over whether tradition and reason are necessary guides to reading an unclear scripture, and how we to be captive neither to a fundamentalism which denies the need for scholarship, nor a scholasticism which denies the need for faith.

The clear headedness is shown in his handling of Scripture. He is concerned to show that although perspicuity has frequently been attacked as an unbiblical imposition on the Bible, that is a misreading of both the explicit claims of scripture, and the implicit assumptions built into the way that biblical authors handle other biblical texts. By far the most important, of course, are Jesus' own assumptions, and that is summarised very helpfully.

The insightfulness is evident in the elegant way Thompson steers through contemporary thinking on hermeneutics, showing not just obvious perils, but more subtle and spiritual ones as well. Careful readers will be aware how much work has gone in so that we don't just avoid the massive and anti-Christian errors of Derrida or Ricaeur, but are appreciatively nuanced with regard to Karl Barth, John Webster and Alister McGrath. This part of the book is a master-class in how to make the obscurities of contemporary linguistic philosophy both accessible and relevant.

This issue is of particularly pressing concern for those of us who are Anglicans.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity in a Postmodern world 12 May 2007
By Cabe M. Pillette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book argues cogently against the unique argument of postmodern relativism. Among Christians (and dare I say prevalent in seminaries) the question of whether we can really know and be certain of any one truth has recieved a sickening "no". Ecumenism has uprooted our confidence in standing firm on absolute truth, and postmodernism has thus seeped into all of our hearts, using a very convincing argument that because there are so many interpretations, perspectives, cultural theologies, etc., there surely can't be ONE true, distinct, clear answer for everyone. We have been convinced that it is arrogant to claim that we actually KNOW something for sure. The church has been stripped naked and is standing embarrassed before the world, too afraid to say anything too dogmatically.

Mark Thompson is willing to argue that the church has been fed a lie and that the aforementioned argument is fallacious and misleading. Thompson is an erudite scholar, not afraid of reading and citing everyone on every side. If he had left the book at the first chapter, he would have convinced the reader that the postmodern view has won, and that it would be naive of us to think otherwise; that is how well he cites the opposing view. He is not afraid to be honest which in my mind is true scholarship. Notwithstanding, he argues later in a most forceful way and takes a position that may very well end his publishability in the academic/intellectual world, simply because he is willing to take the heat from academia and humbly say that Scripture actually IS clear. Today this is academic suicide.

He introduces the book with the view that scripture is unclear and that to know something for sure as we read the Bible is arrogance. He cites all of the major authors on the subject, and is overly fair with their argumentation.

He then argues that God is a clear God. God chose to reveal Himself which meant that He wanted to communicate. Being a clear God, He communicated Himself to us clearly. He is also not a confused God, meaning that He does not reveal Himself with hopes that interpreters of the Bible will find their own distinct truths as they read, some of which contradict others. No, He communicates clearly and is not confused but offers one possible interpretaion only.

The opponent then says that God is clear but we are not. Our language is weak, our minds are weak, and therefore our interpretations are weak and we must throw in the towel of understanding Him clearly. Thompson's answer is that man did not create language, God did. God did not choose a "weak vehicle" called language to communicate Himself, knowing that we would never understand anyway. No, He created language and He chose and was able to communicate clearly through it. To say that scripture is unclear is to tell God He did a poor job.

Thompson also argues that postmoderns go too far in saying that Scripture is unclear as a whole. There are not as many "difficult" passages as they claim. On the whole, the Bible is very clear and people agree on it. It is the "difficult" passages which recieve so much attention that we've been convinced the entire Bible is "difficult". So the oponent then argues that "difficult" passages means "unclear" passages. Thompson is not unaware that there are passages over which very good Bible students disagree. But he concludes that simply because it's difficult does not mean that it is unclear. It means we continue to work hard at determining the truth. He supports this by demonstrating that Jesus and Paul argued from the clarity of scripture by pointing out the misinterpretations of the Pharisees. They would not argue this way if they felt scripture was unclear. It took work for them to study the scripture and then to expose misinterpretations. Jesus and Paul and any NT author for that matter inherently believe in the clarity of scripture merely by the way they cite the OT continually.

His arguments are biblical, they are humble, they are well informed and they must be considered by anyone who thinks that we cannot know anything for sure. God revealed Himself with a "Clear and Present Word".
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, insightful and thoughtful 16 Mar. 2007
By C. M. Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mark Thompson has contributed the latest volume to this excellent series on the clarity (or `perspicuity') of scripture, and he analyses the issue with thoughtfulness, clear headedness and insight.

Thompson's thoughtfulness is shown in the historical perspective he gives, from the early church, mediaeval writers and the Reformation, as well as more recent times. He shows the contemporary relevance of the Reformers' debates with the Catholic Church over whether tradition and reason are necessary guides to reading an unclear scripture, and how we to be captive neither to a fundamentalism which denies the need for scholarship, nor a scholasticism which denies the need for faith.

The clear headedness is shown in his handling of Scripture. He is concerned to show that although perspicuity has frequently been attacked as an unbiblical imposition on the Bible, that is a misreading of both the explicit claims of scripture, and the implicit assumptions built into the way that biblical authors handle other biblical texts. By far the most important, of course, are Jesus' own assumptions, and that is summarised very helpfully.

The insightfulness is evident in the elegant way Thompson steers through contemporary thinking on hermeneutics, showing not just obvious perils, but more subtle and spiritual ones as well. Careful readers will be aware how much work has gone in so that we don't just avoid the massive and anti-Christian errors of Derrida or Ricaeur, but are appreciatively nuanced with regard to Karl Barth, John Webster and Alister McGrath. This part of the book is a master-class in how to make the obscurities of contemporary linguistic philosophy both accessible and relevant.

This issue is of particularly pressing concern for those of us who are Episcopalians, like Thompson himself. The Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam, called for a "Hermeneutics Project", which looks like a dangerously open-ended concept. It might just be a reminder that we need to revisit the Biblical material dealing with homosexuality and check our interpretation once again. That is a good and necessary task, and is the kind of self correction which evangelicals should continually engage in. However, I and I guess many others suspect that this project is actually an exercise in how to find a way of reinterpreting texts, such that the liberals can be seen to be engaging in a theological task, whilst rewriting scripture and tradition. Hermeneutics has then become a linguistic game, a typically ironic post-modern way of playing with words so that an alleged authoritative text is made to stand on its hind legs and dance to an alien tune. Mark Thompson's book will encourage us that we can engage in this kind of debate and win it, the Lord being our helper, because we are dealing with "the hermeneutic of a clear text in the hands of a good God" (p.140). But he would warn us as well that this is not a neutral matter of language and interpretation, but a spiritual battle with the one who is a liar and the father of lies.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Theological case lacking good exegesis 22 Jun. 2013
By Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mark Thompson is Academic Dean and lecturer in theology and church history at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. This work, A Clear and Present Word, flows from his doctoral dissertation and particularly from his lectures in August 2005 at the Annual Moore College Lectures. Feeling the climate of skepticism and doubt in regard to the interpretation of the Bible, Thompson argues for the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture based on the nature of God and internal Scriptural appeals. It is "a robust theological exposition" that he turns to in his defense, not a historical or literary one (47). Thus he concludes the work, "The clarity of Scripture is that quality of the biblical text that, as God communicative act, ensures its meaning is accessible to all who come to it in faith" (169-70, italics original).

The urgency of the problem is communicated in Chapter 1. Here Thompson lays out several arguments traditionally levied against the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture. He then introduces the post-modern critique of "radical" epistemic uncertainty. Admitting that in this context an exposition of Scripture's clarity comes across as "quaint" or "reactionary" (43), Thompson then boldly goes on to assert that all of the objections introduced "are answerable and in fact have been answered in the long history of this doctrine" (46). In fact, he says, there is little new in the way of counter-argument. They are mostly fresh visions of old debates.

Chapter 2 begins Thompson's theological exposition. Our knowledge of God comes only from his revelation, he says, so that the starting place for Scripture's clarity is God himself. Here is the crux of the argument: God is more than competent at communicating and so his communications are clear. That God communicates clearly is reaffirmed in the OT and the NT. Further, language and word barriers do not exist for God since God was the initial speaker who gave language as a divine gift (66). Therefore, God has clearly spoken regarding the Gospel of his Son, and he continues to speak through those same words by his Spirit (77-78).

But what does Scripture say about this doctrine? Is the clarity of Scripture "a conviction brought to the Bible rather than an article of faith drawn from the Bible" (81; citing Cowdell)? In Chapter 3, Thompson seeks to dispel this polemic by demonstrating Jesus' perspective of Scripture, as well as by finding support in Old and New Testament references. He concludes regarding Jesus: "Jesus appears to operate on the assumption that when the words of Scripture are read or heard, they will be understood, at least well enough understood to warrant an acknowledgement that he is who he says he is and that his words are true" (87).

Thus when Jesus speaks the words of Scripture he can hold his audience accountable to understand them. The Apostolic witness to the OT Scriptures also supports their clarity (cf. Rom 15:4-6; 2 Tim 3:16-17). Why else would the Apostles frequently cite the OT to show that Jesus is "the climax of God's eternal purposes," if not to be understood (87)? Finally, the biblical texts themselves appeal to their own accessibility. In the midst of the biblical witness, however, there remain texts seemingly supporting the obscurity of Scripture (Mark 4:10-12; Acts 8:30-35; 2 Pet 3:14-16). These references, he claims, demonstrate issues in the individual, not the text. Only those who come willingly in faith and a spiritual mind will understand.

Chapter 4 re-centers the discussion in the context of ongoing hermeneutical debates. Thompson's focus in this section is to guide the conservative reader safely through the land-mines of the hermeneutical field. At least five areas "need to be heard and accepted" (131). One, the form of a text--narrative, epistle, or otherwise--is important for the proper reading of a text. Two, verbal communication is flexible. Three, reading and interpretation are both done in contexts. Four, much has been gained by modern critical methods alongside "a lot of dross" (130). Finally, five, Scripture is often misused by individual and groups. But on the other hand, the modern debates cloud the goal and process of exegesis and should not distract or intimidate from clear interpretation (see 132-41).

Chapter 5 wraps up the work with a modern restatement of the classically defended doctrine of Scripture's clarity. To illustrate the doctrine's classic exposition by its Champions and the recycled arguments of its opponents, Thompson expounds on two sixteenth century controversies: Luther/Erasmus and Whitaker/Bellarmino. The doctrine remains especially critical now in the 21st century, but it is a step out in faith toward a generous and willing God.

The work has many reasons to commend it. It is an approachable length and depth into a tense discussion. Notably, Thompson is able to point out many detractors and counter-arguments to his proposal and deal with them, or at least point to references which answer them. This way of writing is respectable and easy to engage. He puts forth what appears to be a legitimate theological argument, namely that God the effective communicator speaks through Scripture clearly. He is able to find texts which support his proposals, and he is able to ground it historically in the Champions of the Reformation, including Martin Luther himself.

But is a theological exposition sufficient apart from a biblical exposition rooted in historical exegesis? Thompson is unconvincing. Chapter 3 is not clear that every author of Scripture, not least every word of Scripture, is the word of God. Does Scripture contain or is it actually the word of God? Thompson convinces that God is capable of communicating from his line of argument, but he fails to show that Scripture claims to be the very speech of God in every case. That is, that if God were to communicate he would be effective, but what demonstrates that every word of Scripture is actually communicated from God? Certainly a number of texts can be isolated which claim to be the speech of God, but what about the other authors? What about where Jesus does not affirm God's voice in the prophet? Here his theological argument needs biblical grounding.

As for Thompson's treatment of the texts themselves, he narrowly selects and expounds little upon passages. For example, he claims that the Apostles' use of the Scriptures in dealings with Gentiles demonstrate that the Scriptures could be understood by anyone. Thompson says, "the Old Testament...is not reserved for Jewish audiences where some familiarity with the Scriptures, even if at the most basic level, might fairly be assumed" (88). Everyone is expected to understand the Scriptures. But do the Apostles really use Scripture to convince these people far removed biblical awareness? In many cases, no! Certainly, in many of his epistles Paul uses OT references in environments which would include Gentiles (Romans, Galatians), but these texts were arguably more important for the Jews in the audience. Other works, such as Colossians, have very few OT expositions (though many Jewish allusions). Similarly, Paul's sermons and defenses in Acts to exclusively Gentile audiences lack appeals to Scripture. Paul would rather quote their own poets (17:28)! This is in stark contrast to Paul's capable handling of the OT in Acts 13.

Additionally, Thompson acknowledges that some passages apparently point to Scripture's obscurity. This, he says, shows more about the condition of their hearts in sin than about the text itself. This may be true in many cases, but why is it that no one clearly perceived the Scriptures as they pointed to Christ until after he was raised? Jesus died a failed would-be-Messiah in the minds of everyone, even in the minds of his Apostles. This seems to be in part what lies behind 2 Cor 3:12-14:6. Scripture is, then, not as clear as Thompson proposes. The biblical witness to Scripture's clarity is not as consistent as he attempts to demonstrate. There are many God-seeking individuals in the Bible who do not understand or blatantly misinterpret sayings in Scripture. The use of Scripture to support his existing theological argument, then, falls flat. This also accounts for the vast diversity of interpretations now present in Christianity, even among issues as substantial as the means of salvation.

This is not to say that Thompson's work is not valuable for the discussion. Especially where Thompson backs off his overstated conclusions he has much to add for the concerned Bible student. Yes, God can communicate with humans. Yes, words, especially God's words, do matter. Yes, we can interpret accurately. These are not unimportant statements given the critiques especially of Post-modernism and in the field of hermeneutics.

Thompson's greatest contributions lie in the balance between "hard won" exegesis and simple clarity. He acknowledges the difficulty of many texts noting that many passages are "going to take concentrated attention" (108). That is, he is not advocating for a simple plain-reading of the text. As he says, "Understanding is not always automatic or simple. There remains room for explanation and application. And even then there are occasions when the clear meaning of a particular test will be hard won...(T)he clarity of Scripture must not be trivialized or used as an excuse for superficiality or exegetical laziness" (110).

Instead he is arguing for a "hard won" clarity, insisting "confidence need not be abandoned" in the doctrine of clarity (108). It is somewhat difficult to balance a "hard won" interpretation with a Spirit guided clarity as he argues for elsewhere. It is best understood in that the Scriptures have enough depth for the mature student to plunge in and sufficient shallowness even for the infant in the faith. In conclusion, the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, while helpful for faith, is overstated by Thompson and therefore dangerous. It is when he steps back, though infrequently, that he gives a better leg to stand on than his overall thrust.
5.0 out of 5 stars God Has Spoken, Not Stuttered 6 July 2016
By William R. Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hailing from the rich Evangelical (Reformed) Anglican tradition of Australia (D. Broughton Knox, Peter Jensen, Michael Bird, Moore Theological College), Mark Thompson is a much-needed voice not simply for a restatement of the doctrine of Scriptural clarity ('perspicuity'), but a careful and fresh exposition of it given the hermeneutical malaise we find ourselves in, in both Evangelicalism and the broader Christian community. Thompson is a voice of erudition, but also pointed conviction, who paints the hermeneutical landscape with charity, but still offers his critical assessment formed by his confidence in Scripture's clarity. Confidence in the Scripture's clarity tends to product a confidence of conviction about truth, where simply stating positions, yet remaining out the fray, isn't enough. Thompson assesses the battlefield, then charges in with the pages of the eternal Word of God, convicted that it is shining forth, illuminating the entire world, and proclaiming the never-changing character of the One True God.

Others have given solid summaries of the content of the book, so I'll limit my observational comments to two specific areas (Historical Framework and the Doctrine's Definition), and then briefly give my overall thought on why this book needs to be read.

1. Historical Framework of the Doctrine - The Clarity of Scripture as a debate among Christians has primarily been a Reformational debate into the present time. It's not that the Fathers didn't speak of Scripture's authority, infallibility, etc., but the debates of the early and even medieval church weren't surrounding the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Thompson does an excellent job as an historian to frame the discussion, giving us the context and helping us understand that the debate about Scripture's clarity essentially is a debate about Christology, namely, who is Christ and what has He done? This has a dramatic effect on how Scripture operates and functions. This issue reached a fever-pitch in the early Reformation and (Catholic) Counter Reformation, primarily between Martin Luther and Erasmus. Thompson traces the Reformational arguments and defense six decades later between Cambridge (Puritan) Biblical Scholar William Whitaker and the Catholic Controversialist Theologian Robert Bellarmine.

He spends a large part of two chapters (1 & 4) dealing with the past 50-60 years of engagement with Scripture's clarity, how we understand it in light of language (linguistics), and various attempts to salvage or scuttle the Scripture's clarity during this period. Essentially, he traces out the trajectories of Nietzsche and Barth and discusses they're various theological offspring. Nietzsche, as he leads us into post-modernity, and Barth, as he tries to save the Church from the foundationalism of modernity and Protestant Conservatives, and the existentialism and experiential subjectivity of Protestant Liberalism. To a degree, Barth was successful, though his bibliology at times is questionable as it relates to the Evangelical tradition. On the other hand, postmodernity has scuttled any attempt at knowing real meaning apart from the relativistic communities and socially agreed upon language which constructs it. Largely through the thought of Nietzsche, Ricoeur, Focault and Derrida (being the most radical), at best, real meaning is localized at a communal level. Objective ("Speech-Act") communication is ridiculous for them.

Lastly, as a side note on this section, Thompson only touches here and there on the Princetonian scholars, A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield and their contribution to the historical doctrine. They are relegated mostly to the footnotes. In American Protestantism, this doctrine was crystallized by these Presbyterians, so it was surprising to see so little engagement with them.

Overall, Thompson did a magnificent job framing the historical conversation from the Reformation to the present day. His brevity was excellent. However, given that he was trying to be brief about the doctrine's historical framework, his limited conversation largely overlooked the "Big 3's" (Hodge, Hodge and Warfield) and their significant voices in the conversation. I think the framework would have been stronger and richer by engaging their significant contributions. (4.5/5 Stars)

2. Defining the Doctrine of "Scripture's Clarity" - This is where is gets the murkiest. Thompson does a good job reiterating time and again what he means by "Scripture's Clarity" - and what he does not. His definition (pp. 169-70): "The clarity of Scripture is that quality of the biblical text that, as God's communicative act, ensures it's meaning is accessible to all who come to it in faith." This definition is richly worded, carefully crafted, with each phrase communicating the boundaries and substance of the "Clarity of Scripture". But with such a clear definition, why is it still murky? It's because the definition is highly complex, just like the clarity of Scripture.

Therefore, what Thompson doesn't mean by Scripture's clarity, is that all Scripture is equally simple (as much is deeply complex); that we don't need exposition and study to help both draw out the clarity for us, and draw us into the clarity of the story as well; that people's private interpretation is adequate outside the communal framework of Christian identity, or that human being's falleness doesn't come into play. Time and again, Thompson clarifies that these are issues that must be included in defining what we mean by the "Clarity of Scripture" and what we don't mean. A careful reading of this will save the reader from confusion.

Also, Thompson does a masterful job reminding the reader of the (Reformed) perspective of both Scripture's clarity AND presence. Which simply means God is still working in and through His text, not because His voice is found somewhere in there, but because the Bible is the very voice of God. As Luther put it, "the Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid". God's Word is actively powerful and accomplishes what it intends to do (Isa. 55:10-11). This is a much-needed corrective for the information-laden Evangelical landscape which continues to preach about God and information concerning Him, but forgets the continuing living presence of God (Spirit), communicated by the living voice of God (Christ), through the living Word of God (Word & Spirit). This alone is worth the read.

Overall, I think Thompson does a fantastic job discussing and defining the doctrine in both it's positive and negative qualifications. As another reviewer mentioned, I would have liked to see a bit more exegesis from time to time (maybe 1-2 solid case studies), but understand this book was written as more of a survey as it relates to biblical exegesis. However, Thompson did engage with every classical argument and passage in the debate, and left no stone unturned in that regard. Also, I think it would have been helpful if Thompson would have included a brief section in how he understood and married together the doctrine of Scripture's "Clarity" and "Progressive Revelation". This might be a subject for another book, but I was waiting for some form of engagement here and it never came. We would have a better understanding of Scripture's clarity if we also had an introduction to its relationship to progressive revelation. Thompson engages with a number of Old Testament texts but doesn't quite tease this relationship out, in my opinion. This would have given even greater clarity regarding his positive and negative definitions of the doctrine. (4.5/5 Stars)

3. Why You Should Read This Book - If you are a Christian leader, its a must-read. The Scriptures are a hallmark of Evangelical Theology specifically, and the Christian community broadly. Our identity in God's truth and love cannot be separated from the Word of God. A greater confidence in God's Word and it's clarity leads to a greater confidence in God. If anyone needs that conviction, it's Christian leaders. I would suggest a more entry-level introduction for an interested lay-person, such as Sinclair Ferguson's "From the Mouth of God" or any book from D.A. Carson regarding this matter. An excellent book and highly recommended for the Christian leader or serious lay-person.
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid and stimulating scholarship on the clarity of Scripture 4 Sept. 2015
By Jeff Low Youzhi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a contribution to the series New Studies in Biblical Theology edited by Dr. D. A. Carson. Dr. Mark D. Thompson offers here a masterful treatment on the clarity or perspicuity of Scripture, engaging with theologians and philosophers from the apostolic church all the way to the present day, when this particular attribute of Scripture has been cast into serious disrepute.

In a nutshell, this book is an invaluable contribution to scholarship and to the history of Protestant theology, offering a solid yet highly nuanced defence to this particular doctrine of Scripture. Future scholars in this area who are worth their salt would do well to interact with the arguments in this book.

In the simplest terms, this book seeks to answer this question: Can we really be certain about what the Bible says or what it means?

Summary Overview & Content Review

In the introduction (Chapter 1 - Oh sweet obscurity: The absurdity of claiming clarity today), Dr. Thompson orders several traditional (during the Reformation) and contemporary (modern and postmodern) objections to this doctrine. What is remarkable here is that the author presents the opposing arguments in a fair and most gracious manner, without erecting straw men or taking potshots. His interaction with them is worthy of commendation.

In Chapter 2 (The effective communicator: God as the guarantor of scriptural clarity), the author begins with laying the theological foundations for his case, essentially that the triune God of the gospel has purposed to communicate to his people through human words, and that since God is the Creator of human language, he is an effective communicator.

While one can argue that Dr. Thompson has smuggled in theological presuppositions even before making his argument, we are reminded that we are discussing precisely the Word of God, and all discussions must make sense in this theological context and worldview. We do not examine a message we receive without taking into account the person who has sent them. Thus, in our case, the starting point is with God himself and how he has shown himself in his gospel. As such, given that God, being God, is an effective communicator, the question now is whether he has given us an obscure text with hidden messages.

In Chapter 3 (It is not beyond you: The accessible word of the living God), Dr. Thompson draws out from multiple passages from all over the Old and New Testaments to make the case that Scripture claims for itself clarity and the final word. Besides the explicit statements, much can be inferred from how Jesus and the apostles used Scripture to make a decisive case against detractors, remarkably with little or no exposition. In other words, if Scripture is unclear, those arguments would not have been straightforward.

The author also addressed a caricature of the historic orthodox position, namely that all passages in Scripture then would then be equally clear without the need for exposition. With little effort, he sets the record right by showing that this is not the position of the reformers or the classical exponents of this doctrine. In other words, clarity does not mean equal simplicity. Texts can be abused or misused due to ignorance and perversity.

In Chapter 4 (Engaging the hermeneutical challenge), the author interacts with recent theologians and philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Schleiermacher, Hans Frei and Karl Barth, among many others. In a nutshell, while some have presented their challenges aggressively, they are not as serious as they may first appear. A common and fatal error in their discussions is that God is ignored and the self-testimony of the text is assumed beforehand to be tainted. As such, the remaining scenario is that the reader himself is left to decide the meaning of the text in his isolated present context.

Finally, in Chapter 5 (The sharp double-edged sword: Restarting the clarity of Scripture today), Dr. Thompson points us to two historical debates on this issue. Firstly, there was the discussion between humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam and reformer Martin Luther. While the subject proper of their debate was on Free Will, the real underlying issue was in fact the clarity of Scripture. The next debate was between the Doctor of the Roman Catholic church Robert Bellarmine and William Whitaker, the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

Stylistic Review

The chapters are clearly delineated, with multiple topics and sub-points. Each section is fairly concise but intensely packed with materials. At times, one would wish for further elaboration and exposition, but the presentation is as good as it gets without it turning into a massive and cumbersome tome.

While the language is not what you find in your average Harry Potter or Twilight novels, it is still fairly accessible with focus and concentration. Not to mention that this book is worthy of your time and study. I would heartily commend it to all pastors, students of Scripture and even laypersons who seek to engage the secular world around them.

In conclusion, it must be acknowledged that regardless of whether you are a proponent or opponent of this doctrine, Dr. Thompson has presented to us a cogent and valiant defence of the doctrine of Scripture. Further scholarship would do well to interact with this monograph.
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