Sunday, 9 March 2008

On the clarity of Scripture

Tomorrow we have a team day on the clarity of Scripture, and in recent days I've been getting through the pre-reading, A Clear and Present Word by Mark Thompson.

It's been a helpful read; the main theme of the book being that God is an effective communicator - and therefore the testimony of Scripture achieves exactly the purpose that God wills of it. I've also been provoked to further thought by the idea that God spoke in language intelligable to humans before humans spoke, showing that God is well able to communicate even in human language.

Of course, this all brings the question of what we do with passages of Scripture that are really difficult to understand. Thompson quotes Augustine and Gregory on this - two really beautiful quotes that both affirm and humble:

'The Holy Spirit, therefore, has generously and advantageously planned Holy Scripture in such a way that in the easier passages He relieves our hunger; in the more obscure He drives away our pride. Practically nothing is dug out from those obscure texts which is not discovered to be said very plainly in another place.' (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine)

'For indeed, just as the divine discourse exercises the wise by means of mysteries, so it unusually revives the simple by means of what lies on the surface. It holds in the open that by which little ones may be nourished and keeps hidden that which those of lofty intellect might stand in wonder. It is, so to speak, a kind of river, if I may so liken it, which is both shallow and deep, in which both the lamb may find a footing and the elephant swim' (Gregory the Great, Commentary on Job).

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