A Review of “A Clear and Present Word” by Mark Thompson

A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture in a Confused World (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Here’s a helpful resource that explains, defends, and applies the truth that Scripture is perspicuous: A Clear and Present Word by Mark D. Thompson (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).  In under 200 pages, Thompson does a nice job discussing the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture from a biblical and historical perspective.

There are five main parts to the book.  The first part deals with the perspicuity of Scripture in our postmodern context, including some recent objections to this doctrine.  The second part of the book is where Thompson discusses the fact that God is the effective communicator who was the first one to speak and who still uses words to reveal himself.  Third, Thompson explains some parts of and places in Scripture itself that teach its own clarity.  Fourth, the topic moves to today’s postmodern hermeneutics and how the clarity of Scripture can be defended in today’s situation.  Fifth, and finally, Thompson concludes the work with historical notes on the perspicuity of Scripture, some summary statements, and helpful application.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up this book, but having finished it, I can very much recommend it.  I really liked the section where Thompson went through some New Testament texts and stories which correspond with Old Testament texts and therefore prove that the perspicuity of Scripture isn’t something people imposed on Scripture.  Rather, he notes, we derive the doctrine from Scripture itself.

I also appreciated the fact that Thompson was knowledgeable about the historical side to this doctrine.  Specifically, he talked about Luther’s debate with Erasmus and the later Reformation’s answer to Rome’s attack on the perspicuity of Scripture.   Furthermore, it was great to see Thompson continually note how God’s speech is reliable and has its high point, or center, in Christ.

Some parts of this book are a bit tougher than others.  Thompson does talk about various philosophers and theologians as well as their discussion of text and interpretation.  However, even if you’re not up to speed on postmodernism and theories of interpreting texts, you’ll be able to read and profit from large sections of this book.  I suppose one could say that even if there are some hard parts in this book, for the most part it is clear and easy to understand.  Here’s how Thompson closes the book:

“…A confession of the clarity of Scripture is an aspect of faith in a generous God who is willing and able to make himself and his purposes known.  God has something to say and he is very good at saying it.”

If you’re looking on a solid book about the perspicuity of Scripture, this is one I’d point to: Mark Thompson, A Clear and Present Word.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI