The Clarity of Scripture (Bavinck)

One wonderful aspect or attribute of Scripture is that it is clear in the matters of salvation. This has been called the perspicuity of Scripture. The Westminster Confession explains this teaching quite well in chapter 1, sections 6 & 7. One thing the Confession says is that both learned and unlearned people can attain a sufficient understanding of the Scriptures. “Sufficient” in this sense means sufficient unto salvation. Herman Bavinck also wrote well on this topic:

The doctrine of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture has frequently been misunderstood and misrepresented, both by Protestants and Catholics. It does not mean that the matters and subjects with which Scripture deals are not mysteries that far exceed the reach of the human intellect. Nor does it assert that Scripture is clear in all its parts, so that no scientific exegesis is needed, or that, also in its doctrine of salvation, Scripture is plain and clear to every person without distinction. It means only that the truth, the knowledge of which is necessary to everyone for salvation, though not spelled out with equal clarity on every page of Scripture, is nevertheless presented throughout all of Scripture in such a simple and intelligible form that a person concerned about the salvation of his or her soul can easily, by personal reading and study, learn to know that truth from Scripture without the assistance and guidance of the church and the priest. The way of salvation, not as it concerns the matter itself but as it concerns the mode of transmission, has been clearly set down there for the reader desirous of salvation. While that reader may not understand the “how” (πως) of it, the “that” (ὁτι) is clear.

The above quote is found in Herman Bavinck, ed. John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 477.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

2 thoughts on “The Clarity of Scripture (Bavinck)”

  1. What do you think about Grudem’s definition or Mark Thompson’s (he wrote “Clear and Present Word”)? They gave broder definition. The clarity of Scripture means the the Scripture is understandable for those who seek God’s help and willing to obey it. It is clear not only in the matters of salvation, but in other matters too. For example, if Scripture is authoritative in all matters of faith and practice, then it should be clear in all matters of faith and practice. Otherwise, this authority cannot be realized. Or if Scripture is sufficient in all matters of faith and life, it should be clear in all matters of faith and life. Without clarity in that matters there is no no use of authority or sufficiency. English is not my first language, I hope I have written it clearly. What do you think about broad definition of the clarity of Scripture?


    1. Hey Eugene, good to hear from you. I have read Thompson and parts of Grudem. Also, your question did make sense to me – and it’s a very good question! I’ll have to think about it more. I have to be honest, I don’t have time right now to respond with an in-depth answer, but I do appreciate the comments. If I have time, I’ll come back and try to give an answer.



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