That is a big Latin based word that basically means clear. Within Christianity coming from the Reformation (Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist), it is a doctrine – the perspicuity or the clarity of scripture. Wikipedia actually does a decent job here. I’m going to get out the old “Big Book of Doctrine” in the LCMS, Pieper’s Dogmatics. “According to scripture, the perspicuity of Scripture consists in this, that it presents, in language that can be understood by all, whatever men must know to be saved.” 2 Tim 3:15-17 forms the backbone of this definition. “You have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Note what that doesn’t say. That doesn’t say that everything in scripture is immediately understood. What is necessary is clear – Jesus Christ. Everything else is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training – i.e. its progressive, you will come to know the truth if you remain in the word.

Pieper is also interesting as he lists a few reasons why even clear scripture might remain obscure:
1) The language is unknown. “Like with any other book, we must penetrate into the Bible by reading it diligently”.
2) Hearts are hostile to its message.(Matt 11:25, 2 Cor 4:3-4) If you think you know better and won’t be instructed, it won’t make sense. (Big terms: a ministerial use of reason vs. a magisterial use of reason. Is reason your servant or the master.)
3) Prejudice against certain doctrines. “They paste over the words of Scripture a human interpretation.”

The main point is that scripture is a “lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Scripture illumines if we let it.

The reason I bring that up is because of a few links:
1) Strange Herring talking about Rachel Held Evans a noted female evangelical blogger. Ms. Held Evans tries to “live biblically” for a year. Her definition of living biblically seems to amount to taking strange passages from the OT that we don’t follow as law anymore. Her point in her book is inerrancy. Paraphrasing the argument: we choose which parts of the bible to lift up and which to let go, so we should use a more reasonable method of doing that. The problem for Ms. Held Evans is not really inerrancy but perspicuity. In some ways her heart is not open to its message. She want to take a magisterial approach to the bible. She is pasting her thoughts over the bible and refusing to take a serious “in the language” approach to the scriptures. What she ends up doing is mocking them. Which is exactly what a true outsider, as Strange Herring starts with, can see.

2) The comic posted is from Scot McKnight’s place. And it is a humorous attempt to capture what we are talking about. What he talks about in that post is a mature example of being in the language of the word and using reason in a ministerial way. Using reason to say, lets look at comparative literature of the time period and them come back to the bible is reasonable in a helping way to understand its meaning and our own dark spots. The metaphor detecting device is just scripture itself in its context. Become familiar with the language of scripture and it becomes clear.

3) And then Brian McLaren, who has been put in a situation I hope and pray I never am. As a leader in christian thought circles, he’s been forced to choose between family and the Word of God. Jesus warned about such things. (Matt 10:34-36) His answer has clearly become pasting over those areas of scripture that are uncomfortable. For all his talk of “the other”, he’s making Christians who won’t confirm his pasting as truth into the other.

It is not that McLaren and Held Evans are outside of grace. But they are outside of reading scripture clearly and in a dangerous place. You are always in a dangerous place when you have ceased to take scripture as the lamp and instead placed your reason and experience as a better source of light.


Why she moved to the Daily Beast(?!?) I don’t know, but Megan McArdle writes this morning about the VP debate and she says something deeply true.

There was an interesting exchange on MSNBC after last night’s debate when one of the hosts asked one of the string of professional Democrats who were streaming through how she thought Biden had done. I paraphrase, but her answer was roughly: “I thought he was great. He really showed contempt for Paul Ryan.” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley enthusiastically agreed that yes, Biden had been really contemptuous, which was great.

What an odd thing to celebrate…Yet I suspect that MSNBC was right: this was what the Democratic base wanted to see. Yes, they also wanted to hear him defend their issues. But they already agree with him on the issues. Their biggest desire was just for someone to express their disdain for the Republican Party, and particularly its rising young star–to display their collective contempt in a public venue. I’m not sure exactly why this is so important, but I seem to recall that the same dynamic from Republicans in 2004. There’s a lesson there about where American politics is headed, and it’s a pretty grim one.

She doesn’t expand on that sentence I put in bold type. But that triggered my memory of where the warning comes from – Dr. Gottman’s research on marriage. Gottman, on a bunch of factors claimed he could predict divorce with 90% accuracy. He had a bunch of factors, sometimes called the four horsemen of divorce, but the one riding the pale horse was contempt. When Gottman observed contempt, he stopped watching. It was over.

Now individuals in this society can divorce. And at the margins I have a feeling that we might have been practicing something like that over that last generation. There aren’t too many NY liberals who wake up and say, “I’d love to live in Texas.” Likewise I don’t know too many died in the wool conservatives pining to be residents of CA and NY. When I worked for IBM which had an interesting outpost in Austin, it was always interesting seeing who was happy at a move to Texas and who started to break out in hives. But there is no such thing as an amicable divorce for a nation. Nations are like marriage pre-1960’s. Nations aren’t protestant but catholic. Living with contempt makes the home an awful place.

Incidentally, doing a word study on contempt int he Bible is interesting. (Just take out you concordance, look up the word, and scan the verses it is used in.) Here is my quick look. Those are not stories or places where you want to find yourself inserted. When you find yourself with contempt, the first thing necessary is repentance in the underlying sense. Turn around and change because nothing good comes from that. That way leads to death.

(Genesis 16:4 ESV) And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.
(Genesis 16:5 ESV) And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!”
(1 Samuel 2:17 ESV) Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt.
(2 Chronicles 32:17 ESV) And he wrote letters to cast contempt on the LORD, the God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, “Like the gods of the nations of the lands who have not delivered their people from my hands, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver his people from my hand.”
(Esther 1:17 ESV) For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’
(Esther 1:18 ESV) This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty.
(Job 12:5 ESV) In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip.
(Job 12:21 ESV) He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the strong.
(Job 31:34 ESV) because I stood in great fear of the multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors–
(Psalm 31:18 ESV) Let the lying lips be mute, which speak insolently against the righteous in pride and contempt.
(Psalm 107:40 ESV) he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
(Psalm 119:22 ESV) Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.
(Psalm 123:3 ESV) Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.
(Psalm 123:4 ESV) Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.
(Proverbs 18:3 ESV) When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace.
(Isaiah 9:1 ESV) But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
(Isaiah 16:14 ESV) But now the LORD has spoken, saying, “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble.”
(Ezekiel 22:7 ESV) Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you.
(Ezekiel 28:24 ESV) “And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.
(Ezekiel 28:26 ESV) And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.”
(Ezekiel 36:5 ESV) therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Surely I have spoken in my hot jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave my land to themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and utter contempt, that they might make its pasturelands a prey.
(Daniel 12:2 ESV) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
(Micah 7:6 ESV) for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
(Nahum 3:6 ESV) I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.
(Mark 9:12 ESV) And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
(Luke 18:9 ESV) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
(Luke 23:11 ESV) And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate.
(Hebrews 6:6 ESV) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.