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.