The Clarity of Scripture—sometimes known by the older word “perspicuity” (Which, for a word that means clarity, is not all that clear)—is carefully defined in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF):
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (WCF 1.7)
- It’s worth noticing several important nuances in this definition.
- Some portions of Scripture are clearer than others. Not every passage has a simple or obvious meaning.
- The main things we need to know, believe, and do can be clearly seen in the Bible.
- Though the most essential doctrines are not equally clear in every passage, they are all made clear somewhere in Scripture.
- That which is necessary for our salvation can be understood even by the uneducated, provided that they make use of the ordinary means of study and learning.
- The most important points in the Scriptures may not be understood perfectly, but they can be understood sufficiently.
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture is not a wild assertion that the meaning of every verse in the Bible will be patently obvious to everyone.
Rather, the perspicuity of Scripture upholds the notion that ordinary people using ordinary means can accurately understand enough of what must be known, believed, and observed for them to be faithful Christians.