Monday, May 09, 2005

Is this True?

In the book Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition by George Kennedy, I came across this quote on p. 151. My question is whether this statment is an accurate representation of our Christian understanding of Scripture:

"Much of the work of Christian exegesis in the following centuries is built on the assumption that there is a wisdom in the Scriptures, deliberately obscure, which human beings can, in part, come to understand with God's help. The view of St. Augustine and many other Christian exegetes was that God had deliberately concealed that wisdom to keep it from those who were indifferent to it, but would allow those who sought the truth to find a road to understanding."

Now, in consideration of the quote verse like these certainly come to mind:
Matthew 11:25 (ESV) "At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;"

and 2 Cor. 4:2-3 (ESV) "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to f those who are perishing."

So with those verses (and any others) in mind, does the statement accurately reflect our Christian belief? WHat about the 'perspicuity' (clarity) of Scripture? I think that perhaps the statement is basically correct, with the exception of God making it 'deliberately obscure.' I think the second phrasing, of 'deliberately concealed...to those who are indifferent' is more accurate, and in keeping w/ the above passages. Any thoughts?

4 comments:

Jason Reed said...

Josh, I guess the $64K question is thus: Who is the "wise and understanding" from the Matt. 11:25 text? to borrow the phrase, Could it be Satan? St Paul said in 1 Corintians 2:8 writes, "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." and who ruled? who was the prince?

Again, the one who twists the Word of God (God didn't really say...), Satan.

Ask yourself this: Did Jesus trick Satan into eating from the tree of life, as satan had tricked Adam and Eve into eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil? If not, then what DID happen?

Eric Phillips said...

I don't think it's deliberately obscure, but some of it is definitely hard to understand. Also, the Bible doesn't come complete with its own divinely-inspired 400-page combination commentary-and-systematic-theology, so piecing everything together and seeing how everything really does work and make sense and communicate something incredible is way too laborious a task for most of the folks who thing it's tripe to engage in.

In that sense it's hidden from those who don't care about it. And even the simple things are hidden from unbelievers in another sense--spiritual rather than intellectual. They _understand_ to a point, but they can't _accept_ it. And since they can't _accept_ it, much of the good stuff is out of their experiential reach.

Jason Reed said...

Lutherans DO believe in perspicuity, right?

let me ask THIS question: If there are parts that seem obscured to those who are IN the body of Christ, could it be that some of the presuppositions that are held are flawed?

Josh Schneider said...

Jason, regarding your first comment: I have no idea what you're talking about! :0 What do you mean "Did Jesus trick Satan into eating from the Tree of Life?" Have you been reading the gnostic Gospels? Ok, I'm kidding. But really, I don't know what you're talking about.

And your second comment. Yes of course we believe in perspicuity. But that has never meant that every passage of Scripture is plain and clear to all readers. So since perspicuity never meant that, I don't think there are faulty presuppositions. The Word wouldn't make a useful lamp for our feet or light to our path if it weren't clear.

Eric,
that's how I would say it also. The Scriptures are difficult to understand, but they are not deliberately obscure. The Scripture is not a 'closed book' to believers, but it is to the unbeliever. Hence the 'veiled'/ 'veil removed' transistion that takes place when one turns to the Lord (2 Cor. 3:14-17).

Also, you mention that unbelievers can understand it in a sense, and that of course is true to the extent that the Scriptures can be read and understood (on perhaps a level of basic literary and historical comprehension) as they are communicated in human language, not some encrypted code. But they cannot perceive Christ throughout the Scriptures, or the spiritual/theological purpose of it all. And I don't mean that in any kind of medieval four-fold sense of the Scriptures.