The following information is taken from AA Hodge’s Outlines of Theology, published in 1866. Hodge graduated from Princeton Seminary and served as a missionary to India and a pastor. He later served as a Professor and Chair of Theology at Princeton Seminary. Hodge was an associate and contemporary of the famous Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, and his Systematic Theology text was used at Spurgeon’s Pastors College.
Article 1, Section 7 of the Baptist Confession of Faith states, with regard to the perspicuity of Scripture:
Not all things in Scripture are equally plain in themselves, nor equally clear to everyone. Yet those things that are essential to be known, believed, and obeyed for salvation are so clearly set forth and explained in one place of Scripture or another, that not only the educated but also the uneducated may attain a satisfactory understanding of them by using ordinary means.
In this installment of posts dealing with AA Hodge’s chapter on our Rule of Faith, Hodge tackles the issue of whether the common man can understand Scripture.
Hodge’s Outlines of Theolgoy, Chap V Says…
10. In what sense do Protestants affirm and Romanists deny the perspicuity of Scripture?
Protestants do not affirm that the doctrines revealed in the Scriptures are level to man’s powers of understanding. Many of them are confessedly beyond all understanding. Nor do they affirm that every part of Scripture can be certainly and perspicuously expounded, many of the prophesies being perfectly obscure until explained by the event. But they do affirm that every essential article of faith and rule of practice is clearly revealed in Scripture, or may certainly be deduced therefrom. This much the least instructed Christian may learn at once; while, on the other hand, it is true, that with the advance of historical and critical knowledge, and by means of controversies, the Christian church is constantly making progress in the accurate interpretation of Scripture, and in the comprehension in its integrity of the system therein taught.
Protestants affirm and Romanists deny that private and unlearned Christians may safely be allowed to interpret Scripture for themselves.
11. How can the perspicuity of scripture be proved from the fact that it is a law and a message?
We saw (question #8) that Scripture is either complete or false, from its own professed design. We now prove its perspicuity upon the same principle. It professes to be (1) a law to be obeyed; (2) a revelation of truth to be believed, to be received by us in both aspects upon the penalty of eternal death. To suppose it not to be perspicuous, relatively to its design of commanding and teaching is to charge God with clearing with us in a spirit at once disingenuous and cruel.
12. In what passages is their perspicuity asserted?
13. By what other arguments may this point be established?
1st. The Scriptures are addressed immediately, either to all men indiscriminately, or else to the whole body of believers as such.—Deut. 6:4-9; Luke 1:3; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 4:2; Gal. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 2:12,14; Jude 1:1; Rev. 1:3,4; 2:7. The only exceptions are the epistles to Timothy and Titus.
2nd. All Christians indiscriminately are commanded to search the Scriptures.—2 Tim. 3:15,17; Acts 17:11; John 5:39.
3rd. Universal experience. We have the same evidence of the light-giving power of Scripture that we have of the same property in the sun. The argument to the contrary, is an insult to the understanding of the whole world of Bible readers.
4th. The essential unity in faith and practice, in spite of all circumstantial differences, of all Christian communities of every age and nation, who draw their religion directly from the open Scriptures.