In Martin Luther’s introduction to his classic work On The Bondage of the Will (Cole ed., Baker reprint, 1976) he gives some fundamental principles for refuting Erasmus’ Diatribe (in which the latter defends free will). His starting point is the authority of the Bible as God’s Word.
Another of those principles is the clarity of holy Scripture. Erasmus (following the medieval sophists of his day) claimed that the Bible was so unclear that Christians could not make definite assertions about doctrine (such as free will and man’s total depravity). Luther demolishes this argument on the basis of the perspicuity (clearness) of Scripture.
One of his classic statements is found in this “Introduction”:
The Holy Spirit is not a Sceptic, nor are what He has written on our hearts doubts or opinions, but assertions more certain, and more firm, than life itself and all human experience. (p.24)
But later he also has this to say:
But, that there are in the Scriptures some things abstruse, and that all things are not quite plain, is a report spread abroad by the impious Sophists; by whose mouth you speak, Erasmus. But they never have produced, nor ever can produce, one article whereby to prove this their madness. And it is with such scare-crows that Satan has frightened away men from reading the Sacred Writings, and has rendered the Holy Scripture contemptible, that he might cause his poisons of philosophy to prevail in the church.
This indeed I confess, that there are many places in the Scriptures obscure and abstruse; not from the majesty of the things, but from our ignorance of certain terms and grammatical particulars; but which do not prevent a knowledge of all the things in the Scriptures. For what thing of more importance can remain hidden in the Scriptures, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled from the door of the sepulchre, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light, Christ made man: that God is Trinity and Unity: that Christ suffered for us, and will reign to all eternity?
Are not these things known and proclaimed even in our streets? Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them? (pp.25-26)
As children of the Reformation. are we certain about this clarity of the Bible? And if we are, do we embrace wholeheartedly the truth (assertions) contained in them? Do we hear, see, and believe (receive) the Christ revealed in them?
As we worship our God today and hear His Word read and sung and preached, let us be true Protestants and bow before the pure, clear revelation of our God in His Savior-Son.