“Clear Texts Should be Used to Interpret the Unclear Ones” is Unhelpful Advice

A phrase I have heard several times by people who “know the Bible,” is that to find out what the Bible means we need to, and I quote, “use the clear texts to interpret the unclear ones.”

This is a fine sounding statement, and no doubt, is used just fine by many people who are clear on things.

However, if you’ve spent any time with Christians, and God help you if you have, you will know that finding any passage of Scripture that is clear to every one in the room is pretty tough.

One of the best ways to interpret Scripture is to know the Scripture and let the Scripture interpret the Scripture. That is a basic rule.

However, I think problems arise when we have “clear” and “unclear” passages neatly labeled. Romans 7 is a classic example. I have met many people who are totally clear on this chapter, and others who find it mind-boggling.

Your understanding of God plays into your understanding of Scripture. If you have a bad understanding of who God is, this will affect your interpretations of Scriptures.

Sure, you may feel you are clear on a specific passage, but if you’re wrong on that passage, it doesn’t matter who clear you think you are!

I’m probably not explaining myself well on this.

I’m not being clear, perhaps.

One problems is that we stick with the verses that are clear to us, and, unfortunately, just chuck the tough passages. We don’t let the “unclear” interpret the “clear,” which I think is just as important!

When Romans 3 says “There is none who seeketh after God,” that passage is crystal clear to many people. But when Paul says in Acts 17, “they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” That passage is crystal clear to another group of people.

Now, if you think Romans 3 is the clear passage, then no one can seek God. If you think Acts 17 is the clear passage, then you think it’s pretty easy for anyone to seek God.

Therefore, using the “clear” to interpret the “unclear” is decidedly unhelpful. Let’s let us use both and deal with the consequences.

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