Turretin on the Clarity of the Scriptures

One of the big issues plaguing the church is the failure to believe the Scriptures are sufficient and clear. Almost any debate today from evolution, to women’s roles, to sodomy, to Protestants jumping to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism are at least in part arguments about Scripture’s sufficiency (evolution) and/or Scripture’s clarity (Roman Catholicism).  So in the spirit of keeping the debate going here are some of Francis Turretin’s questions and answers under his Second Topic: The Holy Scriptures. The way Turretin has set up his Elentic Theology is that he asks a question then gives a quick answer to the question. That is then followed by several paragraphs defending and proving his answer.  Obviously, I have not included his defense of his answer in this blog post. There are 21 total questions on this topic. I have only included the ones that I thought were most pertinent to the clarity of the Scriptures.

Turretin’s Questions

Are the Holy Scriptures truly authentic and divine? We affirm.

Do real contradictions occur in Scripture? Or are there any inexplicable passages which cannot be explained and made to harmonize? We deny. [Turretin spends several pages addressing various apparent contradictions.]

From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures become known to us? Does it depend upon the testimony of the church as to itself or as to us? We deny against the papists.

Have the original texts of the Old and New Testaments come down to us pure and uncorrupted? We affirm against the papists. [How many Christians would deny this today?]

Are the Hebrew version of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New the only authentic versions? We affirm against the papists.

Do the Scriptures so perfectly contain all things necessary to salvation that there is no need of unwritten traditions after it? We affirm against the papists. 

Are the Scriptures so perspicuous in things necessary to salvation that they can be understood by believers without the external help of oral tradition or ecclesiastical authority? We affirm against the papists. 

Can the Scriptures be profitably read by any believer, and ought he to read them without permission? We affirm against the papists. 

Whether the Scriptures are the supreme and infallible judge of controversies and the interpreter of the Scriptures. Or whether the church of the Roman Pontiff is. We affirm the former and deny the latter against the papists. 

Are the writings of the fathers the rule of truth in doctrines of faith and in the interpretation of the Scriptures? We deny against the papists. 

First, there is a lot of similarity between Roman Catholics (papists) and Pentecostals when it comes to the Bible. Both believe that you need something besides the Scriptures, tradition or special revelation, to help you know and obey God. For that matter, many Evangelicals do as well. Therefore the sufficiency of Scripture must be fought for on two fronts.

Second,  clarity on matters related to salvation is both implicitly and explicitly taught in Scriptures. Without this we are left with only a human authority to guide into truth and no way to check that human authority.

Third, reading this section in Turretin I realized that most questions have been asked and answered before. For example, Turretin address textual criticism, why we need various versions of the Bible, why pastors need to appeal to the original languages, the role the Septuagint, etc. Turretin is not the last word on these things. He is wrong in some areas. But too often we assume when we hear a question for the first that it is the first time it has been asked and answered

Finally, what I love here is that Turretin believes the Word is powerful, sufficient, and clear. It is all we need. He is not opposed to preachers, the ministry, reading the church fathers, or the creeds, but none of these are God’s Word. God’s Word must be held out above all in both theory and practice.