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Why Isn’t the Bible Clearer?

Jimmy Akin

DAY 329

CHALLENGE

“If God wants us to know him, and if the Bible is his word, why isn’t it clearer?”

DEFENSE

Several answers may be given.

First, much of the Bible is quite clear, including many of its main teachings (e.g., there is one God, who created the world, and who loves man enough to send his Son to die on a cross so we might be saved from our sins). So is the main sequence of events it narrates. For the most part, it tends to be the subsidiary points that are less clear.

Second, the Bible was written in a certain period of time and in a certain culture. It therefore reflects modes of speech and thought then in use. If we lived back then, it would be clearer to us. But we live in a different time and culture, so it is less clear, and we have to work harder to understand it fully. For God to give us the Bible, he had to pick some time and place to deliver it, so it is only natural people from other eras and lands would need to work harder to understand it than the original audience.

Third, the Bible is a rich work of literature. It works on many levels and rewards its readers by the amount of effort they spend on it, like a great novel. If even ordinary human authors produce works of literature that reward multiple and attentive readings, we would expect the same of God, who is communicating multiple aspects of his infinite mystery within the cramped confines of human language.

Fourth, God appears to want to reward those who are willing to wrestle with the meaning of his word. Thus some parts of the Bible are written in a symbolic manner (e.g., prophecies, parables). These only yield their meaning to those willing to devote the thought needed to understand them. This both intrigues us and rewards those willing to undertake the effort. They end up learning its lessons better than if they had been given a simple, straightforward statement.

Fifth, Scripture isn’t meant to be read alone but in the context of Tradition and the teaching of the Magisterium. Even the simplest person willing to rely on these will learn all he needs to go to heaven.

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