The lack of clarity of the scriptures is a stumbling block to many, both believers and unbelievers alike. A few years back, I summarized the great theologian John Owen on this topic, but want to revisit this. Possible reasons for the lack of clarity in the scriptures may include:

1. The limits of human intelligence

We want it both simple and complex (which it is), but we get frustrated when it is complex. Truth is, some things we may never understand. 1

2. The scriptures are not an end in themselves

They are not meant as an end in themselves, but a means to an end – that is, a sign pointing to God, not God himself. Spiritual things are not just comprehended, but experienced.

3. Truth as Paradox

Spiritual things are often found in paradoxical pairs and so seem confusing or contradictory. Things that coexist in some strange tension include grace and truth, or love and justice, or predestination and free will.

4. Human are not spiritually minded

Often, we expect the world to conform to our ideas, and they don’t. Doubly so with spiritual things, as Paul wrote:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:15

Such ideas as substitutionary death, or salivation by grace through faith alone are counter to the way many think.

5. God hides things from the proud

One of the most interesting, if not frightening things Jesus said was this:

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” ~ Mark 4:10-13

So in part, some of the obscurity of scripture is to reveal the heart of those seeking – are they really looking for truth, or to blame God?

6. I don’t know

This method of self-revelation is problematic to all of us. The question is, does that invalidate it, or should we accept it and assume we can’t know better? Your call.


  1. The Two Great Mysteries of the Bible (