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Nine Reasons Why Sacred Scripture is so Confusing (and Why That is not a Bad Thing)

Note: My main source is William Whitaker's Disputation on Holy Scripture, which can be bought here.


Introduction

Scripture can be confusing. This is a conviction shared by both Protestant and Catholic alike, even the Apostles shared this judgment, St. Peter commenting,

"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."

This fact is often bewildering to many. When they open up their bibles there are obscure references, seeming contradictions, and deep truths that they cannot grasp. So the question arises "Why would God compose such a confusing collection of books?" This can often cause doubt in the mind of an everyday Christian, and lead to the abandonment of the reading of scripture, or even the faith. I will give nine reasons why, rather than this being a reason for doubt, it makes sense why scripture is obscure in many places.

Nine Reasons Why Scripture Seems So Confusing

  1. God wishes us to be constant in prayer. He has placed so many obscure things in scripture that we may seek and rely on His illumination in our interpretation of scripture, and not merely rely on our own strength.

  2. It is meant to excite our diligence in reading. Since it is something that is difficult, it "keeps us on our toes," and pushes us to meditate on, memorize, and study scripture. On the contrary, if it was something that was easy, we would become spiritually lazy and weak.

  3. It grows our interest in scripture. Easy things become boring to us, and cause us to lose interest. On the other hand, things that are difficult and require effort interest us and keep our attention.

  4. It causes us to value Christian truth. Those things which are gotten easily have little value to us (for, they can be gotten by anyone and at will). On the other hand, those things achieved with much labor are impressive to us and are thus highly valued. This is why world-class athletes are impressive to us, but some guy who jogs a few miles a week is not.

  5. It humbles us. God wishes to, through the many difficulties in scripture, humble our pride. It causes us to realize our spiritual blindness and ignorance, without the aid and illumination of the Holy Spirit. We often think of ourselves as wise and acute, but the depths of scripture cause us to put our hands over our mouth as Job and say "behold I am vile."

  6. To keep the truth from ungodly men. For, as St. Peter says, "unlearned and unstable wrest [the scriptures]...unto their own destruction." Our Lord says, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Our Lord is guarding us, them, and the truth by keeping it from ungodly men. This practice is confirmed by the early church, for, they used to hide the Lord's Prayer and the Creed from the unbaptized.

  7. To call us away from vain pursuits. Since there are so many obscurities and difficulties to solve, it requires much time to meditate on and solve these difficulties. This takes us away from thinking upon and laboring upon vain activities and causes us to think upon and labor upon heavenly activities.

  8. To accustom us to interior sanctity. To solve the many difficulties which arise in scripture, an interior sanctity is needed. Without these difficulties, there wouldn't be this motivation to pursue interior sanctity, but we would be more complacent to wickedness.

  9. God willed there to be hierarchy. God willed there to be a hierarchy in His church, therefore to preserve this hierarchy, and this division between teacher and student, he willed that there be many obscurities in scripture.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is good reason for the various obscurities and more confusing matters in scripture. This fact should not lead you into sloth or into despair but should motivate a deeper dive into the scriptures. As a concluding remark, I will leave you with a passage from the book of Homilies which summarizes how you ought to read the Sacred Scripture without danger,

"Read scripture humbly with a meek and lowly heart, intending to glorify God and not yourself with your knowledge of it. Scripture must not be read without prayer, asking that he would direct your reading of His word. For, as Saint Augustine says, the knowledge of Holy Scripture is a great, large, and high place, but the door is very low, so that the arrogant man cannot run in, but must become lowly and humble himself to enter in. Arrogance is the mother of all error, but humility ought not to fear error. For humility only seeks to know the truth, and where it cannot find out the truth, it will pray and ask others that do know the truth, not rashly presuming to define what is true as arrogance does. Therefore, the humble man is able to search the scriptures boldly, without any danger of error. If anyone is yet ignorant, he ought to read the Scriptures more and more, searching out the sacred books as a remedy for his ignorance. Do not be content to hear the word of God only on Lord’s Day, but also read it on your own."

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