The Parables of Jesus & a Theology of Scripture

In McGowan’s recent book on the nature of Scripture he attempts to redefine the concept of the “perspicuity” of Scripture.  He argues that we should alter our vocabulary to comprehension as opposed to perspicuity.  This is b/c McGowan believes that perspicuity “can be understood to imply an access to the Scriptures that is entirely human and natural (46-7).”

McGowan seeks to prevent detaching Scripture from the doctrine of God, saying that “understanding the things of God is a God-given ability and not a natural human ability (47).”  In support of this he appeals to Mt 13:11-13, where Jesus speaks of the incomprehensibility of his parables.  McGowan argues that despite attempts to twist the text to say that Jesus’ parables are capable of being grasped, the text is clear: they are not.  Thus, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us understand Scripture.

Now, with the disclaimer that this is only a small snippet of a larger argument McGowan is making, I am curious as to what others make of this use of Matthew 13 in developing a theology of scripture.  While I appreciate McGowan’s stated goal of relocating Scripture within the doctrine of God, I am troubled by this move because within the larger narrative of the Gospels who Jesus is and what he came to do is very revealed.  I think McGowan has misused this text due to not appreciating the Gospel’s genre.  This is not to say his affinity with Calvin’s concept of illumination has no merit, but that I find his use of this text unhelpful.  For my money, John 5 would have been much more compelling.


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