The bible message, especially the essentials of the faith, is understandable by common men using their normal means of understanding terms. It's normal for words to have more than one meaning and to use context to define terms. Granted, the bible contains many mysteries but the mode of communicating the mysteries is plain so we can know what we are supposed to know. For example, we know the incarnation is true, but we don't know how it's true. Also, the bible contains things that are "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16), but they are still understandable for common people, using normal means - including comparing scripture with scripture. I had thought Paul and I had common ground on this view; but perhaps I am mistaken.
On the issue of the clarity of scriptures, I am with Hodge and other mainline Protestants.
Here's what Charles Hodge had to say on the topic:
The Bible is a plain book. It is intelligible by the people. And they have the right, and are bound to read and interpret it for themselves; so that their faith may rest on the testimony of the Scriptures, and not on that of the Church. Such is the doctrine of Protestants on this subject. It is not denied that the Scriptures contain many things hard to be understood; that they require diligent study; that all men need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to right knowledge and true faith. But it is maintained that in all things necessary to salvation they are sufficiently plain to be understood even by the unlearned....
The Scriptures are everywhere addressed to the people, and not to the officers of the Church either exclusively, or specially. The prophets were sent to the people, and constantly said, “Hear, O Israel,” “Hearken, O ye people.” Thus, also, the discourses of Christ were addressed to the people, and the people heard him gladly. All the Epistles of the New Testament are addressed to the congregation, to the “called of Jesus Christ;” “to the beloved of God;” to those “called to be saints;” “to the sanctified in Christ Jesus;” “to all who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord;” “to the saints which are in (Ephesus), and to the faithful in Jesus Christ;” or “to the saints and faithful brethren which are in (Colosse);” and so in every instance. It is the people who are addressed. To them are directed these profound discussions of Christian doctrine, and these comprehensive expositions of Christian duty. They are
everywhere assumed to be competent to understand what is written, and are
everywhere required to believe and obey what thus came from the inspired messengers of Christ.
The Scriptures are not only addressed to the people, but the people were called upon to study them, and to teach them unto their children. It was one of the most frequently recurring injunctions to parents under the old dispensation, to teach the Law unto their children, that they again might teach it unto theirs. The “holy oracles” were committed to the people, to be taught by the people; and taught immediately out of the Scriptures, that the truth might be retained in its purity. (link)
Opposing this leaves Paul two unattractive options: 1) give Fisher the fisherman's ring or 2) play the role of the sceptic and deny the scripture speaks plainly on this specific issue. Paul takes a step down the second path by citing Goetz.
“I can’t speak for Charles, but I would not base my belief in libertarianism on passages in the Bible. And I wouldn’t argue against your Calvinism from biblical texts. I believe that the Bible doesn’t teach anything about the issue of free will. It wasn’t written for that purpose, just as it wasn’t written for the purpose of teaching us whether or not we have souls. In short, I believe the Bible is not a philosophical text written to teach philosophy. It doesn’t fail to teach Calvinism because it teaches libertarianism. It simply doesn’t teach anything about the matter of free will.”
The bible doesn't teach us we have souls? The bible shouldn't be used to argue against (and presumably for) Calvinism? Determinism and Calvinism are inseparable. Take irresistible grace: grace is the effectual cause of conversion, such that you cannot do otherwise than convert. That's determinism and necessity. If we can't turn to the bible to answer questions like this, just where does Goetz want us to turn? Him? Is he really tell us to develop our philosophy apart from scripture and then read it into scripture? His whole idea of the role of philosophy is radically different than mine. For me, philosophies' primary role is to help reconcile apparent discrepancies in scripture.
That sound you hear is coming from Geneva, as Calvin is trying to get out of his grave and pimp smack Paul for even quoting something like this. Hopefully Paul disagrees with Goetz and would not attack scripture itself to avoid the force of the argument. I don't know how sola scriptura could be defended without sharing my view here.
Paul asks: what if the “common man” is wrong; does that make the scripture wrong as well? Then God would either not use the term choose or deny the term or explain what He means by it. Take for example the word ‘Baal’. What Baal's followers meant by Baal and what God meant by Baal was different; and God made that sufficiently plain.
Paul asks: what is the referent of “common man?” It appears to function as a static assortment of people. … I dare say that how a “common man” in a stoic society defined terms would not be the same as how a “common man” in an Epicurean society defined terms.
For my purpose, 'common man' is in terms of a whole assembly. The bible was frequently addressed to all of Israel, all of the church.... and that for over a thousand years. Of course, at one point in time, the groups are static, but over time changing is the norm, so common men are changers.
Incidentally, not all stoics were fatalists; Cicero being a notable example. (link) But let’s say stoics did have a different definition of choose. Probably a stoic dictionary would be different, based on the different usage. This does seem problematic, but the early church understood choice in a way that undermined stoic fatalism. So while such a problem could have occurred, it did not.
Let's look at how Justin Martyr refutes fatalism:
And the holy Spirit of prophecy taught us this, telling us by Moses that God spoke thus to the man first created: “Behold, before thy face are good and evil: choose the good.” And again, by the other prophet Isaiah, that the following utterance was made as if from God the Father and Lord of all: “Wash you, make you clean; put away evils from your souls; learn to do well; judge the orphan, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord: And if your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool; and if they be red like as crimson, I will make them white as snow. And if ye be willing and obey Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye do not obey Me, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”And that expression, “The sword shall devour you,” does not mean that the disobedient shall be slain by the sword, but the sword of God is fire, of which they who choose to do wickedly become the fuel. Wherefore He says, “The sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And if He had spoken concerning a sword that cuts and at once despatches, He would not have said, shall devour. And so, too, Plato, when he says, “The blame is his who chooses, and God is blameless,” took this from the prophet Moses and uttered it. For Moses is more ancient than all the Greek writers. And whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men; but they are charged with not accurately understanding [the truth] when they assert contradictories. So that what we say about future events being foretold, we do not say it as if they came about by a fatal necessity; but God foreknowing all that shall be done by all men, and it being His decree that the future actions of men shall all be recompensed according to their several value, He foretells by the Spirit of prophecy that He will bestow meet rewards according to the merit of the actions done, always urging the human race to effort and recollection, showing that He cares and provides for men. (link)
Justin turns to scripture first and then to philosophers instructed of scripture. He considers scripture sufficient to put down fatalism. More to the point, his understanding of 'choose' is sufficient to put down fatalism. But Paul's definition of choose reconciles just fine with fatalism. Given the differences in methodologies here, it's no wonder the conclusions are radically different.