One view is that a significant number of theological issues re Christianity are debated because they are debatable. So, this view says, a relevant text might admit of multiple plausible interpretations, or weighing different texts against each other can lead to different plausible conclusions, and so on.

Is there a term for a theological principle that if the New Testament texts appear to be unclear about something, therefore that point is not important for salvation?

Note: this isn't a question about whether the relevant texts in fact are unclear, whether multiple interpretations are equally valid, and so on. It's a question about whether there's a term for this sort of theological principle.

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    I'm not sure there is a term specifically for that idea, but it aligns with Article 6 of the 39 Articles (of Anglicanism): "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation..." Feb 22, 2021 at 22:12

1 Answer 1


It's a corollary of the Protestant doctrine of the clarity or perspicuity of scripture, that the essentials of faith are explained in the scriptures so clearly that anyone can understand them. As the Westminster Confession says

WCF 1.7: All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in someplace of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

Now something in the scriptures may not be necessary for salvation, but that's not the same as saying that it's unimportant. The previous paragraph of the WCF helps us honour the whole of the Bible through its phrase "the whole counsel of God":

WCF 1.6: The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. ...

So many things which are important for God's glory and for mankind's faith and life are taught in the scriptures but not necessarily with the same clarity as the core principles of salvation.

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    Your answer seems to represent only the Reformed tradition. As for terminology, would you be interested to update the answer with comparison to adiaphora as defined by Lutherans or gotquestions.org (probably representing evangelicals)? Comparison with Catholics's use of the terms theologoumenon vs. de fide would probably be useful as well. Feb 22, 2021 at 23:32
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    @GratefulDisciple The doctrine of clarity of scripture is upheld by all Protestants (except maybe some on the liberal side), I just like the WCF's definition. I hadn't come across the term adiaphora before, so thanks for the links. And I didn't think it too relevant to bring in Catholicism because they reject the doctrine of the clarity of scripture - something can be unclear in scripture but still an essential dogma if so determined by the church magisterium.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 22, 2021 at 23:59
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    After reading some more, I think it's better to leave the answer as it is since the OP starting point is New Testament. The starting point of adiaphora is church practice, and the starting point of de fide vs. theologoumenon is theological position; both are about filtering tradition rather than scripture. Feb 23, 2021 at 0:40

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