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Religion and Revelation. Summary Notes. The word revelation in ordinary English is used to mean the ‘realisation of something which was previously unknown’. In this sense, God. Revelation is communication from God to humans .

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Religion and Revelation

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The word revelation in ordinary English is used to mean the ‘realisation of something which was previously unknown’. In this sense, God.

Revelation is communication from God to humans.

It can be in many forms. In Christianity, examples of revelation are:

Individuals: Jesus, his life and teachings

Scriptures: the Bible

Nature: the world around us and use of reason

Religious faith is accepting these revelations and acting on them

Hugh Mackintosh: “All religious knowledge of God comes by revelation. If this was not the case then we would be committed to the belief that human beings can know God without God ever having revealed Himself.” We wouldn’t know about God if he hadn’t let himself be known – as there are religions, He must be letting himself be known.

general revelation
General Revelation
  • It is possible for anyone to know God through general revelation.
  • This can happen in a number of ways:
    • Reflecting on nature, and drawing conclusions [e.g. the order and beauty must have been designed by a God]
    • Use of our conscience [develops from an early age, and although subject to influences, al humans have a sense of this = must be ‘in-built’]
    • Reflecting on scriptures [the culmination of human reflection on God and what He wants – often believed to be the word of God written down, although most Christians would accept some human interpretation]
    • Reflecting on the lives of importantfigures (e.g. Jesus, Mother Teresa, etc) [people who have acted according to what they believe God wanted, and inspire others to do the same]
special revelation
Special Revelation
  • This refers to individuals having DIRECT experiences of God:
    • Dreams / Miracles / Receiving Messages (e.g. Terma tradition in Tibetan Buddhism) / A Strong Feeling of ‘God’ Linked to an Event
  • Often interpreted as a ‘calling’ from God to ‘do’ something specific (e.g. mission).
  • These experiences are individual, and so open to interpretation
  • Special revelation is not necessary to believe in God.
strengths and weaknesses

Significant experience affects whole life

Different types of revelation ‘add up’ to reinforce belief

Sharing experiences with others also reinforce belief

Often a long tradition of revelation dating back to start of the religion

Christianity is a religion of revelation


God is outwith our realm of senses, and as such cannot be ‘known’

Because God is separate, different, and ultimate, humans can never understand God

Ideas of God through revelation are only human descriptions = insufficient

Ideas of God through revelation are interpreted = our ideas of God = inaccurate

Strengths and Weaknesses