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Religion, Reason and Revelation. Philosophy Paper, Topic 5 Revision Summary. What is Revelation?. A way of knowing God ‘Unveiling something that was previously hidden’ God takes the initiative in making Himself known to us through revelation

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religion reason and revelation

Religion, Reason and Revelation

Philosophy Paper, Topic 5

Revision Summary

what is revelation
What is Revelation?
  • A way of knowing God
  • ‘Unveiling something that was previously hidden’
  • God takes the initiative in making Himself known to us through revelation
  • Human beings are ‘finite’ (limited) and God is infinite. It would be difficult for us to know God if he did not reveal Himself to us.
types of revelation
Types of revelation
  • General/Natural Revelation

Available to everyone. God is often revealed to us through nature. Christians believe that God reveals himself through the world he has created. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms, Old Testament, Bible). Some Philosophers have agreed – William Paley saw evidence of ‘design’ in the world around us as evidence of the existence of God – this is called the ‘design argument’.

  • Special Revelation

God reveals himself directly to special people on special occasions. This might include the prophets from the Bible (e.g. Moses). Many Christians take the Bible itself as a special revelation. The lives of great Christians and the teachings of the Church are often seen as special revelation. Many people claim to have experienced a ‘special revelation’ – hearing and seeing things tat others did not. These experiences often encourage them in their religious lives and can happen during prayer and meditation, whilst reading the Bible, on pilgrimage or sometimes completely unexpectedly during ordinary activities.

religious and mystical experience
Religious and Mystical Experience
  • Christians believe that religious and mystical experience can help them to know God and receive guidance.
  • Conversion – many people become believers through religious and mystical experience. The experience of Saul (later St Paul) on the road to Damascus is a famous example of this. Some Christians view conversion as almost as important as baptism.
  • Charismatic worship – some Christians experience being touched by the Holy Spirit. This can result in ‘speaking in tongues’ (glossolalia), having visions and behaving in an uninhibited way (dancing, clapping, waving hands in the air). Christians link this to what happened to Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost.
  • Prayer and meditation – Other Christians feel closest to God during quiet, reflective moments. Quakers worship in silence. Eastern Orthodox Christians use the ‘Jesus Prayer’ (‘Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me’ repeated internally) as a kind of meditation. There is a long tradition in Christianity of seeking solitude and meditating on the words of the Bible, seeking God in this way. This was one of the roles of monasteries and the monks who dwell within. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalms, Old Testament)
revelation through the person of jesus
Revelation through the person of Jesus
  • Many Christians regard the life and message of Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God
  • Christians believe that God became a person in the form of Jesus (this is called the Incarnation) and entered into a closer relationship with us
  • Christians believe that the life of Jesus reveals God’s nature (what he is like). This focusses on love and forgiveness
  • The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) are the part of the Bible that describe Jesus’ life in detail
  • Christians believe that Jesus’ death was an atonement for human sin, allowing God to forgive humanity for the things it has done wrong.
  • Jesus is referred to as ‘the Saviour’ as Christians believe he saves people from the consequences of their own sins and evil acts
revelation through the bible
Revelation Through The Bible
  • Christians believe that the Bible is a revelation of God to humanity
  • There are differing understandings of the Bible amongst Christians.
  • Some Christians believe that the Bible should be taken literally, others believe it should be interpreted with care and skill.
  • The Bible is important to all Christians
  • It is used in public ceremonies and private worship
  • It is used for guidance in decision making, to help with ethical problems and provide answers to important human questions
  • It is a collection of separate books, written by different authors, in different places, at different times, for different purposes, to different audiences
  • The Bible contains Law; History; Prophecy; Poetry; Letters amongst other types of writing
  • The Bible is divided into the Old Testament, which is essentially the same as the Jewish scriptures (Jesus was Jewish) and the New Testament (which is the writings of the early Christians, including the four Gospels about the life of Jesus)
authority and interpretation of the bible
Authority and Interpretation of The Bible
  • Catholic

The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the books of Bible. It also inspires the Church in its role of interpreting the Bible to its followers. The teaching of the Church is important to Catholics in understanding how they should interpret the Bible.

  • Literalist

As the name implies, Literalists believe that the Bible contains unquestionable truth and is an accurate record of historical events. This can cause conflict with the modern world and the findings of science in particular. The Bible should be followed as it is a direct revelation from God. If this brings Christians into conflict with the modern world, it is the modern world that is at fault. This approach is more characteristic of Protestant Christians, especially Evangelical Christians.

authority and interpretation of the bible1
Authority and Interpretation of The Bible
  • Liberal

The writings of the Bible need interpreting in the light of individual situations. The Bible contains principles that should be applied to the modern world, rather than unbreakable rules that can never be changed. Attitudes to homosexuality are an example of where Liberal Christians might put the general principle of ‘Love’ above the apparent ruling against homosexuality found in Leviticus in the Old Testament of the Bible.

  • Conservative

Bible authors were inspired by God, and the Bible should continue to play an important role in human affairs. There is a possibility of human error in the Bible. Generally view the Bible as an accurate record and unwilling to interpret it in to ‘liberal’ a fashion or change it in any way. A popular position in the Protestant Christian world.

significance of the bible
Significance of the Bible
  • Secular views

Secular = non-religious. Secular people (such as atheists or agnostics) might regard the stories of the Bible as ‘made up’. They might regard the Bible as applying to a particular society in the past, but not necessarily being relevant to ours. Many secular people might see the morals of the Bible as being useful and positive, but at the same time reject its historical accuracy and the supernatural beliefs found in the Bible.

  • For Christians
  • The most important and holy book
  • A guide for life
  • Often read every day
  • A revelation of God