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Revelation. LO: I will know about the concept of revelation through sacred writings and how this might affect our ideas about God. Revelation: Key words. Revelation: the act of God revealing himself or knowledge about himself and his will to human beings. General revelation:

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revelation

Revelation

LO: I will know about the concept of revelation through sacred writings and how this might affect our ideas about God.

revelation key words
Revelation: Key words
  • Revelation:
    • the act of God revealing himself or knowledge about himself and his will to human beings.
  • General revelation:
    • revelation of God available to all people at all times.
  • Special revelation:
    • revelation of God to specific people at specific times.
  • Propositional revelation:
    • the idea that the process of revelation involves God revealing truths about his nature
  • Non-propositional revelation:
    • the idea that God does not reveal facts or information during the process of revelation. God makes himself known in ordinary human experience.
  • Natural Theology:
    • the process of learning about God from the natural world by using reason.
  • Divine inspiration:
    • Refers to the belief among Christians that God inspired the writers of the books of the Bible.
  • Verbal inspiration:
    • Refers to the divine origins or authorship of every word in the Bible. According to this view God effectively dictates the books of the Bible.
  • Infallible:
    • Used by religious believers to indicate that a teaching does not contain any error or possibility of error in matters of faith and practice.
  • Inerrant:
    • Used by religious believers to indicate that a teaching does not contain any error or possibility of error, even scientifically/historically.
revelation the disclosure from the divine of something previously hidden
Revelation ‘The disclosure from the divine of something previously hidden.’

Natural Theology/General RevelationWhat information is available about God to all people all times? What is the role of reason and philosophy?

Revealed Theology/Special RevelationWhat is revealed about God to certain people at certain times and places?

the difference between general and special revelation
The difference between General and Special revelation
  • Watch the following clip from American pastor John Piper, and listen to what he says about general and special revelation. What is the difference? What issue does he refer to when trying to understand revelation?
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zAJX_xGw2A
slide5

What is the nature of God’s revelation?

Propositional

Non-Propositional

What is the method of God’s revelation?

Creation

Conscience

Religious Experience

Scripture

Miracle

activity discussing revelation
Activity - Discussing revelation
  • Bill: I seem to remember that you weren’t too impressed with the arguments for the existence of God; but aren’t you a Christian?
  • Ted: I am a Christian but I don’t think you can prove God’s existence through logic and reason. For me, it’s about accepting the revelation God gave in the Bible.
  • Bill: What do you mean by revelation?
  • Ted: Revelation is the communication of God to human beings. Human beings are not capable of working out and understanding God. God has to tell us the things he wants us to know.
  • Bill: I see. As a Muslim I believe that the Qur’an was supernaturally revealed to the prophet Muhammad, PBUH. I think I share your view that arguments cannot prove God’s existence.
r e v e l a t i o n
R e v e l a t i o n
  • Revelation may be defined as communication of knowledge to man by a divine or supernatural agency. In monotheistic religions, revelation is the process in which God makes himself, his will, and/or other information known to humankind.
  • This topic will look specifically at some of the issues relating to revelation in the Bible, and will discuss what, if anything, is unusual or unique about revelation of God via scripture.
activity
Activity
  • ‘all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living.’

2 Timothy 3:16

  • Look at the quotation above. What are the difficulties of saying that ‘all Scripture’ is inspired by God?
general revelation sherlock holmes and revelation
General Revelation - Sherlock Holmes and revelation

“He [Sherlock Holmes] walked past the couch to the open window, and held up the drooping stalk of a moss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

‘There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion’, said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. ‘It can be built upon an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. It’s smell, it’s colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras so I say again we have much hope from the flowers.’”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

general revelation
General revelation
  • General revelation is available to all people at all times and in all places. Examples of these types of revelation would include the beauty of creation and the ‘still small voice’ of conscience, which is interpreted as the voice of God.
  • Emil Brunner was one such theologian who proposed that General revelation, through Natural Theology, could be used as an argument for the existence of God.
  • His reply was given by Karl Barth (1886-1968) in a response creatively named Nein! Barth argued that the only way in which people gain true knowledge of God is through revelation, not natural theology.
  • Barth rejected the ideas of thinkers like Aquinas who tried to combine faith with reason, because he thought that their views led away from the truth of the Bible. He rather followed in Kierkegaard’s view, namely that all efforts to discover truth about God apart from God’s revelation to us in Jesus Christ were only likely to lead to error.

Nein!

barth s implications
Barth’s implications…
  • Barth’s thinking has two important implications:
    • Knowledge of God can only be found in Christianity, and other world religions therefore are considered not to have any truth except where they agree with Christian teaching.
    • The Old Testament is open to testing to see how far it meets the revelation of God in Christ. The New Testament is seen as superior in truth to the Old.
  • Barth’s concept of revelation, explained in his enormous work Church Dogmatics, included the following points:
    • God reveals to humans when HE wants not when man wants.
    • Divine revelation is not the same as human insight.
    • Ordinary language is inadequate to convey revelation.
    • Revelation is a personal disclosure of God’s being and nature.
    • Revelation is conveyed through the witness of the Bible.
    • Revelation is only given in Jesus Christ.
slide12
Task
  • Summarise the views of Emil Brunner and Karl Barth.
  • Which do you agree with most and why?
special revelation
Special revelation

Special revelation is defined as God’s revelation of himself to particular persons at definite times and places. It is in this category that the revelation of sacred writings, e.g. the revelation of the Torah to Moses, is logically found.

  • If we assume that the revelation of the Bible is a special revelation, the question remains as to the way in which the scripture was revealed. Was God revealing facts or information (a propositional revelation), or was he merely making himself known during the process or revelation through the experience of Moses and the Israelite people (a non-propositional revelation)?
propositional revelation aquinas
Propositional revelation - Aquinas
  • Traditionally revelation of scripture has been understood in a propositional sense. When God revealed himself to the writers of scripture, he revealed truths or facts about himself. This means that for Aquinas, a supporter of this view, faith can be described as ‘belief that’. In order to accept God’s revelation, we are required to believe that certain propositions are true. For example, in Christianity, the belief that Jesus is God in human form.
propositional revelation in islam
Propositional revelation in Islam
  • Ideas about propositional revelation raise important issues about the status of sacred writings. In Islam, the Holy Qur’an is believed to be a perfect record of the words of Allah, spoken to the prophet Muhammad, who recited them so that they could be written down. Each word of the Qur’an is believed to come directly from Allah; it does not reflect Muhammad’s own personal opinions and concerns, because Muhammad was simply the mouthpiece for the words. He did not have a profound religious experience and then decide afterwards how best to put his new knowledge into words.
  • The implications for Muslims today is that even if they don’t naturally speak Arabic they should learn it because only in it can the Qur’an be properly understood.

Revelation which bypasses the author The Quran is 100% the word of God and 0% the word of man.

non propositional revelation schleiermacher
Non-propositional revelation - Schleiermacher
  • A more modern approach to scripture has been to see the writings as the product of non-propositional revelation. When God is revealed to the writers via religious experiences, facts and truths are not communicated. The experience is ineffable, meaning the experience is beyond what can be described. However, the writers attempt to put their experience into words later by reflecting on it.
  • Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) believed that the biblical texts came about as writers reflected on their religious experiences. For supporters of this view, faith is ‘belief in’. It is not a matter of facts and information, it is more of an attitude of trust and relationship. For example, if you say that you have faith in a friend, you are likely to mean that you trust them, rather than you believe factual information about them.
plenary
Plenary
  • Summarise the views of the following and explain to the person next to you.
    • Emil Brunner
    • Karl Barth
    • Aquinas
    • Schleiermacher

Who is right? Could they all be right or are they all wrong? Reasons please!

the divine inspiration of the bible

The divine inspiration of the Bible

And the implications that the belief in the Bible is divinely inspired and revealed by God.

slide19

Look at the list of books below. Are any of these books particularly special? Should any of these books be described as ‘holy’? If so, what would the word ‘holy’ mean? What makes something ‘holy’?

    • The Bible
    • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
    • The Story of Philosophy by Bryan Magee
    • The Qur’an
    • Noddy and the Treasure Trail
    • Joseph Conrad – Selected Works
    • The Third Twin by Ken Follet
    • The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking
holy scripture
Holy Scripture
  • People speak of ‘holy scripture’ revealing God or containing revelations form God, but what does this mean?
  • In religious tradition, some books, such as the Bible and the Qur’an, are given the title ‘holy’. The word ‘holy’ originally meant ‘separate’ or ‘set apart’ and this is why it came to be associated with God. God is holy and set apart from the world. Hence the link between the Bible and Qur’an with God.
  • Also, for believers these books are set apart as they are considered revelatory – they reveal God to the world.
propositional and non propositional revelation
Propositional and Non-propositional Revelation

Non-propositional Revelation

What is it?

Why is the role of the reader and how the reader interprets so important?

What are some criticisms of non-propositional revelation?

Propositional Revelation

What is it?

What is the role of faith?

What does Aquinas say on the matter?

What are some criticism of propositional revelation?

if the bible and its contents are revealed by god do you have to obey them
If the Bible and its contents are revealed by God, do you have to obey them?
  • The claim that the Bible is a propositional revelation from God means that it contains truths from God. Look up the following passages in the Bible and then answer the questions that follow:
    • Leviticus 19:27-28
    • Leviticus 20:9
    • Deuteronomy 21:18-21
    • Matthew 5:27-30
    • Mark 10:21-22
  • What is each passage about?
  • Do you agree with the teaching in each passage? Give reasons to support your answer.
  • If the Bible is a propositional revelation from God, what do you think is the revelation contained in these passages?
  • Could a person be a Christian who believes that the Bible is inspired and a propositional revelation from God and yet not follow the teaching contained in these passages? What would someone who believes the bible to be non-propositional say?
look back to the key words
Look back to the key words…
  • For a fundamentalist the author’s role is limited to that of a passive recorder of God’s revelation.
  • For other Christians the Bible reveals true propositions about God but the revelations have been recorded by human beings in their own language and in different styles or manners. Therefore this reader has to interpret and understand it in order to know the revelation it contains from God.
  • And yet other Christians, though agreeing that the Bible is divinely inspired, would not accept the idea of it being a propositional revelation but rather as a record of human beings’ experiences of God.
  • Exegesis & Hermeneutics…
albert schweitzer 1875 1965
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
  • The famous biblical interpreter Albert Schweitzer said that if you take a liberal approach to the Bible all you do is read your own meaning into a biblical story.
the authority of the bible
The authority of the Bible
  • The authority of the Bible depends on whether you give it authority. It could be just an interesting historical text or have a say in how you live your life!
  • Maurice Wiles points out that authority may have more than one sense. In a ‘hard’ sense, authority implies something having the status of a law. On the other hand, saying someone is an ‘authority’ on racing cars, for example, is a statement about the way a person speaks on a subject; it does not necessarily imply that the speaker is always correct. This is a ‘soft’ view of authority.
question
Question
  • How does the concept of revelation affect our ideas of God? How does it impact upon what has been learnt so far on Religious Experience?
  • Should Propositional and non-propositional revelation in scripture be viewed as antithetical, or could the two go together?
plenary1
Plenary
  • Summarise the following terms:
    • Propositional Revelation
    • Non-propositional revelation
    • The views of Schweitzer and Wiles