Doctrinal Statement: Revelation

My first doctrinal statement looks at the question of where and how God speaks. These are works in progress, but this is what I have thus far.

We know God as YHWH because he has chosen to reveal himself. Revelation is both possible and necessary because God created humans in his image (Gen. 1:26-27) and to live in relationship with him (Gen. 2:16). God did not stop speaking when man violated his trust (Gen. 3:9) but told the story of Messiah (Gen. 3:15).

 

 

General Revelation

This Revelation is General in that it is communicated to all people at all times (Ps. 19:4; Rom. 1:20). The means God used to speak to all people everywhere are creation (Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1) and conscience (Rom. 1:32, 2:14-15).  In creation, God makes plain (Rom. 1:19) his glory and creativity (Ps. 19:1), his power and divinity (Rom. 1:20), and his goodness and kindness (Rom. 2:4; Acts 14:17). In conscience, God reveals his righteous standard and his justice towards the breaking of that standard (Rom. 2:14-15). God purposed that humans would seek him (Acts 17:27) as he made himself known to them in these varied ways, but most, though coming to real knowledge of God (Rom. 1:21) suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18) and reject him and are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Others are led towards repentance by God’s kindness (Rom.2:4; Acts 1:8).

Special Revelation

This Revelation is Special in that it is communicated to certain people at certain times. God’s purpose was to restore fellowship between humans and himself by revealing more fully his nature and plan. God spoke directly (Gen. 12:1-3), through angels (Matt. 1:20-21), through prophets, visions and dreams (Isa. 6:1-10; Gen. 37:5-7), and through the words and works of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14, 13:49), as recorded in the Bible.

 

 

The Bible

God’s words and works in history are recorded in the Bible, made up of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, which claim to be from God (Deut. 18:17-18;1 Cor. 15:37), tell the same story (Lk. 24:25-27), and are recognized as Scripture by Jesus (Matt. 5:17-19), the apostles (2 Pet. 3:16) and the Church through the ages.

The Scriptures have their origin in the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21) whose work is confluent with the diverse human authors so that every word of Scripture (Gal. 3:16; Jn. 10:34-35), its entirety and its parts (2 Tim. 3:16), is God-breathed (inspired) and communicates truth about God while maintaining the individual characteristics, cultures, and languages of the human authors.

The Bible, as originally written, is inerrant (Ps. 19:7, Jn. 10:35), meaning that what the Holy Spirit intended to communicate is in every way trustworthy and true, when properly understood. As God’s true word to us today, the Bible is our supreme authority (Acts 4:18-20, 17:11) is sufficient for salvation and relationship with God (2 Tim. 3:15-17), and its central message is clear and simple for all to understand (Deut. 30:11-14, Ps. 19:7-8).

Our understanding and acceptance of the Bible’s teaching as revelation is made possible by the illumination of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26; 1 Jn. 2:27), through a consistent commitment to seeking authorial intent, accounting for genre, grammar, cultural, historical and literary context, and letting scripture interpret scripture.

 

Your thoughts on Revelation, or on what I’ve written?

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9 thoughts on “Doctrinal Statement: Revelation

  1. Luke: Of course, I take issue with the word “inerrancy”, because I think it demands more from the ontology of Scripture than Scripture prescribes for itself.

    Likewise, there are some “Protestantisms” than I don’t find logical. For instance, as the “supreme authority” this seems to ignore the dynamic relationship Scripture has with (1) tradition and (2) the interpreter. I have not found a conservative Protestant who is OK with Sola scriptura when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity. We find the roots of the doctrine in Scripture, but the doctrine itself is established by creedal formulations. Therefore, the ‘Rule of Faith’ is at least as important as an interpretive guide to Scripture as Scripture itself.

    If Scripture is “sufficient” what are we to do with the electing purposes of God and the work of the Spirit. Why does not everyone who reads Scripture come to faith? Also, if the message of Scripture (as a canon) is clear and understandable why can’t Christians agree on it? I think it is about God becoming King of Heaven and Earth through Jesus Christ and that all other details fall underneath this broad motif, but how many people would agree? How many Evangelicals would agree?

    You get the basic idea. As an evangelical I hold a high view of Scripture as authoritative script, but I fear many evangelicals hold a view of Scripture that make it essentially Docetic. We cannot ignore the human element of Divine communication through the Word of God.

    • For now we’ll just have to disagree about inerrancy, but I certainly share your frustration with the way the term is often used, as in the Mike Licona situation.

      That’s why I went with suprema instead of sola.

      Perhaps sufficiency is a term that needs to be more clearly defined. I’ve always thought of it as “able to accomplish” not “will accomplish”. Therefore, not everyone who reads scripture comes to faith, but the truth is available. I also don’t see sufficiency as limiting God to only one way of speaking, and don’t think it contradicts elective purposes or the work of the Spirit in any way. Obviously God continues to communicate through General Revelation, despite giving us Scripture.

      Clarity is an interesting one. I totally agree that not everyone sees an identical central message, which I’ve said is “clear and simple for all to understand.” I’ll have to think of a better way to frame that. At the same time, even if not all Christians have identical theme statements for Scripture, there is a sense in which we have all gotten to the same place of trusting in Jesus Christ and following him. I also wonder if your argument says more about our humanity and imperfection in interpretation, and less about Scripture being unclear.

      There is certainly a balance to be struck, and I appreciate you pointing out some of the potential blind spots in my protestantisms.

      By the way, does it make me Docetic if I believe that Jesus didn’t sin? 🙂

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  5. @Luke:

    Supreme is much better than only, though I wonder if the ‘Rule of Faith’ (loosely defined) controls our approach to doctrine as much as Scripture. For instance, let me return to the doctrine of the Trinity where Scripture provides us with authority for the doctrine by giving us the concepts from which the doctrine is derived though it doesn’t spell out the doctrine anywhere. As various heresies arose, often using Scripture, it wasn’t merely that someone could show they had biblical support for their view that allowed them to be considered orthodox, but the traditional interpretation of the proto-orthodox claimed to be reading Scripture as it had been understood by the church since the beginning (whether or not this claim is accurate can be debated, but it was one used in casting aside Sabellians, Arians, Nestorians, etc). So I think it is co-supreme with the hermeneutical safeguards of minimal, creedal doctrine (therefore it is supreme, but not alone).

    Your clarification of “sufficiency” makes sense though I think a dose of Pneumatology is essential when making any such claim.

    • It’s certainly true that we cannot (entirely) divorce Scripture from our hermeneutical approach to it. One of the most utterly frustrating moments in my life was being told by someone that I wasn’t arguing with them, but with the Bible!

      I wonder about the appeal to traditional interpretation, and if it was an appeal to the authority of those who had gone before, or if it was an appeal to “accurately interpreted Scripture”, at least in the minds of those who made the appeal. Kind of a chicken or egg question, and which came first…

      Perhaps I assumed too much in not clarifying the necessity of the Spirit’s work through Scripture.

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