Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Public and private revelation

One of the dividing lines between cessationism and continuationism is the distinction between public and private revelation. However, I don't find standard definitions of these terms in Protestant theology, so I'll take a stab at providing my own definition:

Public revelation: 

i) Directives to and for the church, the Jews, or humanity in general. 

ii) Revelation that obligates second parties to believe and act accordingly.

Private revelation:

i) Directives to and for particular individuals. Topical, one-time guidance, for a particular date at a particular place. 

ii) Not obligatory for second parties. 

In some cases, a private revelation might be veridical for the recipient or even some second parties. Suppose the recipient has a premonition that comes true. Suppose he shared his premonition with some friends or family before it happened. In that case they'd have evidence it was true. That would make it convincing or highly credible.

But in other cases they just have his word for it. There's no corroborative evidence. A second party didn't have his purported experience. It can't be verified, so there's no compelling reason to believe it. Mind you, if this comes from a trusted individual, they might believe him. 

By contrast, public revelation is obligatory for all concerned parties. In some cases there's corroborative evidence, viz. miracles, fulfilled prophecy. 

In a roundabout sense, private revelations become public revelations when recorded in Scripture, for the benefit of posterity. But there's still a difference inasmuch as posterity is not to emulate these directives–unlike the original recipients. 

Although the Bible is public revelation, containing many examples of public revelation, the Bible contains many examples of private revelation as well. For instance:

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife” (Gen 20:3).

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (Gen 37:9).

9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes (Gen 40:9-10).

2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” (1 Kgs 17:2-4).

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (1 Kgs 17:8-9).

“And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. 2 And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. 3 And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel.

4 “Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment[a] of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. 5 For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel (Ezk 4:1-5).

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1).

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law (Lk 2:25-27).

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place (Acts 8:26).

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight” (Acts 9:10-12).

3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea” (Acts 10:3-6). 

19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them” (Acts 10:19-20).

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:19).

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