Monday, February 17, 2014

Defining “Divine Revelation” in Roman Catholic and Protestant Polemical Discussions, Part 1

Over at my Reformation500 blog, I’ve been having a slow and informal discussion with Andrew Preslar (in some comments following an article that WSCal Grad Brandon Addison posted there some weeks ago, entitled “Extended Review of Peter Lampe’s “From Paul to Valentinus””).

This morning I posted what I hope to be the beginning of a discussion concerning “what exactly is ‘divine revelation’ in each of the two systems?”. Here’s the link to Part 1:

“Divine Revelation” in Roman Catholic and Protestant Polemical Discussions, Part 1.

Here is a snippet:

I’m not sure what I said that caused you to think I was conflating the two (the deliverances of historical-critical scholarship and divine revelation). I will certainly admit that “historical-critical scholarship” helps us to understand “what the text of the Bible actually says”. But in and of itself, it is not “divine revelation”. It is “what the text of the Bible actually says” that I would say is itself “divine revelation”.

You said “it is misleading to talk about the Church apart from divine revelation”; and maybe that is true, but we have to set definitions. To that end, I would like to think about and define “divine revelation” on its own, and then talk about “divine revelation” as it relates to “the church” (as defined by the Reformed) in comparison with “the Church” (as defined by Lumen Gentium).

You may think the first part of this is a wrong-headed exercise, but not if you consider the larger context (which I will abbreviate here for the sake of discussion). It seem we will agree that “In the beginning, God created …”, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image … male and female …’”, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” … and of course God’s promise in Genesis 3:15, which is recognized as God’s first announcement of the Gospel. Based on the above, I will say that “only the Scriptures are ‘divine revelation’”....

This sets the pattern for “divine revelation”. Yes, God said something to Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, and it is God’s word, and yes, it gets passed down through “tradition”, but it doesn’t get written down until the time of Moses. At the time Moses writes the Pentateuch, it may have been “tradition” that God was wearing a golf shirt while he was in the garden in the cool of the day, but given that that factoid didn’t get written down, it does not become “divine revelation” in the way that the things written become “divine revelation”.

In fact, throughout the Old Testament, we see that pattern: God acts in history, some (not all) of those acts in history are written down, and what is written becomes Scripture. In that way, Scripture itself, being written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20) is “God’s interpretation” of his own acts in history. God shapes and crafts what is “Scripture”, “His interpretation”, and of this “interpretation”, he expects people to understand it (“if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” Luke 16:31.)

I am an inerrantist in the sense that Warfield described it – as I linked above, “Scripture alone” is divine revelation; the “interpretation” of Scripture is not “revelation”. And in that sense, there is no “Tradition” that “transmits in its entirety the Word of God”. It was not true in the Old Testament (as I described it above); nor does the pattern that God uses for “divine revelation” become altered (and if you believe I am in error about this, please show me how and why this changes).

Thus, I will say (with generations of Protestants before me) “what the text actually says” is what the “divine revelation” actually is. What we think it means may differ, but God himself knows what it is that he intended to say. And with those writers in the Reformed tradition, understanding “what God intended to say” is not difficult, because he accommodates himself to us. Thus, we have the “divine revelation” in Scripture, which is “binding”, and then we have our understanding thereof (corporately and individually), which is not binding on anyone. “Not binding”, however, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have good sense, or that it’s not important.

No comments:

Post a Comment