Monday, October 21, 2013

Revelation: a few words.

                In my late teens, I spent a summer as a New Student Orientation Leader for the University of New Mexico.  My favorite part of this job was giving the campus tour.  I loved taking my groups of intended-freshmen through the tree-dappled campus to point out the buildings, comment on their architecture, and relate the stories behind each.  My students, however, were always the last to return from this exercise; most of my co-leaders seizing this opportunity to rest on the grassy knolls by the duck pond or tuck away into the stone benches by the library fountain, having finished their tours with great efficiency.  There was no way, regardless of the tour method employed, to convey all the pertinent information in one swoop around campus.  Whether I lingered over the story of the Totem Pole by the Chapel, or while walking ceaselessly backwards, raced past each building, naming each, but knowing that my students would be hard pressed to locate Mitchell Hall in the fall, I could not convey all there was to know about this institution. 

                It is infinitely more so with the attributes of God.  We touched lightly, exceedingly briefly, on only two.  We could devote a lifetime to just these, some have; however, because this series was only meant to whet your palate for theology, we’re going to have to press headlong into revelation for these next two weeks.  And though I’d like very much to linger, to flesh out more of what even these two attributes mean to a believer, I am left feeling like that orientation leader giving a tour of a large campus, pointing out buildings as we fly past them, noting their import, and admonishing everyone in the group to keep up. 
                So following me friends, because, “we’re walking.  And we’re walking,” into the realm of:

How we know what we know about God
                There are two categories to which theologians refer when discussing how God reveals Himself to humanity.  They are called General (or Universal) Revelation and Special (or Specific) Revelation.

                God is infinite.  We know this because He existed before time, before matter, before space.  Humans, however, are finite.  Though we are designed to be eternal beings, we each have a beginning.  Thus, as we do not exist in eternity past, we are finite.  So if we are to know an infinite God, our knowledge about Him must come from Him.  He is the only being who is able to reveal anything about Him; for everything that exists came after, and therefore nothing exists that can teach us about who He is, as an infinitely on-going state of existence, except God Himself.

                Thus God has chosen to reveal Himself through creation, through His Spirit, through His word, and through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

                General revelation is defined as God’s revelation of Himself through creation.  It is how peoples without exposure to other means know that there is a power greater than themselves at work in the universe.  It is how God draws people to Himself: through the beauty of His handiwork, the intricacy of His design, the unfathomable discoveries that are as grand as the birthing places of stars and as minute as the molecular mechanics holding the entire universe together.  Even science here bends a knee, for we cannot keep pace with the unveiling of the glories of God’s hands.  It is the invading peace filling a soul that stands atop a mountain, gazing out over indescribable riot of color alive in the autumn woods.  It is the stilling quiet that bundles up a heart setting in sand heeding to the ancient rhythm of the waves approaching the shore.  It is rock and tree and flower and mountain and creature and stars all crying out, “He is God.  He is beautiful.”   It is what stirs up our spirits to look deeper for meaning in this life, to search after something grander than ourselves, to investigate why?   It is way of calling out, of saying “I AM,” even if we are choosing not to listen. 

                And though beautiful, it is not enough.  General revelation can take us only so far.  It may provide us with the basis for our questions, and even hint at the answers, but it does not tell us enough about who God is.  For a god who only reveals himself through creation, is distant.  This god does not interact with humanity; he is non-relational.  This god is more voyeur than father – only watching from a distance as humanity delights in and discovers through creation.  Thus, God, our Heavenly Father, must also reveal Himself with specificity through explicit means. 
                Thus, we have Special Revelation: God revealing specific things about who He is, how He acts, and what His character is.  To accomplish this, He utilizes the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, and His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Spirit teaches our hearts and minds and spirits [so long as we allow Him] about God.  This can be accomplished through the historic inspiration of scripture, an answer to prayer, or giving of wisdom through the studies of scripture.  God inspired humans to write His story of how He interacts with us throughout our history, and even gives us a glimpse of what the future will be like, in the Holy Scriptures.  Finally, and most important of all, God revealed His divine nature, love, and grace through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  So that we might know Him now, and in the age to come. 

               As I have repeatedly mentioned, we cannot do justice to any of these topics, and due to the brevity I have imposed upon this series, we will only address two aspects of special revelation: the Inerrancy of Scripture, and Jesus Christ as Divine Revelation.  If you would like to know more about general revelation, I commend Louie Gigilo’s Indescribable.  Or for a more academic treatment of this subject, I highly recommend  any of these debates between noted atheists Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins,  and the thrice doctorate John Lennox (mathematician, philosophy of science, and bioethics) and twice doctorate William Craig Lane (theologian and philosopher):  Dawkins vs. Lennox*, Hitchens vs. Lennox, Craig Lane’s response to Dawkins’ The God Delusion.  Though these debates are not specifically on the topic of general revelation, each apologist using God's reveal of Himself through creation to prove his point.  And, yes, it's nice to see how the intellectual questions of the validity of Christianity be answered with articulate intellect, reason, and even [gasp] science.   
                General revelation can be summed up in Psalm 19:1-6, with verses 7-14 articulating special revelation.  Take some time to read this Psalm today, meditating on it to prepare for our discussion on special revelation tomorrow.**

 * Sadly, the entire debate was taken down by it's owner, Fixed Pointed Foundation.  The only online resource for this debate is the video preview linked above, the notes found here, and the opportunity to order the audio here or the DVD here.  I apologize for this unanticipated change.  Believe me when I say, I am disappointed that this material is not made widely available for unencumbered, public consumption.   

**Special Note: I'm more than a few days late with the post on the Inerrancy of Scripture, as I'm sure you've noticed, dear reader.  With my 14th wedding anniversary and sending my eldest off to wilderness camp, I hope you'll forgive this lapse, dear one.  As the Officer and I are concurrently working on two more ministry projects together, I will have to adjust the first schedule accordingly.  Thanks for sticking with me.  ~ Jen     

Want to know where we've been in this series?  Click the links below for more. 
Why Theology?
How do we do this?
What are attributes?
What's Omnipresence?
What's Transcendence?



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