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Christian Revelation Essay

1841 words - 7 pages

“The question of revelation in Christian theology is finally no less than the question of theology’s own ultimate source and norm… ” This statement serves as an excellent beginning point for our discussion of the Christian doctrine of revelation and its relation to the practice of theology. As these few words suggest, there is an intrinsically interwoven nature to the two ideas, more specifically, the dependency of Christian theology on revelation and, likewise, the comprehension of that revelation through the act of theologizing. With this understanding in mind, it will be the purpose of this essay to explore the Christian doctrine of revelation, examining the way in which it acts as the basis for the Church’s affirmations and the believers claim to have knowledge of God . To achieve this, we will briefly survey the underpinnings of the conception of revelation, and the way in which that revelation is and has been understood as occurring, with special reference to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Finally we will look to how these understandings relate to the study of theology and why they are important to it.

Before beginning any discussion of the Christian doctrine of revelation, it is important to first address one of the core assumptions that underpin the concept, the belief that God is unknowable outside of revelation. This idea is at the very heart of the meaning of revelation and speaks to the otherness of God, arguing that such a being is so far from the conception of human imagining and thought that a self-disclosure must occur . This is an understanding of revelation that is deeply rooted in both the Christian and Judaist traditions. Within the Hebrew Scriptures we see numerous occasions in which God acts in a personal way to disclose God’s self. Among these, the most obvious moments lay in the stories of the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis and the disclosing of the divine name to Moses in Exodus 3:14 . Likewise, in the New Testament, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is seen as the self-revealing of God, forming an understanding of the divine that otherwise would be unthinkable . What entails from all this is a knowledge of the divine that is totally dependent upon God’s own desire to be known and the actions of God in making this so. As such, from a Christian perspective, to speak of revelation is to speak of the sovereign acts of God in human history and consciousness that have unveiled that which was previously hidden.

Having now surveyed what is perhaps the core underpinning of the doctrine of revelation, we will now examine the ways in which the Christian Church believes that God has acted to reveal God’s self to humanity. These ways can be broadly distinguished into what have been traditionally called general and special revelation. General revelation, strongly explored in the work of Thomas Aquinas, speaks to what could be called the ‘natural’ knowledge of God, that...

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