Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1   

Dr. Millard Erickson's second section of his book Christian Theology looks at the subject of Revelation - or Bibliology (the Doctrine of Scripture). To begin, the author discusses how God has revealed Himself, namely, in two ways: General Revelation and Special Revelation. Regarding this "nature" of revelation, Erickson writes:

Because humans are finite and God is infinite, if they are to know God it must come about by God's manifestation of himself. There are two basic classifications of revelation. General revelation is God’s communication of himself to all persons at all times and in all places. Special revelation involves God’s particular communications and manifestations of Himself to particular persons at particular times, communications and manifestations that are available now only by consultation of certain sacred writings. (178)

I find this both a helpful introduction (I love the first sentence), but a limited distinction between general and special revelation and the ongoing discussion that follows it fails to answer some important questions. He goes on to define and describe general revelation in the next paragraph.

A closer examination of the definition of general revelation discloses that it refers to God's self-manifestation through nature, history, and the inner being of the human person. It is general in two senses: its universal availability (it is accessible to all persons at all times) and the content o the message (it is less particularized and detailed than special revelation).  A number of questions need to be raised. One concerns the genuineness of the revelation. Is it really there? If it exists, what can be made of it? can one construct a 'natural theology,' a knowledge of God from nature? (178)

General revelation, then, is God's self-manifestation in three areas: nature, history, and the inner being of the human person. He will go on to discuss each of these areas in more detail later, but for now, let us just accept these categories (and I think their helpful). My question does not regard his description of general revelation, but the limits he puts on special revelation.

Is special revelation limited only by consultation of certain sacred writings? The answer seems to be a yes though with some clarifications. In a later chapter specifically on special revelation, Erickson lays out various modes or means or modalities by which God has revealed himself (207). Those modes are historical events, divine speech, and the incarnation.

God has specially revealed Himself in history and this is revealed in Scripture. Erickson highlights the story of Israel as the perfect example from the calling of Abraham, to the Exodus, to the survival of the nation in spite of repetitive captivities.  By divine speech, we get direct revelation oftentimes revealed in phrases like "The word of the LORD came to me . . ." so common in the Old Testament. Finally, Jesus Christ is Himself the Divine Word (Logos) and the Divine Word (revelation) of God.

But what about other, and contemporary, means of special revelation like dreams and miracles? As a cessationist I do not believe in modern day miracle workers but I do believe in miracles. Are they not a special means by which God reveals Himself? What about dreams? Missionaries in Islamic countries have given multiple testimonies of Muslims converting to Christianity through the means of dreams. Dreams are prevalent in Scripture from Joseph to Daniel to Peter and Paul (though the latter two are more visions than dreams).*

Erickson either does not consider these other means of special revelation as valid or simply does not mention them yet Scripture includes them as divine means of revelation. John's Gospel is divided by the "signs" of Jesus as the ultimate revelation of who Jesus is. The final sign is the resurrection of Jesus which leads John to ask the reader to believe in Him and have eternal life.

So does special revelation go beyond Scripture? I think so and Scripture, I believe, supports it.

*  It should be pointed out that the one reference to dreams in the book occurs in his chapter on revelation, but it is brief. He writes, The revelation is also anthropic in the sense that it often came in forms that are part of ordinary, everyday human experience. For example, God frequently used dreams to reveal himself. Yet few experiences are as common as dreams. Not the particular type of experience employed, but the unique content supplied and the unique utilization of this experience distinguished revelation from the ordinary and natural. (204-205)

For more:
Blogizomai - Repost | "Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
Reviews - The Top 5 Essential Works of Theology of the Past 25 Years
Reviews - "Doctrine"
Reviews - "The Good News We Almost Forgot
Reviews - "Dug Down Deep" by Josh Harris
Reviews - "Heresy"
Reviews - "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" by Alister McGrath
Reviews - "The Theology of the Reformers"
Blogizomai - Repost | Schreiner on the Practice of Inaugurated Eschatology
logizomai - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of Everything We Are and Do
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
Blogizomai - The Meaning & Implications of the Resurrection
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
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