An overview of Unit 2 of Religious Philosophy and Ultimate Questions

  • Created by: Kate
  • Created on: 10-05-12 12:26

What is meant by revelation?

Revelation: God shows himself to believers. This is the only way anybody can really know anything about God - every religion (but Hindusim) is based on the revelations of the founders.

Revelations is believed to come directly from God and shows us something about God, the way we should behave or the meaning of life. Buddhist revelations lead to a greater understanding of the nature of things. God can reveal himself through:

  • a direct meeting, dream or vision
  • nature
  • worship or prayer
  • sacred writing
  • people
  • miracles

Some say that God is beyond human understanding, although what we can understand of him he makes known through revelation. This is like the Christian belief that he is both immanent and transcendant

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General Revelation

General Revelation: God making himself known through ordinary, common human experiences

  • seeing the presence of God in nature - seeing both the beauty, complexity and the creation of new life leads to feelings of awe and wonder about the power of God to create and destroy
  • seeing God in holy books - muslims believe that the Qur'an is direct words of God from the prophet Muhammed, while all other religions believe that their books are inspired by God
  • seeing God in the writings of religious leaders
  • seeing God in the life and works of other people - the actions of religious people can inspire others and give an example of how God wants people to behave (e.g. Martin Luther King may inspire other Christians)
  • seeing his character through reason, conscience and faith - the fact we feel guilty when we've done something wrong
  • Prayer and worship - for some people the desire and need to worship is a revelation
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Special Revelation

Special Revelation: God making himself known through direct personal experience or an unusual specific event. It is different to general revelation as it is not an everyday experience for everyone to see and believe in - it is "specially" for someone

  • enlightenment
  • hearing God's call - religious founders and believers may experience a direct conversation with God causing them to change their life. When they share this it becomes general revelation
  • experiencing visions or dreams (e.g. St Bernadette had visions that Lourdes had healing properties) - people may see angels, symbols, messages or holy people
  • through miracles - (e.g. the River Ganges and Lourdes) miraculous healing may convince people God has intervened
  • through prayer or worship - direct communication from God during prayer is a special revelation

The bible can affect people so much that it could be considered special revelation

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The power and impact of revelation

The power of revelation can -

  • provide proof of God's existance - nature and miracles (e.g. Titanic) prove his existance and revelation through prayer and worship reinforces it)
  • help to start off the religion - the power of the revelation of the founders of the religions had to be strong enough that they could convince others
  • help people know how to do God's wishes - the revelations can show part of the nature of God, so show how he might want people to live

Revelations can result in people changing their religion (e.g. St.Paul converted from Judaism to Christianity)

It can also result in lifestyle changes because of it e.g. behaviour, diet, dress

People could feel that they are called to do work for God or do other tasks (e.g. become a monk, worship more, the way people worship, meditation)

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What is learned about the attributes of God from r

Revelations cause theists to have different understandings of God, but all religions (apart from Buddhists) that there is one supreme creator God

Christianity - They believe in God the father, son and holy spirit, as revealed by the life of Jesus and the new and old testaments

Hinduism - They believe in one god Brahman who is beyond understanding and worshipped through many gods. This is revealed in religious writings (e.g. the Vedas)

Judaism - God is eternal and unlimited. Jews have a special relationship with him because of a covenant made by Abraham and Moses. This is revealed by the Tenakh

Islam - Allah is beyond understanding, but has 99 beautiful names to represent him in the Qur'an, which is God's direct word through the Prophet Muhammed

Sikhism - God's beyond understanding. His many names have been revealed by the 10 gurus

God is seen as omnipoten, omniscient and benevolent

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Does revelation show God as immanent or transcende

God must be transcendent as he must be out of time and space to create the world. He does not need us, but we need God

However, God must be immanent as he is involved in the world through events recorded in religious books and personal experiences people have had

Christians believe that God became immanent through Jesus and remained so through the Holy Spirit. It is important that God is both personal and impersonal

Jews believe that God is immanent through the Tenkah, which shows his relationship with the Jewish race

Hindus see Brahman's immanence through the many gods and goddesses

Muslims believe that god has communicated with prophets throughout history

Sikhs believe that God is present throughout the universe and in each human being

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Does revelation show God as immanent or transcende

Many religions believe that it is impossible to have a personal relationship with God as to do so you would have to think of him in human terms, which is unacceptable. They may pray to him but remember that he is beyond understanding

For Christians, God can be personal and impersonal. It is personal as he is a perfect "father" who loves and cares for his children but allows them to make mistakes

For many religious believers it is important to them that God is transcendent but also immanent through prayer and worship

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General and Special Revelation

The strengths of general revelation:

  • it is available to everyone, not just a select few
  • it is available constantly, while special revelation is only a certain time/place
  • it is therefore continuous and ongoing so can be made relevant to new issues, whils special revelation can become outdated and only for one time
  • conscience is available to all religious believers as general revelation and so always guides them

The strengths of special revelation:

  • it discloses all of what god wants people to know (e.g. the Prophet Muhammed and the Qur'an), while general revelation only discloses part
  • it is direct and as it is received first hand has a stronger, immediate impact, that allows believers to know the exact truth
  • people who experience it have authority + confidence to lead others

Many would argue both are needed as existence of God as general revelation is needed to interpret general revelation

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Revelation - reality or illusion (1)

The difficulty of proving the reality of the revelation include:

  • Special revelations happen to only one person/group so are hard to prove
  • General revelations vary in interpretation so it's hard to determine which claims about the revelations are true

How to prove a revelation:

  • if the revelation corresponds to things in the real world (e.g. if it says people can fly it's not true)
  • if it contradicts previous revelations then it may not be true
  • it it causes someone to change or gain faith it may be true

atheists would argue that revelation is an illusion because:

  • it may be bought on by alcohol/ drugs/ mental illness/ the mind playing tricks
  • the believer is desperate so wishes for one
  • there are conflicting revelations between religions
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Revelation - reality or illusion (2)

Religious believers accept revelations because:

  • the fact that millions follow religions and are willing to die for them because of revelations make it likely they are true
  • if a person has no reason to lie, then why doubt them
  • there is a common core of belief in the revelations that matches scientific observation
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Alternative explanations for claims of relevation

Some scientists now say that some relevations may have been the result of a type of epilepsy. One person this may have been was Ellen White whose revelations have lead to the founding of the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists, who also bumped her head when younger, perhaps bringing on the epilepsy. Although her followers claim that she never showed any sign of fits

People may have a relevation because of wishful thinking. For example in some pentecostal denominations a person is not a fulll member of the faith until they have spoken in tounges, so some may make it up

General revelations may be seen as revelations by theists but not by atheists - they interpret the experience differently

Some past revelations have now been found to be tricks for fame and money

Some argue that conscience is a result of being bought up, not a revelation

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Why believers find it difficult to accept the real

Theists also have problems accepting some revelations as:

  • There are conflicting claims to the truth in different religions - Buddhists don't believe in a God and other religions have different views of God
  • There are conflicting claims to the truth within the same religion - (e.g. not all Muslims agree that all women should cover their faces in public and Christians interpret the Bible differently)
  • Different perspectives on revelation - worship can be both special and general revelation - why does God not make it a special revelation for everyone?

With other religions, people argue that they misinterpreted the revelation

some believers are prepared to accept that there may be different ways of becoming close to God

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