Revelation & Holy Scripture


Revelation in Philosophy - Propositional

Refers to God directly revealing truths about his nature to people

propositions b/c are revelations are statements of fact = beyond debate and doubt

Aquinas = propositional revelation = truths revealed by God but not demonstrable using human reason / Believers in prop revelations do not reject the use of reason, argue God's revelations are not provable by human reason

Revelation + Natural Theology - process of learning a/b God from natural world. Aq. supported both.

Thought should be accepted as genuine if accord with Church teaching. 

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Criticisms of Propositional Revelation

1. Receiver passive. Psychologically inaccurate - human mind active & make mistakes in recall = inaccurate e.g. gossip

2. Authenticity? Despite criteria of fitting with church teaching, no guarantee  E.g. after-effects of Paul turning Christian after revelation on road to Damascus happened but no absolute proof of genuineness of revelation.

3. Diff religions claim to have received prop rev's, sometimes truth claims of diff religions conflict. (all rev's limited to persons experience) [ HUME = do not cancel out, just diff to person experiencing it ] 

4. No way of directly verifying or proving that propositional revelations happen.

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Non-propositional revelation

God does not reveal facts/truths to people, believer recognises God acting in human history + experience.

Argument from Beauty

Look at beauty of nature, reveal sth a/b character of creator/reveals God. = indirect, up to interpretation + non-propositional b/c recognising God's acts through world.

Bible = how revelation of God been understood in history by believers. 

miracles of Jesus --> witnesses --> interpret --> record = indirect experiences of God.
= learn about God

If Bible non-propositional then interpreter CRUCIAL, determines worldwide view.

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Criticisms of Non-propositional Revelation

1) Result of human understanding + interpretation of events - no direct knowledge
Not errorless/Infallible - own experience resolves theological debates

2) Content of revelation = matter of interpretation. William Paley, Arthur Connan Doyle wrote a/b beauty of nature revealing God but one could look at beauty + not experience non-prop rev.
Richard Dawkins = moved by beauty but strengthens belief in evolutionary theory.

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Scripture as Propostional

  • Traditional Christian Belief
  • Bible word of God 
  • Divine inspiration causes author to write thus limiting his/her role to scribe
  • Fundamentalists believe verbally inspired so no mistakes
  • Verbally inerrant - writers inspired by God through Holy Spirit, each word directly from God = literal truth
  • Authoritative revealing God's will for humans 
  • Consulted for guidance and moral dilemmas 

HOWEVER, 2 different Genesis accounts, various Gospel accounts of Jesus' miracles or birth

Versions different, if no errors = logically inconsistent if different versions of same event

Suggests more to role of author than passive recorder of God's revelation

Non-prop, revelations recorded by humans in own way using own language + style.

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Scripture as Non-Propositional

More liberal Christian view

Bible record of human experiences of God

Writers try to put experiences into words later by reflecting on it 

Divinely inspired but not propositional

Human experience in which recognise God's involvement

Reveals indirectly but doesn't reveal facts/truths to people 

Writer uses own skill + perspective to write down experiences of God

HOWEVER - All doing is reading own meaning into Biblical story.


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Authority of the Bible

For atheist/agnostic, Bible viewed as historically important text informing a/b society + beliefs. Might find moral teaching interesting + valuable = product of human wisdom than divine rev. - authority same as historical texts. 

Christian = authoratative - 'scripture'

Maurice Wiles = authority in 'hard' sense: having status of law + 'soft' view: learned speaker, not always correct. 

Bible traditionally interpreted as law

BUT, even law requires clarification, interpretation + application. - 'time-bound'.

If Bible divinely inspired + verbally inerrant then does not need to be reinterpreted - timeless.

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Fundamentalist Viewpoint to Bible

Protestant + Charismatic Churches

  • -verbal inerrancy
  • -refusal to adopt to modern culture 

+ clear + TOE consistent - no part of Bible randomly disregarded
+ clear guidance on how to live good Christian life
+ starting point to explaining faith to others (conversion?)
+ takes Bible seriously as historical record

- difficult to maintain, inconsistencies + errors
- difficult to support certain aspects - death penalty in leviticus 
- used as weapon - used to defend opinions / God is prejudiced not people

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Conservative Viewpoint (not needed?)

Evangelical Protestant tradition, authors wrote under God's inspiration
Authority of Bible from God directly not church 
Can be human error - product of culture + time (things judged as wrong today)
Conservative position on authority & reliability of texts 
Look @ Biblical texts & see if teaching of Church fits 
In between Fundamentalist + Liberal - still needs interpretation

God breathed into scripture through Holy Spirit

+ Takes historical claims seriously
+ Belief in Divine inspiration stops 'pick and choose' according to pref.
+ Inaccuracies OK b/c writers given ability to shape Bible acc. to knowledge + exp.

- No clear guidelines on what is + is not 'binding'
- Personal judgement to decide what is + isn't relevant still used

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Catholic Viewpoint

Holy Spirit inspired people who wrote books 
Books chosen by church b.c content demonstrated church had been inspired by God
Church passed judgement on content of books, not books on church
Authority of church ABOVE Bible - have authority to define + interpret

+ Bible = complex series of books needing interpretation
+ Exp + reason used to interpret outrageous stuff e.g. sell ething ...
+ Room for discussion + agreement on meaning of passages

- Christian groups upset b.c choosing to add/disregard instructions in Bible 
- Pick + Choose attitude creates inconsistencies 

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Liberal Viewpoint

Records experience of people seriously seeking God in life 
Words product of people trying to understand God 
Not inspired/authoritative, mistakes - individuals duty to weigh + apply as appropriate
Individualistic, no need for total community response

+ Personal/relevant to believer
+ Errors/inconsistencies agreed 
+ Advances in science don't harm - not God given
+ Disagreement on interpretations + value of passages allowed.

- No longer effective for teaching, believer decides value
- Do not allow religious beliefs to challenge lifestyle
- Inspirtation + authority reduced to personal response/opinion 
- No need for church or church figures = loses structure 

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