A) Outline your knowledge and understanding of the Christian view of revelation
B) Explore the claim that it is true to say that philosophy is based on reason while religion is based on revelation. Justify your answer.
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Revelation by definition is the disclosure of facts or theories through religious events that have previously remained hidden. For Christians, revelation is mainly associated with the revelation of God to his people throughout the ages. God has made himself known to us but we have to consider that he has also presented himself to us, with the choice up to us whether we accept his love. God has not pressed Himself up to us. His acts of love remain the motivation for our acceptance of God. We have free will, but His motivation for revelation is His love for us. It is by this natural reason which has been in existence for aeons, that our belief in God has developed and been affirmed. God for us is a source of life, our creator and protector. Revelation has aided this Christian illustration of God. God has revealed Himself to us in two stages:
– The Old Testament
– The New Testament
In the Old Testament God made Himself apparent through actions more than words of obvious connection with scripture or prophecies. In the Old Testament God actively sought out his chosen people. God spoke to man, through the exodus experience we see both God’s deeds and direction. The exodus experience lets us see examples of God’s deeds, his revelation in such events as the burning bush and the pillar of fire. Also, the liberation of the Israelites revealed God as a liberator and the voice of a saviour. He showed them he was with them.
The initiation of Passover then revealed God as loving and compassionate with this celebration. The exodus experience showed God’s care and providence for His people. He rescued them from their oppressors and lives of torment and slavery He brought them to a paradise of their own. The Old Testament’s portrayal of the revelation of God sees Him reveal himself through the media of the prophets, in his wisdom and the introduction of His holy laws and through nature and history. God’s role was to prepare His chosen people for the arrival of Christ. God sent prophets to warn the people of the suffering that would be endured by His son and the trials and tribulations they must undergo. Through God’s revelation of Himself in the Old Testament God teaches us about himself and key lessons about ourselves too. He has offered Himself to us, for us to decide to engage Him or not.
Revelation reaches its climax in the New Testament, through the arrival of Jesus and the events that followed and remain during and after his ministry. God makes himself fully know. God takes not only an active approach but also furthers his revelation through the incarnate world. God no longer speaks through intermediaries but through His Son, the messiah. This emphasises God’s humanity and divinity. Christ was the embodiment of God’s qualities and intentions, but he also brought the very important aspect of his identification with man and all man limitations. Christ suffers for man and brings salvation. God’s revelation in the New Testament is centred on Salvation. God saves and brings good news.
God chose to express Himself fully and finally by becoming man and walking with us. God no longer needed to reveal Himself as a being, but instead his intentions for His people. God sent His only son to communicate to us that there is a way to be followed, to follow the path of Christ. Christ’s actions and words spoke a very important message, the message of salvation. However, the content of the Revelations in the New Testament illustrate to us as Christians that we must respond in faith to the knowledge obtained by God’s communication to us in the bible. Our confidence in God only proves to show us that the teachings and realities contained within the Gospels provided a guide to the way we should in theory live our lives.
For us today God’s revelation is still as an integral part of our faith as it was when the Gospels were written. Scripture reveals what God is to us, a man alive in Christ “At various times in the past and various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the Prophets; but I own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.” (Hebrews (1:1-2))
Philosophers argue that Revelation is a source of truth about God, which cannot simply be reasoned, it is more complex. Aquinas proposed that revelation revealed truths about God, but there is no explanation for what these truths are or what they mean. Another understanding of revelation is taken from the view that the authors of these Gospels were conditioned by their culture and mindset due to their time of living. It is arguable that divine truth for them was defined by their surroundings and beliefs, and so may not prove so relevant for Christians today. Their message was the product of their own experience.
This is my view highlights a very important issue, that Revelation, therefore, can be defined personally by one’s own experience of God. As Rahner argues one must distinguish between the expressions made about God, and the writers own experience of God or Christ. “Essentially revelation became primarily an experience of God.” Revelation can be viewed as a personal experience of a relationship with God, revelation does not necessarily need to be rooted in scripture, and there can be a more spiritual aspect. As Moran proposes that revelation is “A personal communion of Knowledge, an interrelationship of God.”
For Christians today, however, the general consensus remains that our understanding of God is to be found in the Bible. We learn here that God revealed Himself as a supernatural being, who spoke to man, illustrating his intentions for his people and rules for us to abide by. He communicated through his son and revealed his compassion and love for us. It is this method of revelation which we as Christians believe in, that God revealed Himself to us, for us, impact our lives and way of living.
It is difficult to affirm whether religion is based on revelation and philosophy is based on reason. These topics are decidedly difficult to define into separate camps.
In my opinion, philosophy derives from an effort to explain God. The dictionary definition of philosophy is the “Theory of knowledge”. It is therefore true to say that the Philosophy of religion is the theorising of Knowledge of God. But this title itself contradicts the connection of reason with philosophy, as God is so intangible, and the surrounding subject matter is even more so. Knowledge of God is hazy and nothing can ever be certain. For me, God is and is nothing more. God is a power, an entity, but to think further complicates the issue.
Hence God is such a mystery, an existing being, but barely understood. How can we associate reason with such a little known entity? How can there be a reason where there is reasonable doubt. Philosophy is educated guessing, there are no conclusions, no laws, only theories and ways. Nothing can ever be set in stone, as there is always opposition and at the base, no evidence or proof. This is not meant to demean the work of Philosophers, as some extremely important issues are raised and dealt with in philosophy. But it is not true to say that philosophy cannot be applied to revelation, there have been numerous theories aroused by God’s revelations. Philosophy may be the reasoning of events to do with God, but that is not to say Philosophy is more to do with reason than religion, because I don’t believe that is so.
Religion is such a vast expanse of understanding; it is an umbrella term for numerous aspects of worship, prayer and belief. Revelation is a definite part of religion, but I am dubious over whether religion is majorly based upon revelation. Religion is based upon a number of things. Revelation is treated by theology in two separate ways:
– The fact – God’s truths that He has revealed about himself
– The content – the mysteries which God has made known.
Revelation can therefore be treated with both a religious and philosophical approach. But I do think that revelation if viewed as the experience of God, and not simply as the events on which God physically revealed Himself to individuals, is a founding aspect of religion. Religion is defined as “belief in and worship of God or Gods”. This belief has arisen from a view of God, which derives from the experience of God in our lives, a personal view of God and his actions, a revelation. I think then that religion is based on revelation, not solely, but definitely.
In conclusion, I think that though we can arrive at a vague conclusion
that religion is based on revelation and philosophy is associated with reason, there is no concrete conclusion that can be made. Personal opinion and philosophy in this matter play a big part, there is no right or wrong.
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