God, Revelation and Authority Vol. 2, Introduction

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now that we have polished off Henry’s dense work of prolegomena, we can dig into the next 5-volumes of God, Revelation and Authority and truly have some fun (No, I’m not being sarcastic and yes, I’m a raging geek!).

Henry opens volume 2 with a magnificent introduction that I wish I could copy in full but the first paragraph or so will do:

Nowhere does the crisis of modern theology find a more critical center than in the controversy over the reality and nature of divine disclosure. The time has therefore come for a comprehensive overview of revelation in biblical terms, in terms of the living God who speaks and shows, the God who gains and merits his own audibility and visibility. God is not the Great Perhaps, a clueless shadow character in a Scotland Yard mystery. Far less is he a nameless spirit awaiting post-mortem examination in some theological morgue. He is a very particular and specific divinity, known from the beginning solely on the basis of his works and self–declaration as the one living God. Only theorists who ignore divine self–disclosure are prone to identify God as the nondescript John Doe of religious philosophy.

God heralds his unchanging truth to man once for all and ongoingly; man meanwhile asserts a multiplicity of contrary things about God and his Word. Few concepts have in fact encountered and endured such radical revision throughout the long history of ideas as has the concept of divine revelation. Especially within the last two centuries divine revelation has been stretched into everything, stripped into nothing, or modeled into innumerable compromises of such outrageous extremes.

What Henry is saying is vitally important to the faith and not just an obtuse academic matter. If one sees Scripture as primarily the product of human hands than it becomes a matter of each individual organizing a canon within a canon (or picking and choosing what one wants to emphasize and what one wants to minimize).  The arbiter of truth is the individual, which the revelation of Scripture reminds us is motivated by sinful self-interest.  If, however, one recognizes the Bible as divine revelation than it becomes an instrument of grace that may truly challenge us.

We see this today in the debates over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book as well as recent works by Brian McLaren and others who call themselves evangelical but relegate Scripture to a human work that is easily manipulated to conveniently fit our preconceived notions of right and wrong.

Henry sets forth 15 theses regarding divine revelation that he will unpack over the next few volumes of his magnum opus. The 15 theses are as follows:

1. Revelation is a divinely initiated activity, God’s free communication by which he alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.

2. Divine revelation is given for human benefit, offering us privileged communion with our Creator in the kingdom of God.
 
3. Divine revelation does not completely erase God’s transcendent mystery, inasmuch as God the Revealer transcends his own revelation.
 
4. The very fact of disclosure by the one living God assures the comprehensive unity of divine revelation.
 
5. Not only the occurrence of divine revelation, but also its very nature, content, and variety are exclusively God’s determination.
 
6. God’s revelation is uniquely personal both in content and form.
 
7. God reveals himself not only universally in the history of the cosmos and of the nations, but also redemptively within this external history in unique saving acts.
 
8. The climax of God’s special revelation is Jesus of Nazareth, the personal incarnation of God in the flesh; in Jesus Christ the source and content of revelation converge and coincide.
 
9. The mediating agent in all divine revelation is the Eternal Logos—preexistent, incarnate, and now glorified.
 
10. God’s revelation is rational communication conveyed in intelligible ideas and meaningful words, that is, in conceptual-verbal form.
 
11. The Bible is the reservoir and conduit of divine truth.
 
12. The Holy Spirit superintends the communication of divine revelation, first, by inspiring the prophetic-apostolic writings, and second, by illuminating and interpreting the scripturally given Word of God.
 
13. As bestower of spiritual life the Holy Spirit enables individuals to appropriate God’s revelation savingly, and thereby attests the redemptive power of the revealed truth of God in the personal experience of reborn sinners.
 
14. The church approximates the kingdom of God in miniature; as such she is to mirror to each successive generation the power and joy of the appropriated realities of divine revelation.
 
15. The self-manifesting God will unveil his glory in a crowning revelation of power and judgment; in this disclosure at the consummation of the ages, God will vindicate righteousness and justice, finally subdue and subordinate evil, and bring into being a new heaven and earth.
 
What you believe about divine revelation will determine what you believe and, if J. Gresham Machen was right (and I believe he was), then it will also determine whether you practice the faith given once and for all to the saints or whether you have adopted a different religion. 
 
We will discuss each of Henry’s 15 theses as we work through the next few volumes.  Please join the conversation.  It should be fun.   
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