Carl Henry sets forth 15 theses in his 6-volume magnum opus and today we unpack the first.
Revelation is a divinely initiated activity, God’s free communications by which he alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.
God freely chose to reveal Himself and chose how he was to be revealed. This is grace upon grace for, as Henry writes, “Apart from God’s self-unveiling any affirmations about the Divine would be nothing more than speculation.” The false man-made gods of liberal theologians and deistic philosopher is easily known for it is purely an intellectual construct but the one true God of creation can only be known to the extent that He has chosen to do so and the medium He has chosen is Scripture.
What are the implications of such a choice? Henry writes,
The content of church proclamation is therefore not just anything and everything. The church’s message to the world is not about the energy crisis, pollution, white or black power, détente, the Israeli-Arab conflict, ad infinitum. It is the very specific Word of God. The church is called to proclaim what God says and does. Unless it verbally articulates and communicates the revelation of God, the church has no distinctive right to be heard, to survive, or even to exist.
Nor is the Christian minister anything and everything—a fund-raiser, marriage-counselor, pulpit orator, public relations specialist, ad infinitum. He is primarily the proclaimer of God’s revealed Word. Unless he declares the revelation of God he has no unique vocational claim and standing.
Such concerns as war and peace, environmental pollution, discrimination, and so on, are far from unimportant. They are indeed crucial, as are also the minister’s role in marriage counseling and community affairs. But these matters are nonetheless footnotes on the main text, namely, that God has spoken and that what God says is what bears determinatively on all existence and life. The unmistakable priority of God’s people, the church in the world, is to proclaim God’s revealed Word. Divorced from this calling, the church and Christians are undurable and un-endurable phenomena. By stifling divine revelation, they are, in fact, an affront to God. Devoid of motivation for implementing Christ’s cause, they become both delinquents and delinquent in neighbor and world relations.
Yet, as Henry noted in the mid-sevenies and is still true today, “Nowhere is the repudiation of Christian belief in recent modern learning more insistent than in the rejection in philosophical and theological treatises of the very idea of transcendent divine revelation.” Secular academics may deem to converse about exploring the depths of our own psyches or general religious experience for clues to the divine but they scoff at the idea of divine revelation. Even liberal universalists like Karl Barth were belittled by philosophers for insisting on the possibility of divine revelation.
Why do we reject the possibility of divine revelation? Why are we more comfortable studying experience than Scripture? Does the Bible claim to be what Henry states it is? He quotes a great deal of Scripture such as 1 Cor. 2:9-10, Galatians 1:12 and John 5:39-47 but can these texts carry as much weight as Henry placed on them? What do you think?
Thesis two later. Stay tuned.