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Identifying Divine Revelation

Alan Lenzi writes a post in response to John Hobbins in which he seems to find it surprising that more Biblical scholars don’t abandon faith, and that their failure to do so says something about their “unwillingness to think historically without being hamstrung to the implications of their work by the fear of divine judgment … or by the irrationality of mysticism.”

You really need to read that in its full context to get the flavor, but I don’t like quoting somebody’s whole post, so you’ll have to go to Alan’s site to see it.  But here is the part to which I want to respond:

… The problem is this: when one takes a close look at the Bible in its original context, there is no evidence that the Bible is such a historically-situated divine revelation, that it is somehow ontologically different than other texts from antiquity and should be privileged or treated in a special way. …

Now don’t imagine that I have suddenly found a great answer to the question, but I don’t see anyone else finding one either.  What exactly does a divine revelation look like and in what fashion should it be “ontologically different” from other texts?  I’m not saying it shouldn’t be; I’m wondering how one identifies it.  I have never seen an answer to this question that is at all satisfying.

For myself, I simply confess that my belief in inspiration is a faith confession, not one I can demonstrate.  I do not look elsewhere in order to identify inspired texts.  I look at the Bible as inspired and thus discover from it the shape of inspired texts.  I fully accept that this is circular in the logical sense.  A leap of faith is not rational in many ways, but it is nonetheless a leap that I have taken.

On the other hand, this leap of faith tells me little about what the Bible is supposed to be.  That I must discover by studying it, and critical methodologies, pursued objectively to the best of my ability, are one of the ways in which I make that discovery.  Of course, I also know that I am never totally objective.

Yet I do not believe my objectivity is hampered by a “fear of divine judgment.”  It may well be altered by the “irrationality of mysticism” as I doubtless have some of the mystic in me.

I wonder, however, whether a militant anti-mystic will do better than I will at understanding the writings of people who had a great deal of mysticism in their makeup.

(John Hobbins provides an expanded discussion of his claim, which is well worth reading, though it uses more big words than mine does.)

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3 Comments

  1. John Hobbins says:

    Just catching up with this, Henry.

    Well, I like your post better than mine. This is my favorite part:

    “this leap of faith tells me little about what the Bible is supposed to be. That I must discover by studying it, and critical methodologies, pursued objectively to the best of my ability, are one of the ways in which I make that discovery. Of course, I also know that I am never totally objective.”

    1. John – [chuckle] What I liked about yours was that I learned some new vocabulary with which to discuss the issue. I went straight to the language and literature in school and started thinking more about what it meant later, thus the theological vocabulary often is challenging for me.

  2. QFDaniel says:

    Actually,good post. thx

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