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THEOLOGY > Bible > Revelation > Personal or Propositional 


Because of the verbal nature of Revelation, Revelation must be understood to be the communication of information, information that comes from God and information that includes facts, events, and interpretation of events:

*God gave facts: Jesus died in Jerusalem;

*God gave events: Jesus suffered on the cross for six hours and ultimately expired after making several statements;

*God gave interpretation of events: the death of Jesus was a sacrifice for man’s sin and only in Jesus can man experience salvation.

The Truth in the Bible is propositional Truth; that is, the Truth God has given to man was given to man through the medium of words and provides man with information, information that is multifaceted.

In the modern era the term “revelation” has been redefined in a manner inconsistent with traditional orthodoxy, and this detracts from an understanding of God’s Revelation as being historical and informational. Revelation is made to refer to God's speaking to man today—revelation occurs when God speaks (a present event that is personal in nature). Revelation, then, becomes the act whereby God reveals Himself to man in the present, calling for a response from man. Undercut is the historic position that views Revelation as the giving of information (Truth) by God in the past. John Baille gave expression to this modern concept when he wrote: “God does not give us information by communication; he gives us himself in communion” (Idea of Revelation, 47); he added further: “What is fundamentally revealed is God Himself, not propositions about God” (49).

According to this modern concept, the Bible is merely a record, a fallible record, of others who have experienced revelation; it is their record and witness of God’s revelation to them. The Bible tells of God speaking to them and of God’s personal presence in their lives; it is an account of their experience of God. And it is through their witness in the Scriptures that God witnesses today. God uses the Bible to reveal Himself to man today—the accounts of previous experiences of revelation afford the vehicle for a present day revelation. If God speaks to man, then the Bible becomes the Word of God to the man when God speaks. The Word of God, therefore, is God revealing Himself. One individual may find or experience the Word of God (revelation) in the Bible while another individual may read the Bible and never discover or experience the Word of God (revelation, therefore, does not occur).

Over against this position is the position that claims that the words of Scripture are the very words of God, given by God to men and written down by those men.

The Bible is not the record of a revelation,
an account of an individual’s experience of God;
but it is the Revelation—the only written Revelation,
a record of the words spoken by God.

There is no other book that can make this claim. Instead of the possibility of the Bible becoming the Word of God, it is proper to equate the Bible with the Word of God. The Bible is the only sacred text; that is, it is the only text given by God.

Revelation is a past accomplishment not merely a present possibility one hopes to experience. It is not a current phenomenon or so it would seem, since the Canon is closed, if indeed it is closed. Revelation speaks of what God gave to men not what God gives to men; it speaks of what God did, not what God does. Revelation speaks of God’s past act, not His current activity. To say that the Revelation was historical is to say that it has been completed.

The modern tendency to define Revelation in terms of event rather than information redefines the historic identification of Revelation with cognitive knowledge. God’s totally transcendent existence, in the minds of some, makes the attaining of cognitive knowledge about God an impossibility. Thus, Revelation becomes event in the modern scheme and is made to speak of something that happens in the present not something that happened in the past.

But how can someone know someone else without knowing something about that someone else? Revelation does ultimately lead to God (and there is an event at that point), but it leads to God by imparting genuine knowledge about God initially. To know God is to know something about God. If the propositional nature of Revelation is rejected, how can there be any cognitive content in Scripture? How can any Truth come from non-propositional revelation?

The problem is in the distinction between propositional and personal revelation (see: Information or Transformation). The two are not in opposition to each other, but are intricately related. The problem disappears when the proper integration is understood:

The propositional is the basis for the personal.

For Your word has given me life.
Ps. 119:50

Receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.
Jas. 1:21

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