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General Revelation & Special Revelation


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Hello.  smile.png

 

I'm digging deeper into these concepts and would appreciate some help please. 

What I'm looking for are the answers to two inter-connected questions. 

 

1.

What kind of historical events are considered to be part of general revelation?

(Using this Wiki definition... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_revelation )

 

2.

What kind of historical events are considered to be part of special revelation?

(Using this Wiki definition... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_revelation )

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

 

 

 

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I would classify the Pope's vision of Mary's ascension as special revelation.  The historical event would be the vision that he claimed to have and his proclamation regarding his conclusion.  

Paul's spirit-learning qualifies as direct revelation.  The historical event would be the teaching that he claimed to receive by miraculous revelation and his proclamation regarding his conclusion.  

Any person interpreting any physical experience can claim general revelation.  The historical event might be shared and/or documented.

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Deists and Mystics would probably be willing to accept “some” forms of general revelation but they would also be likely to reject any form of revelation that would include any supernatural element or component. Any special revelation allegedly received by some human would only be relevant to the original recipient of the alleged revelation. It would be hearsay to everyone else.

 

Historians do not deal with the supernatural, because such events are outside the laws of known science and physics. Therefore, no creditable historian would validate anything that involved the supernatural. Historians would investigate the possibility, from a historical perspective, whether or not a man identified as Jesus of Nazareth existed. They would not comment on whether or not he was capable of performing miracles.

 

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Thanks for the input, guys.  smile.png

 

Geezer, if I may...

 

"Deists and Mystics would probably be willing to accept “some” forms of general revelation but they would also be likely to reject any form of revelation that would include any supernatural element or component. Any special revelation allegedly received by some human would only be relevant to the original recipient of the alleged revelation. It would be hearsay to everyone else.

 

Historians do not deal with the supernatural, because such events are outside the laws of known science and physics. Therefore, no creditable historian would validate anything that involved the supernatural. Historians would investigate the possibility, from a historical perspective, whether or not a man identified as Jesus of Nazareth existed. They would not comment on whether or not he was capable of performing miracles."

 

Could you point me to a source where the rules and regs of what constitutes bona fide history are clearly defined, please?

  I ask because a Christian would probably say that the Gospels do constitute history, but you (according to the sentence I've emboldened) seem to say that they don't. 

Is this your personal view or is there an authoritative line that should be followed?

.

.

TrueFreedom...

 

 

"I would classify the Pope's vision of Mary's ascension as special revelation.  The historical event would be the vision that he claimed to have and his proclamation regarding his conclusion.

 

Sorry TF, but I'm confused.

Wouldn't the initial historical event be Mary's ascension?  Up until that event she was part of history and then - she wasn't.  Much as a living person ceases to be active in the historical narrative, when they die?  Being historical, they are part and parcel of the general revelation, until they die or ascend... yes?

 

Later, the Pope receives a special revelation about it on a certain day, making that a historical event, followed by the historical event of his proclamation.  So, as far as I understand it, the sequence runs like this. 

Mary's Ascension - a supernatural end to her history on Earth, on a specific date.

the Pope's special revelation - a supernatural message from God, on a specific date.

the Pope's proclamation - a natural event, on a specific date.

 

Now, since all three events occur within the historical narrative, yet two are supernatural, which category/categories do they fall under - special revelation, general revelation or both?

 

Paul's spirit-learning qualifies as direct revelation.  The historical event would be the teaching that he claimed to receive by miraculous revelation and his proclamation regarding his conclusion.  

Any person interpreting any physical experience can claim general revelation.  The historical event might be shared and/or documented."

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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bornagainathiest asked:  

 

Could you point me to a source where the rules and regs of what constitutes bona fide history are clearly defined, please?

 

I ask because a Christian would probably say that the Gospels do constitute history, but you (according to the sentence I've emboldened) seem to say that they don't.

Is this your personal view or is there an authoritative line that should be followed?

 

 

 

Any accredited “historical” scholar such as Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, John Dominic Crossan, Robert M. Price, and I could add numerous other names, are examples of religious historical scholars. The key is not to confuse true historians with apologists. Dr. Bart Ehrman covers this question in his book Jesus Interrupted. Dr. Marcus Borg would be an example of a scholar in apologetics.

 

And I am not aware of any religious historian that believes the gospels are historically accurate writings. In fact, most historians would probably classify them as exaggerated myths written in the form of book length parables. It is common knowledge, at least among historians, that the actual writers of the gospels are unknown. The gospels only existed in oral form for decades before anyone wrote them down. It is also common knowledge among scholars that there are no eyewitness accounts of anything that is written in the gospels. Bart Ehrman noted in his book Jesus Interrupted that the NT writings have been edited, changed, modified, and redacted more times than there are words in the writings. It is also problematic that the "Jesus Story" existed for centuries before Jesus actually came on the scene. These other Pagan God/Man dying rising stories are found in virtually every ancient Eastern culture.

 

I should probably also note it is common knowledge among all religous scholars there is no historical Jesus.

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bornagainathiest asked:  

 

Could you point me to a source where the rules and regs of what constitutes bona fide history are clearly defined, please?

 

I ask because a Christian would probably say that the Gospels do constitute history, but you (according to the sentence I've emboldened) seem to say that they don't.

Is this your personal view or is there an authoritative line that should be followed?

 

 

 

Any accredited “historical” scholar such as Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, John Dominic Crossan, Robert M. Price, and I could add numerous other names, are examples of religious historical scholars. The key is not to confuse true historians with apologists. Dr. Bart Ehrman covers this question in his book Jesus Interrupted. Dr. Marcus Borg would be an example of a scholar in apologetics.

 

And I am not aware of any religious historian that believes the gospels are historically accurate writings. In fact, most historians would probably classify them as exaggerated myths written in the form of book length parables. It is common knowledge, at least among historians, that the actual writers of the gospels are unknown. The gospels only existed in oral form for decades before anyone wrote them down. It is also common knowledge among scholars that there are no eyewitness accounts of anything that is written in the gospels. Bart Ehrman noted in his book Jesus Interrupted that the NT writings have been edited, changed, modified, and redacted more times than there are words in the writings. It is also problematic that the "Jesus Story" existed for centuries before Jesus actually came on the scene. These other Pagan God/Man dying rising stories are found in virtually every ancient Eastern culture.

 

I should probably also note it is common knowledge among all religous scholars there is no historical Jesus.

 

 

Thanks for this, Geezer.

 

So would I be right to conclude that there's no single methodology and no single standard of best practice, when it comes to defining what a historian does and what 'history' means?  That it's a continuous spectrum, extending from the ridiculous to the rigorous?  And that one man's 'accredited and acceptable' is another man's 'unauthorized and unacceptable'?

 

And does this lattitude also extend to definitions of what constitutes General and Special revelation?  So that a Baptist's definition of these two categories need not agree with a Catholic's or a Coptic Christian's?  And that any believer is more or less free to write their own definitions of what these categories mean and how they should be applied?

 

Yes, I know that's a lot of questions ... but there's no rush, ok?

 

Thanks again,

 

BAA.

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So would I be right to conclude that there's no single methodology and no single standard of best practice, when it comes to defining what a historian does and what 'history' means?

 

 

No, that would not be a correct. There are rigid standards and procedures that must be followed to authenticate a historical document. The goal is to find at least three others sources that validate a finding. The nature of antiquity being what it is that is often difficult and sometimes impossible. In that case the scholar is obligated to note their conclusion is based on their training and experience and also note their conclusions are speculative. One of the best sources of validation, IMO, is other scholars. It seems scholars love to critique one another and criticize each other’s work and that process exposes flaws and brings out other valid interpretations. Generally, I believe historians do an excellent job of painting a pretty accurate picture of antiquity.

 

When it comes to religious history it might be good to keep in mind that its the historians job to find out what happened, when it happened, who was involved, what cultural, political, and economic factors might be relevant. It is the apologist job to defend the faith. They are mainly concerned with linguistics and the interpretation of ancient writings documents.

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So would I be right to conclude that there's no single methodology and no single standard of best practice, when it comes to defining what a historian does and what 'history' means?

 

 

No, that would not be a correct. There are rigid standards and procedures that must be followed to authenticate a historical document. The goal is to find at least three others sources that validate a finding. The nature of antiquity being what it is that is often difficult and sometimes impossible. In that case the scholar is obligated to note their conclusion is based on their training and experience and also note their conclusions are speculative. One of the best sources of validation, IMO, is other scholars. It seems scholars love to critique one another and criticize each other’s work and that process exposes flaws and brings out other valid interpretations. Generally, I believe historians do an excellent job of painting a pretty accurate picture of antiquity.

 

When it comes to religious history it might be good to keep in mind that its the historians job to find out what happened, when it happened, who was involved, what cultural, political, and economic factors might be relevant. It is the apologist job to defend the faith. They are mainly concerned with linguistics and the interpretation of ancient writings documents.

 

 

Good work Geezer!

 

Your explanation is very helpful.  Thanks. 

Now I'd like to press you on the content of the emboldened sentence and ask where I might find out just what these rigid standards and procedures are?   Or am I misreading the whole shebang... seeing as you say that it's the company of scholars themselves, who validate and critique each other, thus 'regulating' themselves

 

Please indulge me here, because I do realize that the way science regulates itself (peer-review, experimentation, replication of results, etc.) cannot hold good in the field of history.  I seek to learn and if that means doing so from ground-level, so be it.

 

Thanks again,

 

BAA.

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bornagainathiest I am simply not qualified to provide you with an adequate answer to your question. I found this with a google search:

 

The Historical Critical method of scholarship used by religious historians is a way of reading Scripture that makes use of historical research, literary analysis and the findings of anthropology, archaeology and other sciences. It is historical inasmuch as scholars seek to discover the social, economic, political and cultural setting of biblical times. It is critical in that experts judge and evaluate the text and its narrative in light of literary analysis and scientific information. Through this kind of scholarly detective work, modern Bible readers are interpreting what the ancient Bible writers had to say.

 

The historical-critical method uses several types of criticism or analysis; the chief types are textual criticism, form criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, and historical criticism. Through the historical-critical method, we have come to see that the Bible in no way contradicts the truths of reason or the facts of science.

 

You might find it beneficial to do your own research on this method of historical research and the techniques scholars use.

 

 

 

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Geezer,

 

Thanks for you all the help you've given to me and for your honesty in this matter. 

 

I come away with a better understanding of things and I will certainly dig deeper, as you suggest.

 

Thanks again,

 

BAA.

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I should probably also note it is common knowledge among all religous scholars there is no historical Jesus.

 

I thought Bart Ehrman claims there was a historical Jesus and sort of dismisses "mythicists."  ??

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It may not be true for historical scholars, but the consensus among religious scholars remains on the side of an historical Jesus. 

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Hi BAA.  So back when I was a Christian I was a Calvinist.  General and special revelation are heavily emphasized by modern Calvinist theologians, so I heard a lot about this.  As per the Calvinist understanding, general revelation is essentially the physical world that we live in, which testifies to God's eternal power and divine nature (as described in the first few chapters of Romans).  Special revelation is any word from God given through an inspired speaker or writer.  Basically the only form of special revelation we have today is the Bible.  Calvinists used these two concepts to demonstrate that the physical creation points us to our sinfulness and need for redemption, whereas special revelation provides us with the means of that redemption, i.e. faith in Jesus Christ.  Now of course, whenever general revelation shows us something like biological evolution, Calvinists are quick to point out that general revelation can't contradict special revelation, and that the general revelation must be interpreted in light of the special revelation.

 

Is that anything like what the rest of you guys learned in your various denominations?

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Hi BAA.  So back when I was a Christian I was a Calvinist.  General and special revelation are heavily emphasized by modern Calvinist theologians, so I heard a lot about this.  As per the Calvinist understanding, general revelation is essentially the physical world that we live in, which testifies to God's eternal power and divine nature (as described in the first few chapters of Romans).  Special revelation is any word from God given through an inspired speaker or writer.  Basically the only form of special revelation we have today is the Bible.  Calvinists used these two concepts to demonstrate that the physical creation points us to our sinfulness and need for redemption, whereas special revelation provides us with the means of that redemption, i.e. faith in Jesus Christ.  Now of course, whenever general revelation shows us something like biological evolution, Calvinists are quick to point out that general revelation can't contradict special revelation, and that the general revelation must be interpreted in light of the special revelation.

 

Is that anything like what the rest of you guys learned in your various denominations?

 

Pretty much, Bhim. 

But I never got much into it because I was too keen to share the word of god with unbelievers.  Now I'd like to redress that oversight and bring myself up to speed on the issue.  Which is why I'm grateful for any all help given to me here.  smile.png

 

It's your last sentence (emboldened) that interests me and that I'd like some help in exploring, ok?  I'd like to understand the interface between general and special revelation and how one affects the other.   For instance...

 

The discovery of Jesus' mortal remains would fall into the category of general revelation, wouldn't it?  Because he would then be verified as a bona fide historical character who existed in the physcial universe, right?  So, would general revelation then overturn special revelation by destroying the evidence-base special revelation relies upon?  Or is it that special revelation, by definition, cannot be overturned by physical evidence?  Because it's evidence base is not physical and natural, but spiritual and supernatural?

 

Help please!

 

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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I should probably also note it is common knowledge among all religous scholars there is no historical Jesus.

 

I thought Bart Ehrman claims there was a historical Jesus and sort of dismisses "mythicists."  ??

 

 

There is a difference in believing Jesus was a real person and finding historical records of his existence. Many scholars accept that a human being identified as Jesus of Nazareth existed in the flesh, but it is also common knowledge there are no historical records that confirm such a person existed or that he did the things the gospels claim he did. And therein lies the problem. The Gospels are the only written record of the existence of a man called Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospels are based on oral tradition not historical evidence.

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There is a difference in believing Jesus was a real person and finding historical records of his existence. Many scholars accept that a human being identified as Jesus of Nazareth existed in the flesh, but it is also common knowledge there are no historical records that confirm such a person existed or that he did the things the gospels claim he did. And therein lies the problem. The Gospels are the only written record of the existence of a man called Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospels are based on oral tradition not historical evidence.

 

I am open to persuasion but this is exactly why I am not convinced there was a jesus.

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Historians lean heavily on other sciences as well... chemical and radiometric dating techniques, archaeology, pottery interpretation, art history and the such as well. Supporting evidence needs to be pretty wide in the field of history - which is a soft science, and requires the support of the hard sciences. I'm an art historian and correlating the local art with the texts is very important, especially in ancient history. The vast majority of information is artistic and not textual from the bronze age. Most dating also comes from artistic styling, pottery styling and metal working - as well as metal analysis (alloys can be dated and even geographically and culturally pinpointed - like pottery). Reminds me of the misinterpretation of the Caldwell's, actually. An amatuer archaeologist might easily mistake an arabic art form/symbol for something that looks familiar... peer review, critique and collaborating with other fields is essential to discover what's really going on.

 

It would be no good to interpret texts, even with supporting texts but ignore the fact that say.. such a place didn't exist at the time the text is claiming, for example.

 

I can't add anything to the revelation thing, sorry.

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Pretty much, Bhim. 

But I never got much into it because I was too keen to share the word of god with unbelievers.  Now I'd like to redress that oversight and bring myself up to speed on the issue.  Which is why I'm grateful for any all help given to me here.  smile.png

 

It's your last sentence (emboldened) that interests me and that I'd like some help in exploring, ok?  I'd like to understand the interface between general and special revelation and how one affects the other.   For instance...

 

The discovery of Jesus' mortal remains would fall into the category of general revelation, wouldn't it?  Because he would then be verified as a bona fide historical character who existed in the physcial universe, right?  So, would general revelation then overturn special revelation by destroying the evidence-base special revelation relies upon?  Or is it that special revelation, by definition, cannot be overturned by physical evidence?  Because it's evidence base is not physical and natural, but spiritual and supernatural?

 

Help please!

Ah, that's an excellent point you bring up, BAA. I'd first cite 1 Corinthians 15:17, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." This appears to be a direct admission that the Christian faith rests on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. And indeed, most evangelical Christians I know eschew the idea that the gospel has any merit apart from the reality of this historical claim.

 

Like you say, the historical remains of Jesus would fall under the category of general revelation. And the idea you're proposing is well within the realm of possibility. Archeologists have exhumed the remains of older Egyptian pharaohs, if I recall correctly. Sure, it'd be harder with Jesus because he wasn't particularly prominent in his own day, and his gravesite would be difficult to ascertain. But the prospect of finding Jesus' grave, complete with human remains, is by no means absurd. What, then, is the Christian to do?

 

The way I think this works is as follows. In principle, special revelation should take priority over general revelation, but this is contrary to the way the human mind works (i.e. we believe what we see/hear/touch over what we gather from other peoples' accounts). In practice, this tends not to be a problem. After all, there are no living eyewitnesses to any event that allegedly took place in the Bible, and most people are not archeologists who unearth dig sites that contradict Biblical records. Thus, most people are not comparing what they read to what they see; they read the archeologist's work on paper the same way they read the Bible, and choose the Bible over archeology. When it comes to evolutionary biology or cosmology, the same applies. After all, the microwave data that we gather from the WMAP or Planck satellite goes through CCDs (or whatever data acquisition system they use), it must be processed by analysis algorithms, and then must be interpreted with theoretical models of cosmology for us to deduce that the universe is 14 billion years old and not 5,700. The whole thing is complicated, and even a physicist has a hard time realizing that what he's observing is no different than what he sees with his five senses. How much less a non-scientist! I assume that evolutionary biologists have an equally lengthy process to turn their data into physically meaningful results. In short, for the most part Christians are comparing eyewitness accounts of academics against eyewitness accounts from the Bible, and in their minds the two sources are equally weighty. Thus they pick the one that they believe came from God over the one which, by everyone's admission, comes from man. Chances are that if archeologists find the remains of Jesus, most evangelicals will do precisely the same thing.

 

But now let's say you're the archeologist who unearth's Jesus' remains? Let's further say that you happen to be a Christian (after all, there is a fair number of academics who are also evangelical Christians, though God alone knows how they deal with the cognitive dissonance).  What do you do when you are confronted with your savior's remains?  The Bible that you probably keep in your back pocket tells you that Christ is raised from the dead.  And yet your eyes, ears, and God-given reason tell you that his body lays before you.  You are now forced to choose between what you know to be true (the Bible), and the source of information that has proven faithful for your entire life (your senses).  I don't know what this hypothetical Christian would choose.  But I can say this: if you choose to believe the Bible, then you must forever disregard your God-given senses as an accurate source of information.  Indeed, I must wonder how you would even continue reading the Bible without becoming concerned that Satan is interfering with the photons that strike the page and enter your eye.  Even the Bible must be read by the same senses you use to gather general revelation!

 

I do not know what this hypothetical individual would do.  What I can say is the following.  By placing special revelation above general revelation, evangelical Christians are trusting other men's accounts over their own senses, and behaving contrary to the way in which they normally live.  Their only saving grace is that this contradiction rarely, if ever, has the opportunity to present itself in their daily lives.

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Pretty much, Bhim. 

But I never got much into it because I was too keen to share the word of god with unbelievers.  Now I'd like to redress that oversight and bring myself up to speed on the issue.  Which is why I'm grateful for any all help given to me here.  smile.png

 

It's your last sentence (emboldened) that interests me and that I'd like some help in exploring, ok?  I'd like to understand the interface between general and special revelation and how one affects the other.   For instance...

 

The discovery of Jesus' mortal remains would fall into the category of general revelation, wouldn't it?  Because he would then be verified as a bona fide historical character who existed in the physcial universe, right?  So, would general revelation then overturn special revelation by destroying the evidence-base special revelation relies upon?  Or is it that special revelation, by definition, cannot be overturned by physical evidence?  Because it's evidence base is not physical and natural, but spiritual and supernatural?

 

Help please!

Thanks so much for this response Bhim!  yellow.gif

 

 

Ah, that's an excellent point you bring up, BAA. I'd first cite 1 Corinthians 15:17, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." This appears to be a direct admission that the Christian faith rests on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. And indeed, most evangelical Christians I know eschew the idea that the gospel has any merit apart from the reality of this historical claim.

 

Yep.  That was the way of my church too.  The historicity of the gospel was taken as the foundation stone of the whole Christian faith.  If Jesus didn't rise from death then Christianity is falsified... game over.  Of course, just what constituted 'history' was another matter altogether.  It's this issue that intrigues me.  Is the dividing line between general and special revelation something objective, that can be tested and proven or is it subjective and a matter of personal choice?

 

Like you say, the historical remains of Jesus would fall under the category of general revelation. And the idea you're proposing is well within the realm of possibility. Archeologists have exhumed the remains of older Egyptian pharaohs, if I recall correctly. Sure, it'd be harder with Jesus because he wasn't particularly prominent in his own day, and his gravesite would be difficult to ascertain. But the prospect of finding Jesus' grave, complete with human remains, is by no means absurd. What, then, is the Christian to do?

 

The way I think this works is as follows. In principle, special revelation should take priority over general revelation, but this is contrary to the way the human mind works (i.e. we believe what we see/hear/touch over what we gather from other peoples' accounts). In practice, this tends not to be a problem. After all, there are no living eyewitnesses to any event that allegedly took place in the Bible, and most people are not archeologists who unearth dig sites that contradict Biblical records. Thus, most people are not comparing what they read to what they see; they read the archeologist's work on paper the same way they read the Bible, and choose the Bible over archeology. When it comes to evolutionary biology or cosmology, the same applies. After all, the microwave data that we gather from the WMAP or Planck satellite goes through CCDs (or whatever data acquisition system they use), it must be processed by analysis algorithms, and then must be interpreted with theoretical models of cosmology for us to deduce that the universe is 14 billion years old and not 5,700. The whole thing is complicated, and even a physicist has a hard time realizing that what he's observing is no different than what he sees with his five senses. How much less a non-scientist! I assume that evolutionary biologists have an equally lengthy process to turn their data into physically meaningful results. In short, for the most part Christians are comparing eyewitness accounts of academics against eyewitness accounts from the Bible, and in their minds the two sources are equally weighty. Thus they pick the one that they believe came from God over the one which, by everyone's admission, comes from man. Chances are that if archeologists find the remains of Jesus, most evangelicals will do precisely the same thing.

 

Bhim, pursuing the topic of personal choice here, you'll see that I've highlighted three significant points from the above section in redYou do indeed seem to be saying that a Christian makes a deliberate and conscious choice to favor the Bible over the evidence acquired via science, yes?

 

So, under normal circumstances, Christians balance the Bible against extra-Biblical evidence, letting special and general revelation compliment each other.  But should an item of general revelation seem to contradict the Bible, they deliberately and consciously choose to favor special revelation over general, so as to keep their faith intact?  The product of this choice is therefore the calculated denial of evidence that would threaten their faith?  

 

But now let's say you're the archeologist who unearth's Jesus' remains? Let's further say that you happen to be a Christian (after all, there is a fair number of academics who are also evangelical Christians, though God alone knows how they deal with the cognitive dissonance).  What do you do when you are confronted with your savior's remains?  The Bible that you probably keep in your back pocket tells you that Christ is raised from the dead.  And yet your eyes, ears, and God-given reason tell you that his body lays before you.  You are now forced to choose between what you know to be true (the Bible), and the source of information that has proven faithful for your entire life (your senses).  I don't know what this hypothetical Christian would choose.  But I can say this: if you choose to believe the Bible, then you must forever disregard your God-given senses as an accurate source of information.  Indeed, I must wonder how you would even continue reading the Bible without becoming concerned that Satan is interfering with the photons that strike the page and enter your eye.  Even the Bible must be read by the same senses you use to gather general revelation!

 

As Mr. Spock might say... fascinating!  KatieHmm.gif

 

So, if a Christian claims that science and Christianity are totally compatible, but then chooses to deny a specific scientific discovery by saying that special revelation always trumps general revelation, they are doing what?  Being disingenuous?  Dissembling?

 

And if they hold to one scientific theory that is compatible with their faith, but then refuse to accept a newer one that has greater explanatory power than the other and that fits the data better, what then?  In the light of their claim (100% compatability between science and Christianity) is this not inconsistent?  Is this wilful denial? 

 

 

 

I do not know what this hypothetical individual would do.  What I can say is the following.  By placing special revelation above general revelation, evangelical Christians are trusting other men's accounts over their own senses, and behaving contrary to the way in which they normally live.  Their only saving grace is that this contradiction rarely, if ever, has the opportunity to present itself in their daily lives.

 

 

Ok, investigating the line of demarcation between general and special revelation further Bhim, I'd like to put some more questions to you.

 

1.

Are Biblical events that have no corroborating physical evidence whatsoever considered to be general revelation because Christianity takes them to be historical?  Or are they a unique category, like Jesus himself?  Just as he is considered to be fully man and fully God at the same time, are such events fully special and general at the same time?  Or are they exclusively special revelation? 

 

As a worked example, let's take the conception of Jesus.  Without this supernatural event Christianity wouldn't exist.  No Jesus = no fulfillment of OT promises and prophecies.  Ditto his life, his death, his sacrifice and his resurrection, etc., etc.  So, the historical aspects of NT Christianity (general revelation) depend on a supernatural act of God (special revelation) and that dependency leads me to ask the following. 

 

Under which category does Jesus' conception fall?  General revelation, because he is taken to be as historical as Augustus Caesar or special because his Earthly incarnation is supernatural and therefore not subject to investigation?

 

2.

Would you agree with this definition of the two revelations?

 

Natural Revelation = Philosophy & Science

Special Revelation = History & the Supernatural

 

3.

And how about this?

 

Evidence of the supernatural is found thru non-repeatable detection (eye-witness testimony) and not experiment.

The supernatural is, by definition, not subject to empirical investigation.

 

4.

What about an event in the very distant past that we know must have taken place... the origin of life on Earth? 

If this were taken to be a supernatural event and not a natural one, then it would fall under the auspices of special revelation and therefore be forever beyond empirical, natural investigation, right?

 

Thanks again for your help Bhim.  smile.png

 

BAA

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BAA, I typed an entire book responding to this and then accidently browsed away and lost it... I'm going to go die now.

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BAA, I typed an entire book responding to this and then accidently browsed away and lost it... I'm going to go die now.

 

Oh shuggles!  sad.png

 

I wondered what the cry of anguish echoing across the state line was.  Now I know. 

For what it's worth man, I've been there and done that too... and it really sucks!

 

When I do get it right and do things properly RR, I open two pages, start typing on one and frequently cut-n-paste the stuff over to the other.  Maybe that'll work for you too?

 

If you do persevere tho', I'd be appreciative of the input and keen to read it, ok?

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok, investigating the line of demarcation between general and special revelation further Bhim, I'd like to put some more questions to you.

 

1.

Are Biblical events that have no corroborating physical evidence whatsoever considered to be general revelation because Christianity takes them to be historical?  Or are they a unique category, like Jesus himself?  Just as he is considered to be fully man and fully God at the same time, are such events fully special and general at the same time?  Or are they exclusively special revelation? 

 

As a worked example, let's take the conception of Jesus.  Without this supernatural event Christianity wouldn't exist.  No Jesus = no fulfillment of OT promises and prophecies.  Ditto his life, his death, his sacrifice and his resurrection, etc., etc.  So, the historical aspects of NT Christianity (general revelation) depend on a supernatural act of God (special revelation) and that dependency leads me to ask the following. 

 

Under which category does Jesus' conception fall?  General revelation, because he is taken to be as historical as Augustus Caesar or special because his Earthly incarnation is supernatural and therefore not subject to investigation?

 

2.

Would you agree with this definition of the two revelations?

 

Natural Revelation = Philosophy & Science

Special Revelation = History & the Supernatural

 

3.

And how about this?

 

Evidence of the supernatural is found thru non-repeatable detection (eye-witness testimony) and not experiment.

The supernatural is, by definition, not subject to empirical investigation.

 

4.

What about an event in the very distant past that we know must have taken place... the origin of life on Earth? 

If this were taken to be a supernatural event and not a natural one, then it would fall under the auspices of special revelation and therefore be forever beyond empirical, natural investigation, right?

 

Thanks again for your help Bhim.  smile.png

 

BAA

Hi BAA.  Sorry for the late reply, there have indeed been a lot of posts here to catch up on.

 

1.) This is an interesting point given that Christians have a tendancy to look for and sometimes fabricate archeological evidence in support of Biblical historical claims.  I can't think of any Christian authors who address this (the one's I've read are men like Grudem, Piper, and others in the Reformed Evangelical circle).  I still have Grudem's systematic theology textbook lying around somewhere, and I'll see if I can find an answer in there.  But I would guess that any information specifically stated in the Bible is called special revelation, whereas any obtained by other means is general.  Thus there is some overlap between the two.  For example, the account of King Herod's death in the book of Acts is recorded in an extrabiblical source as well, and is thus revealed both generally and specially.

 

Now regarding the issue of prophetic fulfillment, I think it's important to note that general and special revelation do not constitute causation.  An evangelical would likely believe that even if an event has no historical corroboration (e.g. most of the life of King David), is still objectively happened.  Revelation is merely the means by which the knowledge of this event is transmitted to us.  Hypothetically, let's say that the New Testament wasn't even recorded.  The Christian would still say that because Jesus really did live, die, and was resurrected by God, salvation was still accomplished.  That salvation wouldn't be granted to anyone after Jesus' generation, since we'd all be ignorant of it, but the cause is still God and not the revelation.

 

2.) As a functional definition, yes.  But scripture (special revelation) largely falls under the category of history too.  I'd say that perhaps a more exhaustive definition is:

 

Special revelation = Any word spoken by the holy spirit, whether through the Bible or one of God's prophets

General revelation = Any knowledge not subsumed under special revelation

 

3.) I'm going to have to think about this a bit, but at first glance that seems quite right.  Now, Christians will tell us that the Bible can be subjected to scientific and other scrutiny.  For example, Lee Strobel claims that the gospels read like eyewitness accounts, and somehow meet the criterion for journalistic integrity.  Creationists say that the Bible accurately predicts that the age of the universe is 6,000 years, and that this is verified by science.  But I think here we must again realize that general and special revelation can overlap.  So I think your definition works quite well.  Special revelation that is not also general seems like it cannot be subject to scientific inquiry.  If it could, then it would be general revelation.

 

4.) As far as I know, evangelical Christians (the relatively reasonable ones) do not object to scientific inquiry of events described by special revelation.  But in the case of the origin of life, I'd almost be tempted to say that this is general revelation.  As you say, we are here and thus know that life originated at some point.  You don't need the Bible to know this, so perhaps this is a form of general revelation?  That said, Hebrews tells us that "by faith" the universe was created by the word of God.  Perhaps only the moment of creation is regarded as beyond human inquiry.  That's interesting, because our existence and our ability of inference makes the moment of creation a generally revealed truth.  It would appear that even some general revelation is beyond our ability to inquire about.  According to the Bible, anyway.

 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on all this!

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I guess I'll give this one a bump. Been watching from the sidelines. (Great points, Bhim: are you sure you don't want to be a historian?)

A few things, sort of an extension on the themes brought up above, and why the Bible gets mixed up with science and history at all, that I guess I'll tackle in no order at all, since they're intertwined: history and the scientific method, changing social values in terms of what knowledge is accepted, and what all this means for Bible scholarship.

History and science.

While sciences deal in more easily defined areas of study, "history" is a huge, huge, nebulous category: the study of the past. Technically, some sciences fall under the umbrella of history - like cosmology, geology, paleontology, or archaeology. However, when it comes to studying people, things get squishier. This is where you find "soft" sciences like psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Any of those "-ologies" that use scientific methods, but have a harder time keeping variables in check. You can't put a cultural opinion in a test tube, or a ritual, or meaning, or social structures. That's why history is an art, it requires, on some level, subjective interpretation. This doesn't mean at all, though, as Geezer pointed out, that there's no rules. No, there's solid peer-review systems, just like in science, and standards and practices and all kinds of academic standards. You may have your pet argument about something historical, but then historians expect you to prove it. And that's where the scientific method, and others, come in. You've got to have texts (linguistics), cultural background (anthropology), archaeological evidence (more science), radiometric dating (physics is as hard-science as it gets). Academic history papers and books marshal loads of evidence from all kinds of disciplines to back up their points. The good ones, anyway. Which is where the review process comes in: it keeps all the crackpot "I found a potsherd and I'm SURE aliens built the pyramids" confined to public history. Which brings up another problem: real-deal academic history books and journals are expensive. [standard plug for the library here: most public libraries have subscriptions to just these journals so you can read them for free, with your library card! Yay!] It's just so much easier to whip out a sensationalist book on Nazi necromancers and sell it as "history" cheaply. Which brings us to...

Changing Standards of Knowledge

A funny thing happened on the way out of the 19th Century: the scientific method gained real social credence as a means of validating and acquiring knowledge. In the public mind, science = for realsies really really true. When you're selling vacuum cleaners as scientifically engineered vacuum cleaners, or bread as the most scientific, or yoghurt as studies have shown - there's something going on, culturally.

Science and Christianity

Science's social credibility, however, isn't lost on Christian apologists. If the Bible is true - and they assume it is - then it MUST be verifiable scientifically. This impulse, actually, is what we can credit the science of geology to. The earliest geologists in the west were trying to prove Genesis verifiably RIGHT. Aaaand then the evidence turned out otherwise. But, hey, that's science: sometimes the most interesting stuff happens when your best guess is proven wrong. It's the inability to accept that natural outcome of the scientific method, and a vital facet of scientific academic integrity, that gets Christian apologists in trouble. And, yes, this happens all the time. See the epic thread on the Caldwell's "archaeological" findings on this very forum. Send someone out to do some archaeology, and prove the Bible right, then. But, this is a problem, and I suspect at least some of them know it: suppose said archaeologists find Jesus' body, in which case that's a whole other can of worms Christianity will have to deal with... (So much for the resurrection, eh?) Which brings us back to History: one of the cardinal rules is not to make your mind up before you have all the evidence. Christian apologetic use of history and science is - kind of by definition, since they're convinced that Christianity is right - academically unethical. Which is why, when reading history, you have to take into account who, exactly is publishing it, and why.

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