Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Systematic Theology: Natural and Special Revelation (class 1)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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Class Notes:

Lecture Notes

Introduction to Systematic Theology

Class 1: Revelation

(taken From Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology chapter 1)

1. I. Revelation: “The act of God whereby he discloses himself or communicates truth to the mind; whereby he makes manifest to his creatures that which could not be known in any other way”(31)

2. Revelation can be immediate and direct or long-term through second causes.

3. There are two kinds of revelation: Natural Revelation and Special Revelation.

II. Natural Revelation (32):

    1. Is revelation communicated through the media of natural phenomena occurring in nature or the course of history.

    2. Is addressed to all intelligent creatures generally and accessible to all

    3. Has as its object or purpose the supplying of the natural need of the human person and the persuasion of the soul to seek after the true God.

III. Revelation of God in Nature:

  1. The works of God tell us primarily about the divine essence and nature of the Worker

  2. God reveals himself in nature in order to incite human beings to search for the a fuller revelation of God.

  3. The revelation of God in nature is a universal call to all human beings

  4. The sufficiency of Natural Revelation?

      a. sufficient so as to leave human beings without excuse

      b. insufficient to bring about salvation.

IV Revelation of God in History:

  1. World History: God reveals his power and providence—establishing civilization through Adam and Eve, raising and destroying nations and kingdoms.

  2. The redemptive history of Israel: From Abraham to Christ--is intended as a showcase of God's personal nature and the standing of humanity before him:

    a. Israel came to recognize God as Almighty, Faithful, Holy, Just, Loving, Merciful, and Gracious.

    b. They came to know humanity as fallen, in need of atonement, rebellious insufficient.

    c. God's treatment of the Nation: Promise, discipline, favor, protection, providence.

V. Revelation of God in Conscience:

  1. Conscience: “Is discriminative and impulsive. It judges whether a proposed course of action or an attitude is in harmony with our moral standard or not and urges us to do that which is in harmony with it and to refrain from that which is contrary to it. It is the presence of this sense of right and wrong, of this discriminative and impulsive something that constitutes the revelation of God. It is not self imposed, as is evident from the fact that man would often rid himself of its deliverances if he could. It is the reflection of God in the soul.”(34-35)

  1. What does Conscience reveal: It reveals not only the existence of God but his personal character.

    a. It reveals that there is a law that is in us and external to us at the same time

    b. It reveals that there is a lawgiver

    c. He sharply distinguishes what is right from what is wrong.

    d. He always does the right

    e. He always punishes the wrong

    f. He will hold us responsible for our actions

    g. He is the supreme lawgiver who embodies the Law in his own person and conduct.

    h. Lake and the moon analogy

2. I. Special Revelation: “Those acts of God whereby he makes himself and his truth known at special times and to specific peoples.”

2. Although given at special times and to specific peoples, the revelation is not necessarily intended for that time and people only. It is almost always intended to be shared and proclaimed.

3. It comes to us in five ways: 1. Miracles, 2. Prophesies, 3. in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ 4. in the scriptures, and 5. in personal experience.

  1. The Revelation of God in Miracles:

    1. Definition of Miracle: “An unusual event, not the product of natural laws or processes, accomplishing some useful work revealing the presence and power of God.”

    2. Two types of Miracles: 1. Natural Laws and processes are intinsified or augmented. 2. and those in which the “participation of nature is excluded (budding of Aaron's staff etc...)

    3. Purpose of a genuine miracle: A genuine miracle accomplishes some practical and benevolent work.

    4. Effect of miracles: They prove God's existence, presence, concern and power.

    5. Proof of miracles rests on testimony of eye-witnesses.

  1. Revelation of God in Prophecy:

    1. Prophecy: “The foretelling of events not by virtue of mere human insight or prescience, but by virtue of a direct communication from God.” (38)

  1. Measure of true prophesy: 1. Unambiguous 2. whether what is said comes true. 3.Whether what is said is consistent with what has already been revealed.

IV: The revelation of God in Jesus Christ:

Supreme Revelation:
Natural Revelation, Miracle, and Prophesy, did not succeed in leading Israel to a true understanding of God's nature and character and will. So the Father sent the Son, Jesus Christ, as the fullest revelation of himself. Jesus Christ is the center of history and revelation. To see Jesus is to see the Father. He is the supreme revelation.

VI The Revelation of God in Scripture:

1. Scripture:
In the bible we have the clearest and only inerrant revelation communicated by fallen human beings.(41)
  1. The bible is not one revelation among others, it is the revelation through which we know the others. It is the embodiment of them.

The bible, “records the knowledge of God and his dealings with the creature which men of old gathered from nature, history, and conscience as also from miracles, prophecy, the Lord Jesus Christ, and inner experience and divine instruction. The Christian therefore turns to the scriptures as the supreme and only infallible source for the construction of his theology.” (41)

VI. The Revelation of God in human experience:

  1. Revelatory Experience: the sense of direct communication and/or fellowship with God not simply through nature, history, or conscience; not by way of miracle or prophecy, but personal experience.

  2. Experience of God is transformative—making people more like the God with whom they have communion.

  3. Experience and Scripture: The revelation of God through personal experience is the primary source from which came the inspiration that produced holy scripture.

  4. Experience perfected: In those particular cases, the Holy Spirit had them infallibly recorded in the books of the Old and New Testaments

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