The concept of revelation

Moon, Arnold Charles (1983). The concept of revelation. PhD thesis The Open University.



In choosing an experiential approach to the concept of revelation and, in preferring this to either an informative or an instructional view, I have faced head-on a central concern for Christian theists. This appertains to the epistemological problem raised by the assumption at the heart of belief in revelation, that God can, in some way or another, be known by men. For to say that God has revealed Himself to his human creatures implies some kind of knowledge of God. I have rejected attempts to describe this in terms simply of degrees of commitment, evinced by Christian faith and attitudes, and attempted to show that the concept of revelation, as traditionally understood, requires an apperception of reality which enables the verb to know to be suitably used.

My method has been to use Wittgenstein's concepts of a language game and a form of life to demonstrate that it makes sense to say that, in Christ, a knowledge of God is possible. I have argued that certain fundamental propositions, implicit within the Kerygma of the Apostolic community, provide the basis for intelligible talk about man's encounter with his Creator.

After analysing different sorts of knowledge claim, I reached the conclusion that knowledge by description best suits the demands of the kerygmatic language game. This coheres with my argument, following Wittgenstein, that it is in the learning of an apposite language game and adhering to the rules prescribed by its autonomous grammar that understanding of Christian propositions can be gained.

To elucidate this, I discussed Kant's view concerning the place of reason in reaching a posteriori judgements. I introduced Popper's notion of a 'third world of ideas' to justify the Christian's claim that ideas relative to the kerygma and didache etc have stood the test of time. Such ideas might be accorded a certain objectivity.

Is the question of God's existence begged in the language game? To answer this I examined a number of views about the verb 'to exist' and adopted Russell's suggestion that it operates in a second order manner. I explored his thinking about significant inexistent objects. 1 proceeded to relate these problems to Wittgenstein's discussion of sense and reference in respect of what he says of the 'mystical' and about significant yet meaningless propositions. Yet the main thrust of my argument was to seek to explicate the notion of man's response to God (who is thus taken to exist and to be active in communication with man), by pointing again to the fact of the form of life of Christian belief. I concluded that it is here that all that can intelligibly be said of God making Himself known, and being known by believers, must be grounded.

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