The first question that one must ask is how is God revealed to people? Is God currently practicing revelation or did it end with the closing of the canon? Is illumination a better term for God’s revelation and interaction with people today? Let’s first define our terms for our use. It is always better when the writer and, the reader understand the exact meaning set forth. We all have various connotations of the meanings of words, and revelation is no different. For our purposes we will define revelation as God communicating, and explaining divine truth to humans.
Two avenues of revelation that should be explored are scripture and mysticism. When I mention scripture, for our purposes, I mean the bible. By mysticism I mean the mystical union whereby God communicates to individuals with thoughts, audible messages, dreams or visions. You hear mainline Christians make the statements that the Lord told me or shared with me all the time. Quite frankly you can hear me say that from time to time and sometimes quite often. To simplify it, revelation is God communicating with people and the vehicle can be scripture or mysticism.
It is fair to say, that according to Christian tradition, based upon the scripture itself, that all of the scripture was delivered to us via a mystical experience of someone. How one views scripture and mystical experience determines ultimately their theology concerning God’s revelation. It is not just how one views the bible. It is how one views all methods of revelation including mystical experience. You may not like the word mystical but the fact is that it is the best way to properly explain people’s interaction with God’s Holy Spirit.
I have several acquaintances including my wife who tell me that God speaks to them from time to time in nature or by road signs. My wife has experienced both. I personally am a thought kind of person, that is, God speaks in and to my thoughts. When God speaks to me I generally think it. An exception to this is one Sunday when my wife and I were out to a nature sanctuary preserve on the San Francisco Bay. We were rejoicing and praising God when all at once all of the marsh and sea birds took flight and song at once. It was a loud and prolonged experience. I realized at that point that all of nature praises God.
I share this because I want you to think about your experience with revelation and mysticism outside of, or beyond the scripture. I am certain that my experience is not unique. I am equally certain that many of you have had similar experiences and stories to share. I welcome your comments as I undertake this exercise is explaining my own systematic theology and how it compares to Christian dogma and doctrine. This is usually the jumping off point in all systematic theology books. They usually always begin with revelation and scripture. The reason is that it informs the source of the theology.
Finally a word about illumination; I see that as a spiritual revelation from the Holy Spirit that gives a clearer understanding of what scripture means. Jesus did a lot of illuminating, and much of the New Testament scriptures are dedicated to illuminating what God’s revelation really meant. This is especially true with the redemptive focus that was applied by Jesus and his followers. Here is a beginning…. future posts will build on this foundation.