Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Revelation and the genres of Scripture

Looking at dialogue with Muslims has raised questions for me about how different genres are authoritative for Christians. Here's a choice quote from B. B. Warfield:

we have no Scriptural warrant to go on in contrasting one mode of revelation with another. Dreams may seem to us little fitted to serve as vehicles of Divine communications. But there is no suggestion in Scripture that revelations through dreams stand on a lower plane than any others [...] It may seem natural to suppose that reveations rise in rank in proportion to the fulness of the engagement of the mental activity of the recipient in their reception. But we should bear in mind that the intellectual or spiritual quality of a revelation is not derived from the recipient but from its Divine Giver. The fundamental fact in all revelation is that it is from God.1

And he brings out how God uses the entire person to reveal himself:

And when it is not merely the mouths of men with which God thus serves Himself in the delivery of His messages, but their minds and hearts as well—the play of their religious feelings, or the processes of their logical reasoning, or the tenacity of their memories, as, say, in a psalm or in an epistle, or a history—the supernatural element in the communication may easily seem to retire stil farther into the background. [... But i]n the view of the Scriptures, the completely supernatural character of revelation is in no way lessened by the circumstance that it has been given through the instrumentality of men.2

He directly addresses other genres than prophecy (like poetry, psalms, epistles) as modes of revelation that are called "concursive operation". Of these he says:

The Spirit is not to be conceived as standing outside of the human powers employed for the effect in view, ready to supplement any inadequacies they may show and to supply any defects they may manifest, but as working confluently in with and by them, elevating them, directing them, controlling them, energizing them, so that, as His instruments, they rise above themselves and under His inspiration do His work and reach His aim.3

Finally, he sees all these revelations culminating in Christ, for

the revelation accumulated in Him stands outside all the divers portions and divers manners in which otherwise revelation has been gien and sums up in itself all that has been or can be made known of God and of His redemption. [...] Nevertheless, though all revelation is thus summed up in Him, we should not fail to note very carefully that it would also be all sealed up in Him—so little is revelation conveyed by fact alone, without the word—had it not been thus taken by the Spirit of truth and declared unto men. The entirety of the New Testament is but the explanatory word accompanying and giving its effect to the fact of Christ.4

1 B. B. Warfield The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1970), 84.

2 Warfield, 86.

3 Warfield, 95.

4 Warfield, 96.

No comments: