Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Models of Revelation 2

Dulles continues his preliminary analysis of challenges to revelation on p. 8: "In view of the many and serious objections against the idea of revelation it must be asked whether it might not be possible to excise it from Christianity." He offers two examples of this "mythologizing" approach: one philosophical, and one theological. He's using these examples as representative arguments for a "reconstructed Christianity." (I don't want to get too bogged down in the details here; we can tackle those details when you've had a chance to read and digest them.) What this shows is how revelation is central to the traditional sense of faith. If one takes it out, one changes the faith quite radically.

After a quick sketch of the strengths and weaknesses of these two types of argument, he concludes (rightly) that this would be too great a change, an abandoning of historical Christian faith. So what does one do with the arguments against revelation? One can do one of two things: "Contemporary theology cannot and does not ignore the difficulties against revelation set forth above. The responses fall into two general types. Some theologians, adhering to the classical concept of revelation, attempt to show that the objections are unfounded and they they prove nothing against the reality of revelation." (p. 13) So one broad kind of theological defense of revelation challenges the objections on their own ground. I don't think any of you would be too surprised to think that I pretty much fall into this group.

He continues, "Other theologians admit that the objections, or some of them, have telling force against the naive conceptions of revelation purveyed by many theological manuals of the past centuries. But going back to the biblical and patristic sources, or moving forward to a more modern theological outlook, these authors attempt to develop a doctrine of revelation that can stand up against objections such as those here considered." (p. 13) The second broad kind of theological defense of revelation tries rather to deflect the objections in various ways: nuance this, balance that, distinguish the other, etc. This kind of approach can be very productive, but, I would add, one must always be careful to maintain a sufficiently clear and grounded (in Tradition) notion of revelation through this process.

The rest of Ch 1 and Ch 2 cover his methods and assumptions. We'll go through that pretty quickly, but it's worth noting some of his key benchmarks before we dig into his five models in more detail.

No comments: