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Lecture 204.06 - 3

This week we begin to actually explore doctrines, the "building blocks" of what we will be studying for the remainder of the course. Doctrines are the pieces we assempbe to form the systems that make up systematic theology. Doctrines both instruct us in what we believe, and they are themselves part of the content of what we believe.

So, this week, we explore the doctrine of Revelation.

By 'revelation,' we do not mean, in this case, a discussion of the last book of the New Testament (although the vision that John of Patmos had prior to the writing of that book is an example of what we mean by the term). In the sense we mean here, revelation points us to its root word: reveal. In revalation, something that was hidden is brought forward and made plain.

In a discussion of doctrine, then, the term revealtion seeks to answer the question "how do we find God?" or "how does God find us?" We seek to answer this question because the God we know and serve is - in some ways, at least - hideen, remote, and unfathomable. And yet we claim to have some knowledge of God, and make statements aout God's nature and presence authoritatively (both within the church and often from our own experience as believers). The doctrine of revelation is the category of theology that tries to make sense of how this knowledge is epistemologically possible.

['Epistemology' means the study of knowledge, and is the branch of philosophy that answers the question "how do you know what you know?"]

So when we examine the doctrine of revelation, we ask ourselves "where does our knowledge of God come from?"

In our traditions, we come to know God from a variety of sources. Some of what was named in class included: the order of the natural world, scripture, what we've been taught in our faith backgrounds, our experience (the 'personal relationship' aspect), as well as science and philosophy (and there are many more examples we might name).

In our study of this doctrine, it is helpful to divide the discussion into General and Special revelation. Or, if you will, "theology from below" and 'theology from above" (referring to where the theology "starts" in asking the question)

Creation itself - the world, nature, and our experience of these things - is the ultimate example of general revelation. It is the evidence that is available to everyone (with the acknowledgement that certain physical limitations like blindness or deafness might modify this statement somewhat). It is the evidence "on the ground" that we can find without any presupposed beliefs or notions.

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Theology 204 FALL 2006