Friday, December 01, 2006

Notes: Doctrine of Scripture and Revelation (Part 1)

Doctrine of Scripture and Revelation
*This script has been paraphrased and annotated for further clarity

The questions:
1. What is Revelation?
2. What is Scripture?
3. Preservation of Scripture
4. How do we understand Scripture?

Note 1: Revelation

(a) Revelation is something being revealed or shown. It involves an actor and an audience.
(b) Generally, theology distinguishes between two kinds of revelation: (1) Special Revelation (Scripture), and (2) General Revelation (Nature).
(c) Consideration of the distinction
- Different medium (general – nature, reason ; special – scripture)
- Different content (general – theism in general (Rom 1) ; special – salvific)
(d) Both may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by observers. Any understanding and conviction from revelation relies on God and His sovereign grace and mercy.

Joanna: How about those who haven't heard about the gospel? Is there a possibility for them to be saved?

Group consolidated response: God in His sovereignty acts in order to impart saving grace and knowledge to save the elect. This may come through ordinary means (through the reading of the Word, preaching, etc.) or extraordinary means (visions, etc.).

It is doubtful if extraordinary means are still being used though. It is important to distinguish between (1) what God is able to do; (2) what the scriptures have affirmed as not possible; and (3) what is happening in reality. In terms of (1) and (2), it is not impossible for extraordinary means. Considering the biblical pattern, (3) is questionable.

Note 2: Scripture

(a) There seems to be three elements to scriptural revelation:
1) Theophany – Manifestation of God
2) Prophecy – God's communication with Man / the record of theophany
3) Miracle – Authentication of prophecy

Joanna: Isn't miracle the same as theophany?
Jason: Both miracle and theophany are supernatural; A theophany is miraculous, but a miracle is not necessarily a theophany.

Miracles would include events such as healing of the sick, raising the dead, & walking on water. These are phenomena that are not observable consistently in and through nature. Theophanies are personal or corporate supernatural encounters with God (e.g burning bush; pillar of fire).

Note 3: The Canon of Scripture

(a) Some criteria used by the church in seeking to recognize NT canon [397 A.D. 3rd Council of Carthage].
1) Apostolic – authored by immediate apostles or close associates of the apostles.
2) Catholic – widely circulated among the early Christian assemblies.
3) Orthodoxy – does not contradict the faith of the early Christian tradition.
4) Witness of the Holy Spirit

(b) The importance of faith and tradition in affirming the canon of Scripture. Godly men across all times have had their doubts. The affirmation of the Church is one of the objective ways in which we can see the witness of the Holy Spirit.

(c) Is the apocryphal part of sacred scripture? They were only affirmed as canon by the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent (counter-reformation?). Christians of old have always said it was good to read them. Post-reformation Christians tend to flee from them. Balance: probably ok to read them, but the affirmation of the church is that they are not inspired scripture.

(d) Consideration of other purported forms of revelation:
1) Continuing revelation
[discussion ensued on whether God’s guidance today could be considered revelation] Distinguishing between providential guidance and revelation; Nelson: Distinguishing between new revelation and illumination.
2) Newly discovered books
Highly unlikely. Room for fraud is very high.

Note 4: Preservation of Scripture

(a) It would be irrelevant to talk about the books if the content is not settled. It is important to affirm that God has preserved the content of Scripture, yet recognize the reality of manuscript discrepancies.

(b) Verbal Plenary Preservation swings to one extreme and affirms that God has perfectly preserved Scripture. This is a pious view, but is it realistic?

(c) Manuscripts exist that assure us that the manuscripts of scripture are pretty accurate copies. Joshua Woo: The Chester Beatty Papyri (late 2nd century)? Rylands Papyrus (early 2nd century)? Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Lee Strobel's Case for Christ contains quite a list.

God communicates to us in revelation. The most important means by which He reveals Himself is through His Word. The Church has affirmed through time that the 66 books we accept is His Word. We affirm He has preserved His Word, although there are manuscript problems do not affect our faith in a major way.

In all these things, we depend on God’s sovereignty and grace to reveal Himself Without that, we can have no knowledge of Him.

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