Monday, June 18, 2007

Reason and Revelation: A working model

I have noticed that, in some circles, there is considerable discussion and debate over the importance and role of reason and revelation. I know some whom are given almost exclusively to an academic knowledge of God. Their understanding of the kingdom is limited to the knowledge they are able to gain through systematic and thorough study of the scriptures. Others, however, operate in a realm of revelation with little concern to how their experience is tethered (if at all) to the scriptures. The see and experience things that are beyond my ability to understand or comprehend. In both groups of people there is often a genuine love for God, although their approach to knowing and relating to God differ greatly. I believe that both extremes are unhealthy and, in some cases, can cause the body of Christ to be come divided with each side devaluating the other.

I believe that one of the primary mistakes we make is in perceiving reason and revelation as being at two opposite ends of a spectrum of leaning and knowledge.

Instead, I would like to propose a different model; a different way of looking at reason and revelation.

In this model, reasoning is the process that moves us from what we know to what we are going to learn, and the catalyst for this process is revelation. Reasoning is what causes us to grow in knowledge and the spark of reasoning is revelation.

The process of growing in knowledge involves four things.
  1. Our starting point: What we already know, our basic assumptions and beliefs, and our preconceived ideas.
  2. Where we are going: The end result of our learning, what we want to know, what we expect to learn.
  3. Revelation: Information that comes from outside ourselves, for example, from teachers, books, and God.
  4. Reasoning: The process by which we synthesize knowledge and revelation to arrive at some new information. This includes the ways we reason and the filters through which we perceive knowledge and revelation.
My goal over the next few posts is to discuss each of these items in depth. Specifically, to see how they apply to our journey of growing in the knowledge of God. Paul prays for us that we would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:10) There is perhaps no greater purpose of calling than to grow in the knowledge of God. My hope is that by looking at how we reason and learn it will help us to grow in our knowledge of God. Over the next few posts I hope to show that it is not "reason or revelation" but "reason and revelation". They are not two competing ideas or two opposing positions but rather two necessary ingredients needed to grow in the knowledge of God.

But before we begin, I have two caveats. First, I have called this model of learning a "working" model. I realize that there is nothing sacred about it. There is no passage of scripture that teaches or describes this model. I do believe, however, that there is incite that we can gain from this model and I preset it in hopes that it will be an aid in discussing the issues of reason and revelation. Much of what I will be sharing is still forming in my soul, so I concede that there may be other models and even opposing views that may also prove to be helpful in understanding the relationship between reason and revelation.

Lastly, my personal bent is more towards the academic than the experiential. My wife and I are almost opposites in this. For example, there have been times where my wife has been dramatically transformed by a sovereign touch from God. These transformations have been almost without any concern to understanding, reason, or mental considerations. God touched her and she was changed. As for myself, however, some of the most significant transformations in my life came when I came to such an understanding of the scriptures that I was unable to escape its truth. I received truth and that truth changed my life. My wife and I are both different, but being different does not mean that one of us is wrong. I hope that over the next few posts we can begin to see and appreciate how we are different and not see our differences as something that divides us but rather merely different facets of "the manifold wisdom of God." (Ephesians 3:10)

David Robison

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