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Monday, 4 November 2013

'Revelation' and Conversation

Although I am moving my more overtly theological reflections to my new blog at Pentecostal Pilgrim, I want to still make a few general points about what I have called the theological journey, before moving on to other aspects. There are some dynamics that really affect the forming and shaping of our beliefs, and thereby influence the steps we take on the journey. This post is about one of them.

For many of us, influenced by the pentecostal-charismatic and Word of Faith movements, the idea of getting 'a revelation' about something is a key concept. There is certainly some value in it. Beyond the general theological concept of revelation (that God has revealed himself e.g. in nature, history, Christ and Scripture), there is the vital spiritual idea that truth needs to be grasped inwardly, that 'the eyes of our heart' need to be opened (Eph.1:18), that we apprehend truth not just in our minds but in our spirits (1 Cor.2:9-16), and even that sometimes our 'hearts take us where our heads can't go' (Bill Johnson, I think - surely!)

I also think that there are men and women of revelation, apostles and prophets who have a measure of grace-gifting to help make sure that the church stays founded on and aligned with a revelation of Christ (Eph. 2:19-20; 3:4-6; 4:11-13; 1 Cor.3:10-11; 4:1-2, 15). Honour releases such gifting and in our present journey and cultural shift, I urge that we be careful not to let go of this treasure. The church is founded not on a collection of opinions but on a heavenly revelation (Matt.16:13-19).

Having said that, I have also seen this concept of revelation be used, or abused, to bolster a particular position on an issue and to close down conversation with others who disagree with us, often on issues on which there are legitimate diverse perspectives (pretty sure I have done this myself in the past). Revelation relates to the heart of the gospel. In other words, to Christ - his incarnation, life, teaching, mission, death, resurrection, ascension, present rule and future return. I have come to realise that when I get 'a revelation', I am not seeing something new or novel or that no-one else sees, I am just getting a fresher and deeper grasp of 'the open secret' of the gospel. On many other things that need to be considered on a church's journey, there is much room for openness, diversity, dialogue and even disagreement. And the way forward will be found often not with the revelation of one person. That may happen occasionally, but more usually it is through the genuine conversation of fellow pilgrims. In writing about these things. Paul did not say 'I have the mind of Christ' but that 'we have the mind of Christ' (1 Cor.2:16). We need each other to see the way forward.

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