Re: personal revelations

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Wed Feb 19 2003 - 08:26:02 EST

  • Next message: Alexanian, Moorad: "RE: personal revelations"

    To avoid confusion, it may be helpful to distinguish between various forms of revelation. I note three that have emerged throughout this discussion: (1) mystical revelations, (2) prophetic revelations, and (3) personal revelations. I think all three are attested in Scripture, and I agree that such revelations did not end with the closing of the canon. I know for certain that God has gifted me with two of these three. One I would consider mystical: it was a moment of what Rudolf Otto in _The Experience of the Holy_ referred to as a "mysterium tremendum"; it left me literally trembling with awe at the Power that animates the univserse. It happened only for a minute or so. The other was a personal revelation which happened just a few months before, a word (I didn't hear a voice, yet the words were very clear) that spoke to me in my deepest pain and brought peace, healing and reconciliation. It was also a very brief moment. The first was an experience of transcendence; the second of immanence: both brought me back to faith. I don't know if I have ever spoken prophetically, though it is possible that I have done so without realizing it. I tend to think, however, that one who is called upon to speak prophetically in the classic sense is one who is compelled and impelled to so speak, and has a clear sense that God is calling him to do so.

        There is a rich tradition of Christian mysticism that, as has been noted, is not well known to many evangelicals. Its history has been charted particularly over the past decade by a number of scholars; some in particular have been attracted to such medieval mystics as Hildegarde of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete (whom my wife Maria Lichtmann has published on), and Meister Eckhardt. Bernard McGinn, a prolific scholar on things mystical and apocalyptic, has been writing a multivolume history. The title of the series: "The Presence of God: A History of Wesern Christian Mysticism." Three volumes have been issued: (1) _The Foundations of Mysticism: Origins to the Fifth Century_, (2) _The Growth of Mysticism: Gregory the Great through the Twelfth Century_, (3) _The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism--1200-1350_ . The fourth and fifth not yet completed volumes will be titled (4) _Continuity and Change in Western Mysticism_ and (5) _The Crisis in Mysticism_. These are thick tomes; there's a lot to write about.

        I have begun to appreciate St. Paul's mysticism, thanks to Alan Segal's excellent study, _Paul the Convert_. Segal is a Jewish scholar who writes on early Christianity. He traces the influence of "Merkabah mysticism" on Paul. I can see now the mystical dimension of some of Paul's most inspired utterances.

        The issue of the nature of revelatory experiences takes a new turn with all of the recent work in the burgeoning field of neuroscience, and the attempts to identify parts of the human brain that seem to be active during periods of meditation and religious experience. It will be interesting to see to what degree these studies help to illuminate the psycho-physical dimensions of religious experience.

    Bob Schneider
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Don Winterstein
      To: Rich Blinne ; asa
      Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 4:08 AM
      Subject: Re: personal revelations

    > bivalve wrote:
    > >Can such principles also apply to other claims of revelation? What
      additional principles for assessing such claims have I overlooked?
    > >
    > >
    > First and foremost the rule is consonance with Scripture.

      It would be very instructive to review everything in the Bible on this
      fascinating topic. But that would be a book-length undertaking. Throughout most
      OT times there were bands or schools of prophets. On rare occasion one prophet would
      prophesy one thing, and another would contradict him. Prophecy did not stop
      with Jesus, as the Acts describes instances of prophecy, and Paul himself was
      a prophet. There is no scriptural reason for saying that prophecy should
      end with the Bible. In fact, to say that any new revelation is not of God by virtue of being new would be to lay a major constraint on God. I think I know him well enough to say he'd find that particular straitjacket uncomfortable.

      Rich Blinne in writing on mysticism said, "Those of us
      who are evangelical, born-again Christians are by definition to
      affirm the mystical. How are we to have a personal relationship with God if
      we have no subjective relationship?" By implication, then, all Christians who have a personal relationship with God have a personal revelation of God and hence are prophets when they speak of that relationship, because the basic meaning of prophet is one who speaks for God from personal revelation.

      In ordinary usage we reserve the word prophecy for special and unusual revelations. Although consonance with Scripture is perhaps a good rule in our time, how about OT times when Scripture of any sort was minimal or nonexistent? People asked Moses how to tell when a message came from God. He said (Deut. 18:22), "If what a prophet proclaims.does not take place or come true, " then don't believe him. But by this standard you can only know in retrospect, so it's not always the most useful standard. I'm not sure, honestly, how Ezekiel would fare by this standard, either. He makes predictions about Sodom and Tyre that several years ago I was unable to verify were ever fulfilled. He also seems to imply in one of his later chapters that the Messiah (the "prince") would have children. Another informative study would involve checking out all the detailed prophecies made by canonical prophets about foreign nations to see whether fulfillment could be verified. The Bible has been so thoroughly studied I wouldn't be surprised to find that someone's already done this.

      Jesus gave us a very simple standard (Matt. 7:15-16): "Watch out for false prophets..By their fruit you will recognize them." What does this mean? Obviously it would include such things as grossly immoral behavior, self-aggrandizement, sucking the flock dry of their earthly possessions for one's own benefit and instructing the flock to live in ways contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. But care is required. For example, Isaiah ran around nude for--what was it?--three years, Ezekiel lay on his left side for 390 days. So obviously you don't rule out a prophet just because he's odd. Contemporary Christians as a rule are gun-shy about special revelations because of all the ones in the past that were clearly not from God, and now they are perhaps more gun-shy than they should be.

      As one who has had probably one of the most startling revelations of all, and who at this time feels constrained by God to make it public despite the fact that at the time it was very private and it occurred more than 40 years ago, I have a personal interest in how this question gets answered. First of all, you may decide that the particular revelation is not meant for you and therefore ignore it. What I call my revelation I suspect is not going to be of much consequence for many Christians, and I'd expect them to take no special action. However, I can't help but believe that it is going to be of consequence for Christianity as a whole. This is partly because I don't think God would do something of this sort just for my personal benefit, even though I was willing to accept that idea for four decades and so told no one about it. My revelation introduces a high degree of novelty relative to previous divine revelations, but it should not be dismissed for that reason. God occasionally likes to startle and even shock people. It involves no teachings that cannot also be gleaned from Scripture, although admittedly they come from parts of Scripture most people are not familiar with. My deductions about origins from this revelation, of course, are inconsistent with a literal reading of Genesis but consistent with science; but this should not be a problem for people here.

      What I suggest is that you don't make snap judgments. If you decide my revelation might be relevant to you, then carefully assess what I say and what my objectives seem to be. If it still doesn't seem right, then forget it. I won't be offended. Frankly, this task God has set for me seems totally impossible, so I won't be at all surprised if nothing comes of it. But I have made a commitment to God to follow through on this, and if I didn't do it on my own, he wouldn't let me rest until I did. That's the kind of person he is. So, yes, I'm doing it eagerly on my own, but back behind me somewhere I sense this really big boot poised to strike.


      PS - Correction on that "I won't be at all surprised if nothing comes of it" thought: Humanly speaking, I wouldn't be surprised; but because God is behind me here, I actually will be surprised if nothing comes of it.


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