Re: The state of suburban theology

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Jun 22 2004 - 11:08:26 EDT

Howard -
        As you suggest at the end, this exchange may have just about run its
useful course but I'm going to add a few comments, which will be my last.
You may do the same if you wish of course.


---- Original Message -----
From: "Howard J. Van Till" <>
To: "George Murphy" <>; <>
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 9:23 AM
Subject: Re: The state of suburban theology

> I remarked:
> >> I am dubious about the distinction between "general revelation" and
> >> "special revelation." To put it very broadly, it reminds me far too
> >> of the distinction between "supernatural" and "natural" action
> >> which I and many others on this list find theologically problematic.
> George replied:
> > I don't see that there needs to be such a correlation. God is active
> > the lives of all people & the development of all cultures, not in place
> > natural processes but in & with them (i.e., "naturally.").
> I agree, but my suspicion is that the majority of folks in the pew on
> have a different set of concepts in mind.
> > But one of the
> > things we come to realize is that, because of QM & chaos theory, God can
> > in accord with the laws of physics & still have some freedom in how to
> > That being the case, I don't see in principle why God could not act in
> > distinctively revelatory ways in the history of Israel but not in the
> > histories of Greece, China, or Mesoamerica.
> I believe that God has been experienced in revelatory ways by all
> not only in the history of Israel as reported (from human perception) in
> Hebrew Scriptures.

        Possibly, if one accepts the idea of general revelation. But what I
meant was that God could do that and also reveal things in the history of
Israel that aren't revealed in other cultures (except via their contacts
with Israel).

> ...skip a bit...
> George continues:
> > If God is going to act in distinctively revelatory ways (as above),
> > not much of a stretch to think that God would also act to bring about
> > reasonably reliable (which is not to say necessarily infallible) &
> > witnesses to such revelation.
> Perhaps "not much of a stretch," but a humanly-crafted (and therefore
> fallible) inference nonetheless.

    Yes, but it's an inference based on the belief that God does want all
people to know about God - the same assumption that underlies belief in
_general_ revelation.
> I had said:
> >> If "special revelation" is equated to what we find in the biblical text
> >> (as often was done in my Calvinist upbringing) then, yes, I would be
> >> to re-label it as "selected human apprehensions of God."
> George replied:
> > I would _not_ equate the Bible with special revelation, at least not
> > a primary sense. The Bible is witness to, & earliest interpretation of,
> > revelation.
> I agree with you here. But that puts us in the minority portion of the
> Christian community. Be careful, George, of the company you keep :)

    Don't worry: In the ELCA a lot of people think I'm a conservative. (As
in some ways I am.)

> George again:
> > I recall a bumper sticker I saw in Ames on a car driven by some
> > Iranian students: "The Qur'an - God's ultimate revelation."
> > the response of too many Christians to something like that is to say
> > Bible - God's ultimate revelation." Jesus Christ is God's ultimate
> > revelation & the Bible is witness to that revelation.
> I would modify that last line to read: "For Christians, Jesus Christ is
> God's ultimate revelation & the Bible is witness to that revelation."

    In that case I don't see what function the word "ultimate" has. What
does it mean to say "Jesus Christ is God's ultimate revelation except when
he isn't"?

> Thanks for the conversation.

Received on Tue Jun 22 11:23:34 2004

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