Thursday, May 24, 2007


Propositional Revelation And Relationship With God

**The link on the title above references D B Knox's article on Propositional Revelation

The use of particular terminology in any given field is meant to clarify rather than obscure. Terms are only useful as far as they communicate accurately the concepts they signify. When, owing to shifts in culture or context, terminology becomes confusing, then people need to be reminded of what those terms meant in their original historical and theological context.

Speaking of the term "Propositional Revelation" Dr.Muriel Porter spoke of Broughton Knox, "who developed this notion of propositional revelation, that we only know about God and can know God through our rational minds, and that anything else, from ritual, music in some aspects, ceremonials, ceremonial dress, any of those sort of things, even a cross inside a church building, is a distraction, it’s an inferior form of revelation, if you like, it’s a distraction from that pure mental rational understanding of who God is."

DB Knox Principal of Moore theological college found himself combatting a view of Scripture that presented the Scriptures as not the word of God but as reflections on the deeds of God in which he reveals himself.
That is, the Bible itself is not inspired, it is just a record of inspiring acts of God, recorded by errant men.

The denial of “propositional revelation” is the denial that God reveals himself to men through the medium of words, that is to say, through meaningful statements and concepts expressed in words, for such is the only sense that can be given to the word “propositional” in this phrase. (The Collected Works of DB Knox 1.308).
Words written meaningfully are, of course, propositions. (CW of DBK 1.309)

A monograph on the Doctrine of Revelation written by PF Jensen continues the use of the term “propositional revelation” on p.87ff, “Christian revelation is basically verbal”, in that it conveys both relationship and information. In no way is this idea intended to surpass the affective or aesthetic dimension in the texts of scripture, but it does convey the same idea, that God has spoken by the Word of God. The meaning of different passages is not changebale as to how I may or may not feel about a text at the the time. The meaning of the passage is in the text.
The text has a meaning and that meaning is apparent. Now that meaning might not be fully apparent, but the text itself carries intrinsic meaning.

Some holding to a theory of Dynamic inspiration say that the text itself has no intrinsic meaning: it has meaning as we read it, and the meaning of a text will vary from person to person according to how the Spirit inspires them to understand it.

Revelation is a divine activity, "God . . . hath . . . spoken". (Heb. 1:1,2). It was a verbal ("hath spoken") and cumulative ("by the prophets . . . by his Son"). Revelation is not, therefore, a human flash of insight or the emergence of a bright idea.

The bottom line for believers is that God has spoken in His Word, and He spoke to be understood. His Word has the meaning that He intended for it to have when it was written.

Carl Henry, in God, Revelation and Authority argued vigorously that propositional revelation was essential: "it is the nonetheless wholey necesssary to insist that divine disclosure does indeed take propositional form.. that divine disclosure is cognitive and intelligible.. is intrinsic to Judeao Christian revelation." GRA v.3 pg 481

Carl Henry uses this term synonymously with Henry's entire discussion of verbal revelation which he repeatedly declares to be fully intelligible, precise, factual, conceptual, cognitive, rational, valid and literally true (1:68,69) "God's revelation is rational and objectively true" (3:455)

In the Journal of JETS 46/2 (June 2003) 269–98
Gordon R. Lewis senior professor of theology and philosophy at Denver Seminary,
states in his conclusion
A resurgence of evangelical convictions began around the middle of the
twentieth century. In the early 1900s non-evangelicals had dominated most
of the large denominations, publications, schools and missions. Several evangelicals
with earned doctorates, like Gordon Clark, Carl Henry, Edward John
Carnell, and others answered the assumptions of the liberal critics and gave
sound reasons for holding to the truth of all that the Bible asserts. By December
28, 1949, sixty scholars from varied schools and affiliations formed
the Evangelical Theological Society. It included those who held that “The
Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety [including its explicit and implied
propositions] is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the
Then came the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Christianity
Today, and many other publications. In 1974, at the International Congress
on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, Christian leaders
from 150 countries accepted “The Lausanne Covenant.” It affirmed “the divine
inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both the Old and New Testament
Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without
error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”54
From 1977–1987, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy produced
some six scholarly books, numerous pamphlets, and the influential Chicago
Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.55
During the second half of the twentieth century, as a result of educated
confidence in the divine origin and authority of biblical assertions (and other
factors), another evangelical distinctive—evangelism—became more vibrant.
With new fervor, evangelicals reminded people of God and his moral principles
and called people to accept the gospel’s affirmations concerning the person
and work of Christ, repent of their sins, and trust the living Savior.
Globally, Billy Graham and others declared with conviction, “The Bible says.”
Countless people received Christ, youth and campus ministries flourished.
Evangelical colleges and seminaries grew. Missions agencies sent numerous
alumni to fields around the world. A plethora of evangelical magazines, journals,
and books flooded the market. To live and teach during the resurgence
of evangelicalism during the last half of the twentieth century has been exciting
My eyes have seen, not only evangelicalism’s phenomenal recent rise,
but now the beginnings of its apparent demise. Some “evangelical” leaders
appear to be departing from a spirituality based on the universal veracity of
revealed ontological, moral, and historical propositions. In place of that firm
foundation, some leaders, authors, and publishers seem to prefer spiritualities
based on feelings, social activism, mystical experiences, personal encounters,
and interpreters of communal experiences.
I pray that the Holy Spirit here and now will summon you, enduring
reader, to rededicate yourself to defending two primary evangelical distinctives:
(1) Believe divinely revealed propositional truths and trust and obey
the Lord of all; (2) be ready to pray, preach, or die to evangelize the world
with objective truth. Whatever people’s felt need, their most profound need
is for divine mercy and grace. Deliver the divine indictment. Call them to
repent of their sin and trust the Jesus of history as both Messiah and Lord.
When facing the threats of terrorists, remember that though “Heaven and
earth will pass away,” Jesus promised [the propositional meaning of ] “my
words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31).

How Does Propositional Revelation Become Relevant?
Dr. Danny Akin discribes the process of taing the inerrant Word of God, and making it relevant today:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable... for doctrine
for reproof
for correction
for instruction in righteousness:
“THAT the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
This means that the purpose of the Bible is life change. Specifically,
to change our character (perfect, mature, complete)
to change our conduct (good works)
to change our convictions
“The Word of God is not to teach us to prattle or be eloquent and subtle... It is to reform our lives, so that we desire to serve God, to give ourselves entirely to him, and to conform ourselves to his good will.”
- John Calvin
“The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” - D.L. Moody
Implication: If I intend to be a biblical preacher, my messages must always be life oriented not just knowledge oriented, application oriented not just information oriented.
The challenge of preaching:
To declare eternal truths that never change and apply them in a world that is always changing.
“If you preach the Gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues which deal specifically with your times - you are not preaching all the Gospel.” - Martin Luther
Four stages of bridge-building
1. Study the text. (Exegesis: Investigation, Observation and Interpretation) What does it mean?
2. Find the timeless truth. (Implication: Universal Principle) *Ask: What response is called for by this text?
3. Think of your audience, (Contextualization) their needs, their hurts, sins, pains, etc.
6 things I know about every audience:
Everybody wants to be loved.
Everybody wants their life to count (meaning, purpose, significance.)
No matter how wealthy or successful life is empty without Christ.
Many of these people are carrying a load of guilt.
Many are consumed with bitterness (from past offenses.)
There is a universal fear of death.
4. Apply the truth to their need. (Personalization)

The quest for relationship with God and communication that connects begins with the unchanging truth (propositional revelation) of God's Word.

Understanding God's Word is central to lifechanging preaching.
“The essential secret is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions. In other words, theology is more important than methodology... Technique can only make us orators; if we want to be preachers, theology is what we need.” -(John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 93.)
“…the church that does not take theology seriously is unwittingly encouraging understandings of the faith that are warped or unbalanced.” -(Donald Bloesch, Crumbling Foundations: Death and Rebirth in an Age of Upheaval, 107.)

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