Ben Spackman will be talking at the FAIR Conference on revelation. However, in his Pathos blog and otherwheres he has made the point that there is no such thing as “pure revelation.”
I’m partial to that outlook, as my posts on the frailty of language and the way our language, context and understanding affects reflect. As I understand it, God has to communicate to us in what we know. and then we have to work with that.
I’ve written on examples in the Old Testament, but with this year’s course of study being the New Testament, it is illuminating to look at the way the Church made changes in the New Testament. Ben Spackman’s favorite example is the way the Church stepped away from the rules in Leviticus. It all started with God speaking to Peter when Peter dozed off waiting for a meal.
What did God say to Peter? “Peter, arise and eat.”
https://biblehub.com/acts/10-13.htm for the text in many translations. Six words. Followed by “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Ten words.
The vision was repeated three times, but Peter only got a total of 16 words to work with.
From there Peter has to figure out what God meant, how it should be applied, and if the rule differs depending on whether or not you were born in the Abrahamic covenant or outside of it.
Eventually there is a Church conference on it (and some other things). At that conference, this was Peter’s bottom line (https://biblehub.com/bsb/acts/15.htm):
19It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not cause trouble for the Gentiles who are turning to God.20Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.
They then send out a letter and messengers to carry this rule out.
They support the letter with: ” It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” — that is, they have used reason, reflection and inspiration to set the rule.
The policy and revelation and implementation are not smooth and pain free after that either. Paul and Peter get into public fights that Paul writes about, and the issues take years to work out. And we know all of this history because it was preserved for us in the New Testament.
The New Testament teaches us a great deal about the implementation of doctrine and policy in the Church following direct revelation from God.
Was there revelation? Clear and direct. Was there still a lot of human input, friction and complication in working out what that meant? Yes, from people who had studied directly under Christ and who had clear visions from God.
What we have is an important, dramatic and was completely unexpected by Peter and others in the Church. Yet the way that the revelation was implemented had a great deal of room for human input and working things out — that is one of the major lessons of the New Testament.
Ben will have significant things to say.
- For a link (the actual presentation is not yet available): go here.
- For a related presentation by Ben Spackman.
- So What is Doctrine?
- Ben Spackman’s Blog. (This year on the New Testament — well worth reviewing for your Sunday School classes).
But this goes well, whether in reflecting on the Word of Wisdom or on other policies and approaches. Assuming that modern leaders are as inspired as Peter and Paul, this is the sort of pathway to implementation that we should expect from leaders who walked and talked with Christ and who had the heavens open to them more than once.
- So, what conclusions do you draw from how revelation was implemented in the New Testament?
- Should we expect more or less from modern leaders than the Church was able to expect from Peter and Paul?
- Why do you think that God speaks with us in our own language and leaves so much for people to work out and implement on their own?