The Doctrine of Revelation In Contemporary Theology -- By: Robert D. Preus

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 009:3 (Summer 1966)
Article: The Doctrine of Revelation In Contemporary Theology
Author: Robert D. Preus

The Doctrine of Revelation In Contemporary Theology

Robert Preus, Ph.D.

Modern theology has spoken with renewed emphasis and vigor on the subject of divine revelation and its underlying importance for the Church. Such an emphasis has been both necessary and welcome, and this for two reasons. First, we must consider that these theologians (Barth, Brunner, and many concerned with Biblical theology) have emerged—and sometimes only after intense struggle—from a period dominated by classical Liberalism, evolutionism and pantheistic Idealism. Kant’s denial of any rational or factual knowledge of transcendent reality seemed to cow an entire era of theologians. Following his lead, Ritechl reduced all theology to a matter of value judgments to which there was no corresponding reality and the only basis of which was the enlightened reason of the believer. Thus, there was no need and no place for revelation. Unable to answer Kant, Schleiermacher retreated into subjectivism, making Christianity not a matter of cognitive knowledge at all, but a matter of feeling, a dependence upon God. The Bible for him was ex hypothesi not a revelation expressing God’s thoughts toward man, but rather a book expressing man’s thoughts toward God, man’s religious experiences. And so it went through the century, Luthardt drawing his theology from the “Christian consciousness,” Kahnis from the “consciousness of the Church,” these theologians all the time turning their faces persistently in the wrong direction, away from that revelation which is the Scriptures of God, either ignoring the concept of revelation altogether or, by centering it exclusively in God’s past acts of which there is no reliable witness, making the revelation (whatever it is) quite inaccessible.

The strong emphasis of modern theology upon the doctrine of revelation is necessary and welcome secondly because of the climate and Zeitgeist of our own day which lies under the heavy influence of scientism, positivism, Whiteheadianism and Pragmatism with its immanent (non-existent) god. None of these movements could have any possible concern with a special revelation; in fact, special revelation is impossible on their terms. All these ideologies are committed to a rigid Humean empiricism coupled with a simple and unquestioning adherence to the uniformity of nature (with the exception of Whitehead who seems uneasy about evolution as a unifying principle, about an immanent god and about the scientific method as the method of knowledge).

It is not strange, then, that in such a climate Barth and even Brunner will appear as new prophets and even champions of conservative theology and that their systems will be dubbed a “theology of the Word.”

As a matter of record, however, we must point out that...

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