The Priority Of Divine Revelation: A Review Article -- By: Carl F. H. Henry

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 27:1 (Mar 1984)
Article: The Priority Of Divine Revelation: A Review Article
Author: Carl F. H. Henry


The Priority Of Divine Revelation: A Review Article

Carl F. H. Henry*

To an historically given divine revelation Judaism and Christianity trace their confidence that a sovereign personal God is the creator of the universe and the absolute source of meaning and value. This revelation, in contrast to finite human speculation and naturally acquired knowledge about reality, they consider a permanently valid divine disclosure reaching back to ancient patriarchal and prophetic times.

The whole edifice of Christian doctrine—the Church’s good news for the world and its assurance of man’s redemption and final destiny—presupposes, as Emil Brunner puts it, that divine revelation is “the ground and norm, as well as the content” of the Christian message.1 “With the reality of revelation,” said Herman Bavinck, “Christianity stand or falls … The science of the knowledge of God stands on the reality of his revelation.”2

Avery Dulles notes that the term revelation “does not appear in the creeds” and “is not central in the Scriptures.”3 But he insists that “the idea of revelation is pervasive in the Bible and in the theology of the early centuries.”4 The acceptance of revelation he considers “of fundamental importance to the Christian faith” and foundational to Judeo-Christian theology, to the Church’s mission, and to the Christian’s individual spiritual life.5

Revelation is in fact a core doctrine of the Bible. Without it the entire Scriptural message would lose its authority. Furthermore the doctrine holds an important place in the patristic writers, a point conceded even by F. Gerald Downing,6 who contends unjustifiably that the conception of divine revelation lacks Biblical basis. The goal of the Bible, Downing stresses, is human obedience, not a communication of divine knowledge calling for intellectual assent.7 But this overlooks the fact that Scripture as its proximate purpose transmits revealed infor-

*Carl Henry is distinguished visiting professor of Christian studies at Hillsdale College in Michigan and author of the six-volume work, God, Revelation and Authority.

mation about God’s will and purpose. Dulles rightly asks, “How could we obey a God who had not made his will known?… How could we proclaim salvation by a God who had not manifested...

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