Revisioning the Nature of Biblical Revelation: A Critique of Stanley Grenz’s Proposals -- By: Rodney J. Decker

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 08:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: Revisioning the Nature of Biblical Revelation: A Critique of Stanley Grenz’s Proposals
Author: Rodney J. Decker

Revisioning the Nature of Biblical Revelation:
A Critique of Stanley Grenz’s Proposals

Rodney J. Decker

Associate Professor of New Testament
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA


Few times in history has revealed religion been forced to contend with such serious problems of truth and word, and never in the past have the role of words and the nature of truth been as misty and undefined as now. Only if we recognize that the truth of truth—indeed, the meaning of meaning—is today in doubt, and that this uncertainty stifles the word as a carrier of God’s truth and moral judgment, do we fathom the depth of the present crisis. When truth and word remain as the accepted universe of discourse, then all aberrations can be challenged in the name of truth. Today, however, the nature of truth and even the role of words is in dispute.1

Although those words were written more than twenty-five years ago, they are no less true today. Carl F. H. Henry wrote his six-volume magnum opus, God, Revelation and Authority, to address crucial issues of revelation which challenge the nature of Christianity as a revealed religion. His driving concern was the refutation of philosophical proposals that rejected verbal revelation (“the truth of truth—indeed, the meaning of meaning”) for various forms of non-verbal revelation, whether they be theories of “revelation in deed” (a la Mowinckel); or transcendent, mythological, or non-conceptual representations (1:44ff); or personal/existential

revelation. His wide-ranging discussion includes critiques of Mowinckel, Bultmann, Barth, Bornkamm, Ricoeur, etc. In the place of these “epistemic pretenses” (1:57), Henry insists on an orthodox exposition of a verbally intelligible (1:30), propositional revelation. This focus is clearly summarized in chapter one (1:18–30) and unpacked piece-by-piece throughout the entire six volumes.

Today nonorthodox positions are even more prevalent. Of greater concern, however, is the extent to which a nonpropositional view of revelation has permeated evangelicalism. An increasing number of voices—some prominent ones—have rejected propositional revelation, at times explicitly challenging Henry’s defense of this doctrine. Henry sparred with a number of evangelicals on this issue twenty-five years ago,2 but current proponents have gone much further.3

Is propositional revelation an essential doctrine? Henry argued vigorously that it was: “It is nonetheless wholly n...

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