Reason and Revelation in the Bible

The Bible, or “book”, is predicated on the impression of a God who is infinitely separate from the universe, according to the Christian model, yet He is also the creator of the universe. He is both separate and unique, and is, therefore, unknowable to mankind. He is not bound by time, although He appears to men at particular moments in time through divine moments of revelation.

Reason, on the other hand, is predicated on things that are knowable, and the things that are knowable can be classified into orders, species, genera and so on. For example, in considering an object, such as a chair, we acknowledge both the particular and the universal elements of the chair. My particular chair may be worn and the wood may be rotting, but I nevertheless recognize its chairness -the distinguishing characteristics that prevent me from mislabeling it a table or a door. Teleologically speaking, the chair’s purpose is for someone to sit on. The same can be said of all things knowable, under the Platonic ideas, including physical tangible things, like chairs, as well as intangibles such as numbers.

Revelation, on the other hand, is an account transmitted from the god to a human being. God is at the same time universal and particular. As claimed in Isaiah and elsewhere He is one God among no others. Two competing theologies suggest that the divine dispenses the revealed truth of His own will, while others suggest that humans possess an internal capacity to compel the deity to reveal the truth. However, the latter poses challenges. What actions did Abraham or Moses undertake to receive the revelation from God? Seemingly none. They were merely chosen through no easily identifiable actions of their own.

For instance, let us consider what persuades people of the truth of divinity. In the case of Moses, he is given the power of performing miracles, such as transforming his staff into a serpent or making his hand appear to be diseased. Therefore, the people who have not directly received the revelation must rely on the account given by Moses, but they must also rely on his authority, thus justifying God’s power. Reason plays no part in coming to this conclusion. However, when Moses is presented with his revelation from God in the form of the burning bush, he falls prostrate begging not to be the bearer of His message. There is very little that reason can say about a direct revelation either. One can receive a revelation while on the road to Damascus, as in the case of Paul, or in the reading of a text, as in the case of St. Augustine, or when a voice booms from a burning bush. Revelations happen without preparation and they occur inconsistently. One cannot conduct a repeatable, scalable experiment -as Francis Bacon would have us do to ‘reveal’ the truth of God in nature.

Therefore, reason cannot disprove revelation. Reason requires the agency of man to discover the particulars and the universals, according to the Aristotelian framework. Unlike Thomas Aquinas, we make the claim that God cannot be knowable and there can be no science of theology. Revelation is unpredictable, unrepeatable, and acts independently of the mind of man. In the same way, revelation cannot disprove reason. The two represent separate spheres that are independent of one another.

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