Lecture 26

Geerhardus Vos – the relation of the Father and the Son carried a unique cognition. Mt 11:27 the knowledge the Father and the Son have exclusively a knowledge which men cannot share; it characterises an intra divine relationship.

Man can know God, but not by sharing this unique knowledge. We have it revealed. A human knowledge of the Father comes through revelation.

The meaning of revelation
What is revelation?
At Harvard I took a seminar by the nephew of William James – there were 13 of us on Tuesday evenings 7-10 pm. We were going around the room answering his question; ‘Tell me what revelation means?’. I was bought up in a fundamentalist church – I couldn’t answer, I was then determined to find out.

Very few stop to think about it. To reveal = to bring down to the creaturely level of existence, to unveil, in the sense of from God to man, in term’s of man’s experience. It is a bringing into the creation, what is not of the creation so we can understand it.

Revelation is at the heart of Christian religion – one of our top priorities is to understand it.

Knowledge of God that God himself has is intra divine knowledge. Messiahship must be revealed to humans. Messiahship is Jesus’ reception of the commission to reveal. The messiah is revealer, because he is God become man. The incarnation is revelation par excellence.

All revelation concentrates itself in the phrase God became flesh. (Jn 1:18) God was with man – in a form like unto man. God with us Emmanuel.

The God who can be humanly known because he lived as a human. This is the stupendous significance of the incarnation. It is revelation – God come down to us, to make God known.

Revelation is bound up in creation.

Monistic or dualistic. Monism, eg, Schelling and Hegel. Sixth century BC monism – some single point of origin which converged into an higher and lower world. Monism always divides into two.

Dualism, in the beginning there was two things, the two are elevated to be origin. Twoness as origin of everything. A transcendent world and a non-transcendent world – the two are in close juxtaposition with one another, eg soul and body. A living alongside of two things that have nothing in common.

In monism there is one arche out of it comes a higher aidos and a lower aidos, a bifurcation. There are sub-divisions a secondary and a tertiary genus.

At the time of World War II Europe wasn’t believing anything. It was Karl Barth that bought Europe back to the Bible. The neo-orthodoxy of Brath followed in this respect the nineteenth century danish philosopher Søren Kirkegaard (1813-1855).

Kirkegaard was the author of a number of books: Fear and Trembling, Concept of dread, Philosophical Fragments, Concluding Unscientific Postscript

One of the mst important ideas was the infinite qualitative difference between God and man. Barth’s 1921 Epistle to the Romans was a shocker. Barth frequetly cited Eclesiates 5:2. God is in heaven and thou on earth and he emphasised God’s transcendence, his wholly-otherness.

Jean Calvin was different even though he too emphasied the transcendence, the sovereignty, the wholly-otherness of God. In Calvin other factors are operative as well when it concerns the relationship between the God the revealer and man the hearer. And it is a mistake to determine the realtion between the speaking God and the hearing man, only by an appeal to this ‘infinite qualitative difference’ between God and man as if there everything were said.

Calvin had undergone the impact of Rom 10:6-8 and Deut 30:11-15. “The word is near you” Romans quotes Deut 30. Deuteronomy is a summary of the Torah.

(Gerhard Vos on Mt 11) Our lord has freely spoken in a way that accords with his own nature (who then of immortal creatures would hear?).

God has lisped to us to indicate the nature of the word-revelation he uses figure of a nurse and little child. Calvin sermon CLX on Deut 28. (Best edition Baum, Goodrich, Royce vol. 28 p. 441)

We cannot understand not at all his majesty seeing that he is. It is necessary that he lowers himself and that he uses ways of speaking.

In 1935 I studied theology with Klaas Schilder (1934 dissertation on dialectical theology and Calvin).

Speaking of God which directly to his being structure is determined out of his autonomy is only a talking within the trinity. A talking therefore never heard by man. A mutual calling to each one of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an imminent activity within the trinity. This talking of God – never heard by man – has nothing to do with revelation. God’s revelation speech belongs to the activities of God that go out to creation. While in dialectical theology determines the speaking of God process of revelation out of this immanent Calvin does so out of God’s activity to go outside the trinity to his creation.

Dialectical theology is constantly emphasising God’s sovereignty; God can never be separated from his essential being so that God can never be anything but wholly God in his talking. Calvin however, although he agrees with that adds that God can create a tie to himself and his creation. He can adapt himself to men also in his talk. Calvin puts over and against this placing in the foreground concepts of distance in relation the talking God to hearing man the doctrine of accommodation of God in his revelation. The idea of a God who lets himself down to our infirmities is very much apart of Calvin’s doctrine of revelation and has significant influence for us.

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