Thursday, 18 September 2008

Why has God revealed himself as he has?

In the last few days, I've met up with and then been in contact with a friend who's doubting as as Christian. There are lots of big issues which he's wrestling through for the first time, but one of the big questions relates to the issue of God's revelation.

Why has he chosen to reveal himself as he has? Why hasn't he revealed himself in other 'clearer' forms, like a big message in the sky? If the Bible revelation of God today is mediated through Scripture, isn't that cold and rationalistic?

I think the key thing here is the nature of relationship that God wants with humans. If God wanted us merely to assent to his existence intellectually, then a big message in the sky might do. But for a personal relationship to be initiated, then surely another form of revelation is required. The nature of revelation must change for a certain relational form to follow. (A joke used to go round some of the students I work with that I proposed by text message. I didn't. But why would this be so scandalous? Because that form of revelation - that I wanted to marry Linda - needed to be made in a certain way in order to have a certain form of relationship with her).

In human relationships, we get to know others by actively relating to them. We spend time with, we see what makes them tick, we talk to them. This is necessary to have a personal relationship with them. In the same way, we come to know God through relating to him. He designed it in this way. Just as it wouldn't be possible for a person to comprehend the reality of their parents' love for them apart from a personal relationship with them, so we come to know God and his love in the same way.

And so, the knowledge that God wants us to have isn't just knowing that he is exists as an object - but rather that we might know him as the supreme person, our sustainer and redeemer, Lord of all - even over each of us. In short, God wants us to know him as he really is. And so his form of revelation is personal; designed to reveal his character and to bring us into the sort of relationship with Jesus whereby he is the proper head of our family. He calls us to enter and enjoy a loving relationship with himself.

If that's the case, then, how does the Bible fit in? Scripture presents Jesus to us, as he really is. Jesus himself is the revelation of the Father, and through the Spirit, Scripture renders the authentic Jesus. The Bible is like no other book, in that the Spirit of the co-author and the subject of the book is with us by his Spirit. And so, far from being intellectual, Scripture draws us to the person of Jesus - showing us what he is really like, his character, his mind, his trustworthiness - and calling us to worship him. That is what it means to experience life (John 17:3), both now and in the age to come.