What Constitutes Divine Revelation and Why Is That A Vital Concern To All Christians?
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|If God has revealed Himself to mankind, can we know where that revelation is found? Can we truly know what God has spoken to us? The subject of what constitutes divine revelation is crucial because without it, very little can be known about God—who God is, what He has communicated to us, or what He expects of us.|
If God has revealed Himself to mankind, can we know where that revelation is found? Can we identify it? In other words, can we truly know what God has spoken to us?
No subject is more important to men and women of religious persuasion, in any religion. The subject of what constitutes divine revelation is crucial because without it, very little can be known about God—who God is, what He has communicated to us, or what He expects of us. Thus, the issue of divine authority is inseparably bound to the issue of divine revelation. Only that which comes from God has divine authority. In other words, only God’s revelation has authentic and inherent power to command obedience.
So, has God spoken? And if so, where has He spoken?
Protestants have traditionally maintained that God has spoken solely in the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament. Only these books are divinely authoritative.
In contrast, Roman Catholicism teaches that in addition to the Protestant Bible, there are five other sources having divine authority.
First, there are additional books written between the Old and New Testaments, known to Catholics as the deuterocanonical books and to Protestants by the term “Apocrypha.” Roman Catholics consider these books as genuine Scripture and thus include them as part of their Bible.
Second, Catholicism maintains that divine authority is to be found in the authorized Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, which is also classified as the “Word of God.”
Third, divine authority (infallibility) is given to the Pope when he speaks officially on matters of faith and morals.
Fourth, when speaking or teaching in conjunction with the Pope and orthodox Catholic Tradition, Roman Catholic bishops are also held to be infallible, and hence, divinely authoritative.
Finally, official Roman Catholic interpretation of the Bible (Catholic teaching) is considered to have divine warrant and authority.
In essence, all five of these sources can be summarized by the term “Roman Catholic Tradition.”
Protestantism rejects these additional sources of divine authority, and this underscores the single most important division between the two churches. Neither Protestants nor Catholics can deny this issue. Divine authority cannot be found in the Bible alone and at the same time in various additional sources of alleged revelation, if these deny the Bible. Because God does not contradict Himself (2 Corinthians 1:17-20; cf. Psalm 145:13; Galatians 3:21; Hebrews 13:8) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2), He cannot affirm one set of teachings in the Bible and then declare them wrong through additional forms of revealed Tradition. Therefore, Protestants believe that if the Bible truly is God’s Word (as Catholics also maintain), then anything that conflicts with biblical teaching cannot possibly be from God.
In short, this issue is crucial because Catholic Tradition and biblical revelation conflict with one another on matters of vital importance, such as the means of salvation. In the end, this may have great personal consequence, including the uncertainty about or even the unintended rejection of the true means of salvation.
No one can deny that devout Catholics, like Protestants, sincerely wish to do God’s will; they desire to know what is pleasing to God so they may live their lives accordingly. This is why the issue of biblical authority is so crucial.
- Robert C. Broderick, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, revised and updated (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), pp. 73-74.
- Ibid., p. 581.
- Ibid., p. 292.
- Ibid., p. 581.