How can divine revelation make sense?

One of the more ridiculous notions in Christianity to a typical secularist is that of divine revelation. Whereas arguments from personal experience can be made fairly directly, arguments made from scripture are much more difficult to justify. Therefore, much of Christian discourse seems ridiculous, because it is couched in or buttressed by references to certain scripture as divine revelation.

‘Divine revelation’ has three main components – that there is a divine reality, that there can be revelation, and that the divine reality can be the cause of revelation. Christianity includes the idea that we have good reasons to believe that certain writings – such as the Gospel of Luke – contain divine revelation. How might the first three of these components seem a little closer to plausible?

1. That there is inspiration. Often, writers will say that when they write it ‘flows’ – the words just ‘come to them’. Similarly in music, or in problem solving – a solution ‘comes to oneself’. In typical discourse, we might call this ‘inspiration’ – it is a robustly evidenced phenomenon.

2. That there is revelation. The first question is: “What is ‘revelation’?” ‘Revelation’ and ‘reveal’ have the same root, and revelation basically means a ‘revealing’ of information. (For example, “New revelations about such-and-such case!”) The basic idea is the same as with inspiration. Some information – an idea, text, music, solution – comes to oneself, i.e., is ‘revealed’. ‘Revelation’ just suggests a ‘fuller’ or more detailed sense than ‘inspiration’. Again, (non-theistic) writers often say that what they wrote seemed like they were merely transcribing it, say. That there are these sorts of fuller or more detailed experiences of inspiration is also robustly evidenced – however, it happens more rarely than the more general sense of inspiration.

3. That revelation can reveal important information. This follows fairly simply from 2. Sometimes, people are ‘inspired’ and write nonsense or things that turn out to be false. Other times, however, a part of text, music, or a solution to a problem comes to them and it turns out to be veridical, beautiful, and or useful. I.e., it is straightforward to note that in some cases of inspiration or revelation, it’s true.

This leads to a simple question: where does the information which leads to inspiration or revelation come from? Those who think there is such a thing as divine revelation think that some of it comes from a divine source. This in turn leads to two problems as seen from a typical secularist’s viewpoint: is there really a divine aspect of the universe, and can this divine aspect really be the source of inspired or revealed information?

4. That there is a divine aspect. This can be made to seem a little more plausible by citing the large amount of evidence in people’s experiences which suggests there is. Consider here, where 3 sources of evidence are cited.

5. That the divine aspect can be a source of information in some cases of inspiration or revelation. The 3 sources of evidence considered at the link are not just evidence for a divine aspect, but evidence that this aspect can affect or interface with (or, perhaps, be a part of) human brains or minds.

A next question is then whether and to what degrees we have good evidence for divine revelation in specific claimed instances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *