PROGRESSIVE REVELATION The Pursuit of Truth Concerning the Nature of God

D8CD4051-06BE-45C9-BFF9-9F5A45AAD297_4_5005_cAs I have been meditating on this topic, I have experienced a recurring imaginary scenario. Imagine astronaut Neil Armstrong attending a first-century Christian house church meeting dressed in the spacesuit he wore while bounding around the moonscape in July of 1969. Those first-century disciples would have no frame of reference to comprehend the being that walked into their venue. They would have no cultural or scientific context in which to interpret and understand what they were witnessing. Such was the experience of the first-century Jewish community when Jesus walked into their world. There are many references in the Old Testament which prophesy the coming of a Messiah.

Here is a link to an informative article on thosen prophecies: https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/top-40-most-helpful-messianic-prophecies/

51AF351D-836F-4282-B02A-9146E597F549_4_5005_cWhat is not so readily apparent in these prophecies is that the Messiah would be God Himself coming in the flesh. The doctrine of incarnation explains this reality. Some Old Testament prophecies hint at this doctrine. Such passages refer to the Messiah as the Son of God, the Mighty God, and the Everlasting Father. Otherwise, the preponderance of references highlights the human nature of the Messiah. We can empathize with first-century Hebrews who had difficulty getting their brain around the reality of an divine incarnate being walking around in their midst. Even now, two thousand years later, it is difficult to comprehend the nature of the Trinity and the incarnate second person of that Trinity.

The word “progressive” was positive in my nurturing culture. Unfortunately, today this term is associated with politics and has become polemical. Sadly, social media is full of posts that toss around contentious words without any definition by the one making the post. For the sake of this blog, I’ll narrow my perspective to the theological use of the term.

Progressive sanctification and progressive revelation were doctrines taught in my theological stream. Progressive sanctification asserts that after one becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, a potential maturation process empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit begins. Legally, or positionally, the believer is wholly sanctified, declared holy, in Jesus Christ. Experientially, the believer is birthed into the family of God and has the opportunity to choose to mature over time.

My focus for this blog is the doctrine of progressive revelation.

God chose to reveal Himself and Truth to humanity over a period of time. The Bible, the canon of Scripture, was one vehicle for this revelation. The Bible presents God’s declarations about Himself as a person and stories of man’s interactions with God.

Progressive revelation asserts that later Scripture (the New Testament) provides a greater or fuller understanding of God’s nature & Truth than previously inspired Scripture (the Old Testament). This later revelation complements and supplements the earlier revelation. The latter revelation does not contradict the earlier.

Generally, the evangelical doctrine in which holds that the revelation via written Scripture is not continuing. It is complete. The transmission of the word of God occurred over a specific period of history. Today we have the complete written revelation from God.

For more information on how the canon of the establishment of the New Testament check out: https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/New-Testament-canon-texts-and-versions

Progressive revelation also considers that he, the incarnate son of God, was a more complete revelation of God’s nature and His truth. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see a more concrete, flesh and blood demonstration of God’s personality acted out in a diversity of circumstances and relationships. Jesus told His disciples, “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus not only taught the truth; He claimed to be Truth.

Even though from God’s perspective, His revelation of Himself in Scripture and Jesus might be complete, our understanding of Him needs to progress. Relational progress, knowing someone over a period of time in diverse contexts, increases our knowledge of that person.

There are other considerations for understanding progressive revelation.

PROGRESS IN UNDERSTANDING BIBLICAL TRUTH

PROGRESS IN UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL TRUTH

PROGRESS IN UNDERSTANDING SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES

PROGRESS IN UNDERSTANDING BIBLICAL TRUTH

Since God reveals Himself in Scripture, increased understanding of Scripture increases an understanding of the nature of God.

For example, knowing Jesus’ perspective on progressive revelation is helpful. Matthew’s gospel details some of the most significant paradigm shifts mentioned in the Bible. Jesus highlights these shifts.

Jesus would declare: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time…” He followed this declaration by a description of past practices or understandings. Jesus then said: “But I say unto you…” Jesus continued His teaching by promoting an enhanced understanding of truth or an updated practice.

Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure from the earth. Regarding the future ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:12–13)

Jesus makes it plain that there is more truth to learn. There is more truth to know than is revealed in Scripture. There is more truth beyond the truth Jesus taught during His earthly ministry. Since the inception of the church with the Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost, humankind has been on a Holy Spirit-guided journey of discovery concerning truth in all aspects of life.

Let me highlight one of my worldview assumptions. God is sovereign over His creation and the directional flow of history. God’s sovereignty does not mean He is in control. He delegated dominion and authority over His creation to man. (Psalm 8)

61BD17E3-C193-4815-93F4-3C85F53E70E0_4_5005_cMy analogy for understanding this principle is sports leagues. For example, the National Football League is composed of the various teams’ owners and employed administrators. The NFL establishes the rules for the game, ensuring that every team enjoys a level playing field and fairness in the execution of the game. The League does not call the plays nor control the plays on the field during the game. God has established the playing field and the rules of the game for His creation. He does not call the plays nor control the plays. Man does. God does act within history providentially, especially when invited to do so by humanity.

Sometimes some try to comfort others by stating the platitude, “God is in control.” That sentiment is ultimately not comforting. If God is indeed in control, He is doing a lousy job. Humankind is in charge. God is sovereign. He acts providentially in man’s circumstances, especially when invited to do so.)

According to God’s revealed nature and Truth, God is sovereign. Given God’s oversight over human history’s progress, we can evaluate cultural and scientific developments. These developments overseen by God contribute to our understanding of Him, ourselves, and our purpose in His universe.

In the future blogs I will adress these other considerations for progressive revelation:

PROGRESS IN UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL TRUTH

PROGRESS IN UNDERSTANDING SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES


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