Part I

(Part II will appear in the next issue)

The history of human thought continually confronts us with questions regarding divine revelation. On one hand, some thinkers reject any possibility of divine revelation in the world on the basis of their atheism or agnosticism. On the other, a great number of thinkers espouse revelation, yet the variety of viewpoints seriously and fundamentally contradict each other. When we specially emphasize a revelation of God in the world, moreover, basic differences emerge over the character and the content of this revelation. In this connection we think not only of non-Christian religions, which often also appropriate the notion of “revelation”—Mohammedanism, for example,—but also of differences among those who, in one way or another, identify divine revelation with the Christian faith.

Specifically, then, we face the controversy over the manner in which divine revelation has come to us. Scholars have frequently opposed the local and historical frontiers of revelation, pleading instead for a more general revelation, a universal unveiling (revelation signifies “apocalypse,” unveiling), and have set themselves against the orthodox vision of special revelation which seemed too narrow and too limited. Especially since the eighteenth century the speculative viewpoint has sharply objected to basing man’s salvation upon historical facts. In particular, Lessing’s now well-known dictum that it is impossible to base eternal truths upon historical actions exercised great influence. More and more the impression grew that historical facts are accidental, changing, fortuitous and relative. It was asserted also that all historical circumstances so interpenetrate each other that any discrimination of the ...

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