We often put effort into bringing renowned theologians into the diocese. It is, therefore, worthwhile to note such gifted people under our noses. I have been reading Billy Abraham, professor of theology and evangelism at Perkins, SMU, and his Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation. I was familiar with his Logic of Evangelism, whose emphasis on the relation to witness to catechetical formation in the early Church is congenial to our thinking.
In Crossing… his emphasis on revelation is welcome- about divine things God must speak to us, for by definition they are not things of which we are capable ourselves. Where revelation is vanquished, we are left with our own efforts or politics or feelings, and these are thin gruel. But quickly a series of worries creep in: doesn’t science exclude such knowledge? Must we submit our faith to the judgment of secular thought? Is a general sort of deity the most we can hope for in the modern era, not a crucified rabbi from the first century? Such background questions do have an effect on hearers in the pews- is what he or she is telling me real?
The most I can do is offer an invitation to Abraham’s argument. First, he points out that each subject requires criteria suitable to its nature. You don’t judge a sonata with a thermometer. (The point is as old as Aristotle). Secondly, we do our work without a developed theory of ‘how.’ I can drive without knowing the details of the gearbox. How comes up along the way as questions arise. One such field is Christian faith- it has its own authorities, the Bible, theologians, liturgy, etc. It has its own integrity within which questions can be answered and integrity preserved.
Secondly, he points out how complex being addressed by a person is - who is he or she? What is being said? Am I ready to hear? This is the place to start in thinking about revelation. For revelation is about someone addressing us, and His speech can be trusted.
To be sure, we are addressed in an unusual way. God has given us not a textbook, but a crucified and risen rabbi who fulfilled prophecy behind Him and accompanies a flawed community ahead. It is as odd as, say, Einsteinian science! It is also as simple as charity, humility, and sacrifice, which turn out to be not so simple after all.