I have believed for a long-time that revelation has ceased. Now why have I believed this? It strikes me that I have believed this in the same way that I believed my sister when she told me that a tree would be begin growing in my stomach if I swallowed my bubble gum (I think I may have melded two warnings together here). Why oh why would revelation have ceased? Sure evangelicals allow the category of “general” revelation. This is revelation accessible to all through nature or reason. This is the inferior and almost useless of the various revelations. The evangelical quickly qualifies it; “This is revelation, BUT it is not enough to bring someone to a knowledge of God.”
Hmmm . . .
Then there is “special” revelation. This is the revelation recorded in the Bible. Questions of textual criticism and canonization aside I no longer understand this doctrine. I hope I am not being too trendy or critical but I see this doctrine as relating to issues of control. No one else can claim to have experienced the truth of God unless it can be directly reconciled to some passage of scripture. The irony for me is that the more I read the Bible the more I understand the Bible to be stepping out of the way for the living holy presence of God as the powerful red letters of Jesus tell us to realize that we cannot find eternal life by searching scripture.
I can’t help but think that this understanding of revelation has impoverished the evangelical church especially when it comes to the arts. I see us (I too am evangelical) setting up the elaborate structure of the Tabernacle. However, we ourselves huddle in the Holy of Holies, finding sanctuary from the ambiguity and chaos of the outside world. We choose this ordering because we believe that our understanding of God is the most stable and true. This choice is contrasted when we place at the centre of our significance and life the rupturing and terrible presence of the seemingly empty space between the Cherubim, that holiness concentrated but not contained.
In art, I believe at its best, we lay prostrate before emerging and often revolutionary images of reality. Now revolution has become co-opted and consumerized, much the same way “special” revelation has, we trade in it daily to keep us in the style we are accustomed to. Where now can the Christian seek to come into the presence of God? I ask this because I am coming to believe that revelation is on the loose. God help us.