inspired people, inspired writing
Been thinking on revelation lately. Teaching a class on the origin of scripture has made it inevitable. There’s the kind of revelation you can get from observing nature–general revelation–and then there’s the kind you can only get downloaded directly from God–special revelation. This direct communication with God comes in the form of dreams, visions, prophetic utterances, words of knowledge, prayer, etc. Some folks don’t believe in special revelation anymore. They say it ended with the prophet Malachi, and from then on, we have only the Scriptures to guide us. All we need is there in the book. Sola scriptura, scripture alone, as the Reformers cried 500 years ago.
I don’t think most of us Christians would agree with that today. Don’t we believe that direct communication with God is possible? If not, what’s all this worship time and prayer time and gifts of the spirit all about? Of course, some folks don’t believe in the gifts anymore either. Those stopped with the Apostles. But the church all the way up through the Enlightenment had a rich mystical tradition. Now, there’s that word again. Mystical. Mystic. Mysticism. It’s gotten a bad rap, being now intertwined with New Age elements, but a mystic is simply someone who believes in and practices direct experience and communication with God here and now. Seems to be pretty descriptive of any of us sitting this side of Deism.
But at the same time, we place so much emphasis on the Scriptures alone, that the other forms of special revelation are atrophying in our own lives. Before there were Scriptures, there was special revelation alone: direct communication with God, mystical experiences such as dreams, visions, prophecies, and miracles–it was from these experiences that God-inspired, God-breathed people wrote…scripture. And they saw that scripture as living and active–containing the ability to create more special revelation, direct communication, mystical dreams and visions and words of knowledge in the people who read them and took them to heart.
Everything we can’t know about God from simple observation of nature can only come from God himself in the direct communication that is possible between us. Once communicated, once breathed into us, we now have something to talk about, to write about ourselves. And once we are God-breathed, then we are inspired and our writings and talkings will be inspired. Just as inspired as Scripture? I believe so. Without the authority, certainly. And subject to the checks and balances that Scripture provides. Absolutely. But inspired? Yes.
We need to vigorously pursue a full life of special revelation. To look in all the directions from which God speaks. The Bible, the reading of Scripture, is only a third person experience until we make it second and eventually first person in the exercise of our own mystical prayer life. That’s the goal: to hear God’s voice daily. The scriptures are one tool God uses. There are many more.