The Possibility of Knowledge of
We know nothing of God except and until he makes Himself known. Any
Christian discussion of God can speak only of the God who has made himself
known. Thus Christian theology is not looking for God, but proceeds
boldly upon the unconcealed presupposition of its being already addressed
Although Christian faith celebrates God's self-disclosure in nature
and history generally, it does not regard either nature or history as
synonymous with revelation. For in neither nature nor in history is
the will and purpose of God unambiguously disclosed. Christian theology
does not pretend to speak of any other God than that God who is made
known in the history of the people of Israel and the Christ event.
Four Sources of Theological Authority. Our authority for speaking
of God is fourfold: scriptural truth experienced in life,
made intelligible and self-consistent through reasoning, and
mediated through the historic Christian tradition. All talk about
God in the Christian community is called to be responsible to these
four criteria. Each exists in responsive dialogue with the alleged self-disclosure
of God. None exists wholesomely without the correctives and balancing
features of the others.
Thus we cannot focus our affirmations about the self-disclosure of
God exclusively upon narrow scriptural literalism (fundamentalism),
nor upon an ambiguous ecclesiastical or cultic tradition, however rich,
which would claim to have an infallible interpretation of it (ecclesiastical
archaism), nor strictly upon our own capacity to make sense out of it
or order it into a self-consistent whole (rationalism), nor upon merely
our experiencing the benefits of it (pietism). To focus upon one resource
so as to exclude the others is to subvert a wholesome theological method.
Could not all of these ideas about God merely be a projection of our
own needs? There is much truth in that. Most of our ideas about God
are merely human wishes. But the Christian faith begins with
the audacious assumption that God has in fact revealed Himself precisely
against our illusions about him!
Reference: TSOA, pp. 85, 87-88.