Re-thinking "Revelation"by Michael Morwood on 06/29/14
Vatican II never questioned the traditional understanding of revelation. It is most likely that no bishop since Vatican II has questioned it either. It is truly an amazing state of affairs that given the extraordinary wealth of scientific knowledge showered upon us in the past fifty years, that no voice has been raised or has been permitted to be raised in the Catholic Church suggesting it is time to rethink how divine revelation works. And I do not want to suggest that Catholicism is alone in this.
The traditional understanding of revelation requires belief in a God, external to our world, who intervenes from wherever this God is thought to be located. As recently as 1992, The Catechism of the Catholic Church presented the world with the understanding of God wanting to compose the sacred books and choosing certain men to write whatever he wanted written and no more (#106)
In the worldview of more than two thousand years ago, the prophets heard their heavenly-based God 'speak' to them the message God wanted his people to hear. The prophets spoke with certainty and intensity:
Thus said the Lord God to me.
This is what the Lord God wants.
The Lord of hosts has sworn.
Woe to the rebelliousays the Lord.
For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel.
Thus says the Lord God is repeated over and over in some of the prophetical books. (e.g. Jeremiah, chapters 30-32)
Today when we are not imagining God as an external heavenly deity, but rather as the mysterious source and sustainer of everything that exists, present and active everywhere, we are challenged to turn our understanding of revelation upside down or back to front, or better, from out to in. In other words, we should consider that the 'voice' the prophets heard did not come from an external source, a God in the heavens, but from internally, from the mysterious source of all, present, embedded, active within them, as it is in every human.
Another phrase that some of the prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Micah, use, may help us embrace this shift in thinking: The Word of the Lord came to me. Today we can imagine that the teaching, the path to be followed, came from personal reflection, from a moment of sudden insight, or in one of those waking from sleep moments when something dawns with surprising clarity or from a deep inner conviction or 'knowing' as in 'I just know, do not me how, that this needs to be done or I need to do this.'
The word we commonly use for this phenomenon is intuition, a way of perception and knowing that is like an inner voice, an inner guidance. Carl Jung wrote that, 'Intuition enables us to divine the possibilities of a situation.' Perhaps we could play with his words and say, 'Intuition enables us to know the divine possibilities of a situation.'
From this perspective we can see that 'divine revelation' is within all of us. We can move from the traditional understanding that it comes from an external source and that it is granted to a privileged few or a privileged group. This thinking, of course, is not acceptable to the institutional custodians of 'divine revelation' who consider they have a God-given mandate to let the world know the thoughts and opinions of an external deity.
Jesus knew better. He knew what was in people. He wanted to free people from whatever prevented them from knowing what he knew and experienced. Only with such freedom could 'divine possibilities' ever shape the future of humanity.
Albert Einstein wrote, 'The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.'
If we could learn to understand 'divine revelation' in the way suggested in these paragraphs, religion could regain, treasure and promote the sacred gift, and help all people come to know what Jesus wanted everyone to know: the 'divine voice is within all of us.