In a comment below his post entitled ‘some false precision’ Alec made the claim that revelation is ‘God calling creatures to conversion’. I want to write a brief rejoinder to this claim.
My problem is a) it is too narrow and b) it is too modern (I.e. It is an understanding of revelation which the fathers would not have shared, nor arguably the writers of the OT and NT; rather it sounds a bit too similar to Bultmann for me). My fear is that the way it’s phrased puts too great an emphasis on the existential effect of revelation; this emphasis is (ironically given the nature of Alec’s post) a very modern view of the significance of revelation.
From a patristic perspective (at least this is the view emerging from my reading of the fathers) revelation’s primary significance is theophanic – that is to enable knowledge of and encounter with the one true God. Whereas theophanies inevitably have some sort of ‘conversion’ effect (the confessions of Peter and Thomas are a case in point) this is not merely an existential conversion. There are other dimensions as well: most notably, ontological transfiguration – eg Moses face shining after coming down from Sinai, or the claim in 1 John 3.2 that ‘when he comes we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’. Thus the existential dimension is just one aspect of what revelation is – an aspect which is encompassed by the broader patristic sense of revelation as theophany.
I also suspect this understanding of revelation lies behind much of scripture – the prologue to John’s gospel being a prime example of this (‘and we have beheld his glory’ etc.)