Propositional Revelation

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

- John 15:26–27

Christ’s example and teaching in Mark 7:1–23 shows us that no matter how helpful our traditions may be, we are not to follow them if we discover that they are contrary to the Word of God. Scripture is the only infallible authority for Christian faith and practice, which means that it sits above all other authorities. As the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us, “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” (1.10). We will now take a short break from our study of Mark’s gospel to explore the doctrine of Scripture, using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Thus Says the Lord as our guide.

Historically, Christians from all theological traditions have confessed that the Bible is the Word of God. Over the past century or so, however, many thinkers have come to regard Scripture as containing the Word of God or as becoming the Word of God under certain conditions. Those who hold such views often distinguish between propositional and event revelation, saying that the Lord reveals Himself through events, not propositions. For example, the exodus and the crucifixion are events wherein God revealed Himself; the biblical propositions that describe and interpret those events are not, strictly speaking, divine revelation but pointers to revelation. They are a means by which we can encounter the God behind the events, but the words themselves are not the Lord’s speech.

This drastic separation between propositional and event revelation is deeply problematic. It downplays the propositional writings that make up the Bible and suggests that these propositions, which interpret events for us, are unnecessary, strictly speaking. Yet, we cannot know the significance of God’s works in history without His telling us what they mean. In a group of witnesses to the crucifixion who did not have it interpreted for them, there would be as many interpretations as witnesses. To know the true meaning of the works of the Lord, we must have them explained to us with propositions, for that is how human beings communicate. God’s revelation of Himself, therefore, consists not only of events but also of His interpretation and explanation of those events. His propositional revelation always accompanies His event revelation.

Coram Deo

In itself, something like the empty tomb is merely a curiosity. Without the inspired propositional revelation of Scripture that explains the event, we would not know that the empty tomb means Christ’s resurrection for the justification of all who believe in Him. We need the propositions of Scripture. These propositions are God’s words to us that explain what He has done for us.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 18:18
John 16:12–14

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