The heavens declare the glory of God
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
One day tells it to another
and the night to night communicates knowledge.
There is no speech or language
no are their voices heard;
Yet their sound has gone through all the world
and their words to the end of the earth.
A Prayer Book for Australia
Thinking about this I was prompted to think of the ways in which God's so-called Revelation is mediated to us. How does God speak to us? How do we know what we know about God?
Traditionally we have used a capital letter to distinguish two different ways. Capital "R" Revelation generally refers to the stories of our faith, once transmitted orally but now written, and contained in a compendium we now call the Bible. This definitive Canon of Scripture, of texts written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is for many the definitive Revelation of God. The only Revelation mediated in a higher form is Jesus the Christ, whom the Apostle John described as the Word or Logos of God - "the Word was with God and the Word was God."
The Person Jesus and these written Sacred texts have come to hold a primacy in the Revelation Stakes - Jesus because we see him as the human face of God, and the written texts because we regard them as "inspired" or "God breathed".
What then of the Revelation of God that is proclaimed by the Psalmist in those few lines I began with? Through the history of the Church there has always been an understanding that here, too, is Revelation, and there has even been an argument based on verses like this that since God is glorified and revealed in every element of the Cosmos, then we ought not to think of God as separate from us, as distant from our lived experience and therefore needing to be invoked into the present by our prayers and intercessions. (But that is an issue for another day.)
In respect of the written Revelation why do we find comfort in the proposition the Holy Spirit inspired those authors to write these definitive texts between 1900 and 3200 years ago but since then has refrained from similarly inspiring others to write texts that could be regarded as Capital "R" Revelation. By what authority has the Church declared, through those 4th Century Councils that determined what texts would make up the New Testament, that since that time there has been no further Revelation of this kind or authority?
All this is leading to a question, which I am sure has been asked by others elsewhere:
If a Council of the Church was called today with the express task of determining what texts, written since the 4th Century, could be regarded as expressing something of God that could only be regarded as inspired of the Holy Spirit and worthy of being included as Revelation, what texts would like them to at least consider including?
Would you want to include the writings of early Christian saints Benedict, Francis, Thomas Aquinas, and mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart and others? Would you want include Bunyan's "Pilgrims Progress" or John Milton's classic poem "Paradise Lost" or the poetry of the metaphysicals like George Herbert and Robert Frost?
In our multi-media world, what about some of the musical and visual extravaganzas that have so enriched the experience of our lives and have, in themselves, proclaimed the glory of the Lord?
I feel that we need to be open to this idea, and indeed many of us are given the way we buy sacred books other than the Bible. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit did not cease inspiring men and women to record their visions of God in words, music or visually, 1900 years ago. If this inspirational work has continued to this day where can we see the evidence of it?
I have posed the questions. What do you think?