Continuing revelation: Learning from Judaism and Islam
IN the previous two chapters I sought to offer a wider context in which to place our present discussion of the notion of revelation and how it should be understood. In the first, 'Narrative and Enlightenment', my concern was to steer a middle path between two common contemporary extremes: on the one hand, unqualified advocacy of the virtues of Enlightenment objectivity, and on the other the fashionable retreat of so many theologians from its challenges into allegedly self-validating claims for Christianity. Though undoubtedly part of the strength of any particular tradition does lie in its internal structure and foundations, to give these the last word as well as the first would be to court disaster. A tradition flourishes not only through a healthy respect for its roots, but equally in lively confrontation with external pressures and influences whereby it is forced to think itself anew. That phenomenon I sought to illustrate in the second chapter, with changing understandings through two millennia of the significance of Christ's nativity. I argued that, so far from the Church being embarrassed by the 'legendary' material which has accrued to contemporary celebrations of Christmas, this sometimes deserves to be seen not merely as illuminating but even as corrective of the original biblical narrative. Where the Enlightenment, therefore, erred was not in looking more widely than any particular tradition, but in supposing that this spelt the death of tradition rather than its enrichment. The 'prejudice' of antecedent assumptions and perspectives is inescapable, but traditions grow through interaction with alternatives, and not always in opposition to them.
These contentions I now want to take a stage further in this chapter. It is Enlightenment values that force us towards the recognition of the historically conditioned character of Scripture,
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Publication information: Book title: Tradition and Imagination:Revelation and Change. Contributors: David Brown - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 106.
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