I am reading and blogging through Ron Highfield’s new book called Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God
. This opens our series; it’s a serious volume for theologians and pastors, but it’s faith angle gives the book a doxological approach that makes the heart sing and makes theology what it should be.
How’s this for an opening paragraph observation? Starting with Gregory Nazianzus, Highfield quotes him: “It is more important that we should remember God than that we should breathe: indeed, if one may say so, we should do nothing else besides” (3). Doxology is where theology begins and leads.
How do you know God? How do you ‘know that you know’ God? What can be known of God through observation of reality and creation? Do you think ‘natural revelation’ is adequate for salvation?
Highfield turns to Revelation and makes these fundamental claims: God wills to be known and God’s revelation begins in God’s self-knowledge and God’s good will to make himself (GodSelf) known to us. Seemingly simple but absolutely foundational to all theological claims. This counters Plotinus and the apophatic tendencies to make knowledge of God less than knowable and known. “Unlike the absolute ‘One’ of Plotinus, the three-in-one God knows himself fully, and consequently he can know the world and make himself known to others” (6).
Revelation means four issues emerge:
Religion as feeling, natural revelation, Scripture and tradition. A brief on what he says.
The Romantic movement, with Schleiermacher as one of its main theological expressions, finds revelation to be feeling itself and words are the human counterpart to the religious experience. Orthodoxy and heresy, therefore, have no permission to work because they deal with the words and not the feeling. Hence, Schleiermacher puts the Trinity at the end of his theology. Theology is the study of the effects of the experience. Highfield is with Barth and Torrance in making Trinitarian thinking determinative for theology. The issue here has to do with the adequacy of words to carry the revelation of God, and those words are renditions of The Word.
On natural theology, Highfield agrees with the many who have argued that natural revelation cannot provide adequate information for salvation.
On Scripture, one of HIghfield’s more interesting sections, the focus is on apostolicity and that genuine faith is apostolic and not simply canonical; the canon is the apostolic witness to Christ. That is, he believes in the gospel in part because he believes the canon provides the apostolic witness to the gospel.
On Tradition: there is a difference between Trent and the Second Vatican. We cannot believe in Scripture alone without believing in the apostolic tradition, so that the early tradition (not the ongoing tradition) and canon coalesce.