Continuous revelation

Continuous revelation or continuing revelation is a theological belief or position that God continues to reveal divine principles or commandments to humanity. In Christian traditions, it is most commonly associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, though it is found in some other denominations as well. Continuous revelation also forms part of the rituals of gatherings in various chapters of Taoism. In the Baha'i Faith, Progressive revelation is an important concept that is similar to continuous revelation. In the world of Islam, Ahmadi Muslims believe that whilst law-bearing revelation has ended with the perfection of scripture in the form of the Qur'an, non-scriptural revelation to non-prophets as well as non law-bearing Muslim prophets continues. They cite Qur'anic verses as well as Ahadith considered by many to be authentic in support of their belief in continuous revelation.


Contents

Islam

There is no verse of the Qur'an which states that divine revelation has ended with it. The Islamic prophet Muhammad received scriptural as well as non-scriptural revelations, some of which were recorded as Hadith Qudsi. Nor does the Qur'an restrict the sending of divine revelation to prophets/messengers, for the mother of Moses received revelation (28:7). The Qur'an refers to the continuity of messengers (7:35) and promises that those who obey Allah and Muhammad will be favoured with the blessings of prophethood (4:69) which includes being given knowledge of the unseen through divine revelation.

The verse (5:3) refers to the perfection of religion and not to the cessation of prophethood or revelation. The verse (33:40) refers to the excellence and superiority of the prophethood of Muhammad and the continuity of prophethood amongst his followers, and not to the complete cessation of all types of prophethoods or revelations. According to a well-known hadith of Muhammad recorded in Sahih Muslim [1], the Messiah would received revelation from Allah during his second advent. Thus, there is no real basis for the common misconception among some modern day Muslims that all types of divine revelations and prophethoods have been discontinued.

Latter-day Saints

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), continuing revelation is the principle that God or his divine agents still continue to communicate to mankind. This communication can be manifest in many ways: influences of the Holy Ghost; vision; visitation of divine beings; and others. By such means God guides his followers to salvation and without such His followers will eventually form their beliefs or practices after a god of their own making. Church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. used the example of the Lord's revelations to Moses in Deuteronomy to explain the importance and necessity of continuous revelation to guide "those who seek diligently to know [God's] precepts":

God said, "Thou shalt not kill"[2] at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy."[3] This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted-by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God commands is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire . . . As God has designed our happiness-and the happiness of all His creatures, He never has – He never will – institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances... for all things shall be made known unto them in [His] own due time, and in the end they shall have joy.
—Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 256–7.

The open scriptural canon of the LDS Church is based on the principle of continuous revelation. Its 9th Article of Faith states:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God

Members of the LDS Church anticipate additions to its canon, including the translation of the remaining two-thirds of the golden plates which was the source of the Book of Mormon.

The Community of Christ (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint), the second largest Latter Day Saint denomination, regularly canonizes revelation into the Doctrine and Covenants. Its Prophet/President present Words of Council to the church usually before it's World Conference. If the conference confirms the Words of Counsel as prophetic, it is added as a Section in the scripture known as Doctrine and Covenants.

Friends (Quakers)

In the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), continuing revelation comes from the Inner light or the light within. This light has traditionally been identified as the Spirit of Christ or Christ within, although not all Friends associate the Inner Light with Christ. It is understood as the presence of God which provides illumination and guidance to the individual and through individuals to the group.

Some Friends consider the Bible the ultimate authority, but others consider the Inner Light to be above the Bible. Both groups believe that the Inner Light speaks to people directly and not just through the text of the Bible.

Because Friends believe that revelation is ongoing, they have no set creed or dogmas. However, as early Friends listened to the Inner light and endeavored to live accordingly, a common set of beliefs gradually emerged, which became known as testimonies. (See Testimonies for a fuller list and description of them.) Although rooted in the immediate experience of the community of Friends, these Testimonies are based on what Friends believe are verified in the Bible, especially as described in the Gospels regarding the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Testimonies are not formal static documents, but rather a shared collection or view of how Quakers relate to God. They cannot be taken one at a time, but are interrelated. As a philosophical system, they are coherent, even outside of Christianity.

The list of testimonies that Quakers follow is also not static. The following is a generally accepted list.

Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians

Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians generally believe that Christians, especially "Spirit-filled" Christians can receive revelations from God in the form of dreams, visions, and audible or inaudible voices. They also believe that certain individuals are able to transmit revelations from God in the form of prophecy, words of knowledge, and speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.

While most Pentecostals and Charismatics believe the Bible to be the ultimate authority and would not say that any new revelation can ever contradict the Bible, they do believe that God continues to speak to people today on extra-biblical topics as well as to interpret and apply the text of the Bible.

Taoist

In various designated offshoots of Taoism like the De Schools in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, and the Dao Schools in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, weekly or sometimes monthly gatherings are held at temples to receive and understand communications from above by way of two mediums holding rattan sifts writing on sand, who are 'dictated' with news ranging in contents from current affairs, religion, to arts and morality, the writings are called Sift Text or '乩文'. Different gods in the Daoist pantheon are designated for temples which have to go through the rigour of acceptance before the contents are recognized as authorized communiques from heaven. Examples of instructions from the heavens are (web pages only in Chinese):

  • [1] and [2], October and December 2000 CE by Master Lu;
  • [3], fully referenced and indexed essay on the relation of Daodejing with self-improvement;
  • [4], compilation of some principles of Taoism recorded by different temples.

Baha'i Faith

Progressive revelation is a core teaching in the Bahá'í Faith that suggests that religious truth is revealed by God progressively and cyclically over time through a series of divine Messengers, and that the teachings are tailored to suit the needs of the time and place of their appearance.[4][5] Thus, the Bahá'í teachings recognize the divine origin of several world religions as different stages of in the history of one religion, while believing that the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is the most recent (though not the last—that there will never be a last), and therefore the most relevant to modern society.[4]

Bahá'ís believe God to be generally regular and periodic in revealing His will to mankind through messengers/prophets, which are named Manifestations of God. Each messenger in turn establishes a covenant and founds a religion. This process of revelation, according to the Bahá'í writings, is also never ceasing.[4] The general theme of the successive and continuous religions founded by Manifestations of God is that there is an evolutionary tendency, and that each Manifestation of God brings a larger measure of revelation (or religion) to humankind than the previous one.[6] The differences in the revelation brought by the Manifestations of God is stated to be not inherent in the characteristics of the Manifestation of God, but instead attributed to the various worldly, societal and human factors;[6] these differences are in accordance with the "conditions" and "varying requirements of the age" and the "spiritual capacity" of humanity.[6]

Thus religious truth is seen to be relative to its recipients and not absolute; while the messengers proclaimed eternal moral and spiritual truths that are renewed by each messenger, they also changed their message to reflect the particular spiritual and material evolution of humanity at the time of the appearance of the messenger.[4] In the Bahá'í view, since humanity's spiritual capacity and receptivity has increased over time, the extant to which these spiritual truths are expounded changes.[6]

Criticisms

The notion of progressive or continuing revelation is not shared by the Roman Catholic Church and by Eastern Orthodoxy, who instead favor the idea of tradition and development of doctrine, while progressivist and continuationist approaches are specifically condemned in the declaration Dominus Iesus.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Hadith No. 7015
  2. ^ Deuteronomy 5:17
  3. ^ Deuteronomy 7:2; 12:2; 20:17
  4. ^ a b c d Smith, Peter (2000). "Progressive revelation". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 276–277. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  5. ^ Effendi, Shoghi (1974). Bahá'í Administration. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 185. ISBN 0-87743-166-3. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/BA/ba-169.html#pg185. 
  6. ^ a b c d Lundberg, Zaid (1996-05). Baha'i Apocalypticism: The Concept of Progressive Revelation. Department of History of Religion at the Faculty of Theology, Lund University. http://bahai-library.com/?file=lundberg_bahai_apocalypticism. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 

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