1. Is revelation mainly for spiritual growth and for mission? 2. Is revelation greater than the depositum fidei? 3. Is revelation greater than reception? 4. Can reception be greater than the depositum fidei?
1. My straight answers
1. Is revelation greater than the depositum fidei (DF)?
The DF is narrower than revelation. The DF is restricted to the revelation that comes through the work of Jesus and is the work of the church to illuminate and clarify what makes up Christian faith, That is an ongoing and constantly improving process. The main concern of the process of understanding and articulation has been to control language that Christians must use to talk about God (Trinity), salvation (the Christian Way of life), the church (lines of demarcation and concerns), and who Jesus was and what He is up to. Revelation, on the other hand, covers all the ways God opens Himself to us all, including not only the Book of Scripture but also the Book of Nature. The Book of Scripture is the primary container of the revelation that is apprehended by the church in the DF; the Book of Nature means not only the nature created by God but also the experience of human beings of all being. In a sense revelation is the process in history and nature whereby God "speaks" and human being hear.
2. Is revelation greater than reception?
Yes, if reception means only what is apprehended and articulated by the church. There's an awful lot going on in other religions and in the apprehension and articulation of what is in the Book of Nature. I am not qualified to venture an answer to a question about the latter, except as I myself apprehend and articulate it. I am an admirer of the contents (reception?) going on in other religions but I am in no way qualified to render any judgments about it. I am especially taken by some Hindu scripture. See # 1.
3. Can reception be greater than the depositum fidei?
Tricky question. If you mean by "reception" the process by which the church apprehends and articulates as the revelation of God in Christ (DF), it (DF) is an articulation of the Christian reception of its particular revelation, and so reception and the DF would be identical in content. But if you mean by reception what humanity has learned in its history of listening, certainly reception is broader than the DF.
How would you justify your answers?
I read and think and write, and in the process I understand, and try to be careful in articulation. I try to avoid dogmatism while listening to the voices of others. I try hard to integrate my own experience and my own reception with the DF and the Book of Scriptures. And although I fail often to do so,
I try to respect those who know much more than I and who are far more sensitive than I to the movements, the "speaking," of God.
William M. Shea, College of the Holy Cross, email@example.com
2. Obsolete theological framework
I agree that the terms revelation, reception and deposit of faith occur in a context in which a divinely instituted hierarchy interprets what God has revealed through the scriptures and nature, who formulates what is to be believed, and insists that it be received by all the faithful. Given that many people, including myself, no longer think in terms of that frame of reference, I regard the terms as useless as the terms epicycle in astronomy and phlogiston in physics. The terms do not refer to anything that is real, although people who inhabit a more conservative theological universe may still use them.
Bill Shea's contribution leads me to think that the terms may be useful for inter-faith and even inter-religious dialogue that takes place at the institutional level. The monotheistic religions, as least, may be able to discuss what God has revealed and is revealing, what should be believed in a given religion, and how much is actually accepted by those who identify with that religion. Apart from traditional Catholic theology and ecumenical discussion, however, I do not believe that the terms have any relevance today.
Joe Martos, Louisville, Kentucky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reply to Joe:
I have regularly read Joe's work and, in this case, am inclined to agree with his attitude toward traditional theological terminology.
BUT these three terms (revelation, reception and deposit of faith) do lay open the field for correction, and don't negate the value of traditional terminology. One of the values of often mind-numbing and endless arguments within a traditional framework is clarity. These three terms, whatever their usefulness in the contemporary context, serve to lend some clarity. At least we know what we are talking about in trying to answer complex questions. We have a vast tradition behind our discussions, and that is not a bad thing.
William M. Shea, College of the Holy Cross, email@example.com
3. Revelation is larger than the deposit of faith
The Church hears some of what God says, misses some, perhaps misinterprets some. The Church formalizes that revelation as it is understood at the particular point in history. The Church creates a metaphoric snowball of what it hears, a packaged statement of belief inevitably encrusted with the debris of the culture. That “snowball” becomes official teaching. As it moves through history, doctrine develops but the doctrine may carry debris.
I believe God speaks in ecclesia, but also in its original meaning, gathering of human persons of like mind (originally the term referred to a Greek citizens gathering). Such groups do not require an extra-worldly voice and a committee to write it down. When people gather, they bring individual wisdom and insight--revelation? The Spirit is present. This gift is shared and shaped by the wisdom and insight of others--the community.
I believe revelation is larger than the deposit of faith. Reception of God’s love and insight has to be greater than these categories, or there can be no new revelation. “Rain falls on the just and the unjust,” Matthew observes (5:45). The deposit of faith is precious, but--like the servant who buries his coin--in that dark hole we may miss the “profit” that has yet to be discovered. Should we limit God’s word to what folks already think, believe, and do? Perhaps we should not settle for the small portion that we call the deposit of faith. Perhaps we as individual persons also must stand on tiptoe to await the Word of God still to be spoken. Enjoy that rain, and then invite others into the deluge.
Dee Christie, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramblings on Revelation
The prompts for the topic raise significant questions. Having given the questions a bit of thought, I offer these brief ramblings.
I have always appreciated the work of Dermot Lane, building off of Rahner, in his book The Experience of God, an Invitation to do Theology. Bottom line, he offers that in Revelation God does not ultimately reveal “factual information.” Rather, ultimately Revelation consists of the self-disclosure of the Holy One to human beings. Ultimately God reveals God’s self.
In light of that bottom line, revelation necessarily consists of more than the deposit of faith and more than human reception. One need only employ by way of analogy human to human relationships involving self-disclosure. Something of the other, as well as something of self, always remains “a mystery.” When the Holy One stands “as the infinite horizon of our being” (Rahner’s terminology) neither the individual nor the church can claim to know all that is to be known in terms of objective knowledge and faith claims – doctrine and dogma.
At the same time, from the perspective of Christian faith, one can claim that the “fullness” of the mystery of God has been revealed in the Christ. And, one can claim that revelation, in the sense of biblical witness to the historical person of Jesus is “closed.” God has revealed all that God intends to reveal, that is, the fullness of God in Christ. At the same time, this closed revelation remains “open” in terms of ongoing personal and communal reception and appropriation.
Finally, because the fullness of Revelation has come to expression in the human person of Christ – now raised and glorified – the appropriation and reception continue to grow as individuals and the faith community grow in the intimacy of their relationship with the Living One (Luke Timothy Johnson). In this light, depending on how one understands the basic terms, one could say that reception is greater than the deposit of faith, if indeed Revelation consists of the ongoing surrender of self (and the community of faith) to the infinite personal love of God expressed in and through the person of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.
Frank Berna, La Salle University, email@example.com
An awakening moment
Happy Feast day, Frank and all other professors and teachers.
This is an awakening for me, as I was taught that formal Revelation and the Deposit of Faith were finished and complete. Revelation with a small r continues as each person’s consciousness grows and develops. Spirituality, as I think Dee wrote, is the outcome. God continually reveals God-self through nature, study, and prayer. The question arising for me is, are we looking at the institutional religions or the individual as the receptors? If it is the former then some are more open to new revelation as developments in science, technology, and medicine unfold.