John Franke’s ETS presentation on “indirect revelation” was revealing. Drawing explicitly from Barth, he argued that the concept of “indirect revelation” provided an outlook on revelation that was both faithful to the historic Christological formulas of the patristic period (God comes to us “veiled” in human form) and specifically the confessional tradition of the Reformed churches.

To defend this concept, however, Franke accepted Barthian concepts far too uncritically and adopted what I regard as the worst part of Barth’s theology. He spoke of the “inadequacy” of human language to reveal God, but if God created man to receive revelation, and created (the capacity for) human language as a carrier of revelation, and created and providentially oversees the circumstances in which revelation takes place, it is hard to see where there is any inadequacy. As I argued to Franke after the presentation, “inadequacy” seems to imply that human language is being measured against some “more adequate” sort of communication or revelation and found to fall short. But if the fact that we communicate through the mediation of language is just part of the human condition (which Franke affirms), then there is no reason to posit some more “transparent” or “adequate” sort of revelation. To do so seems to betray a quasi-gnostic frustration with and rebellion against creaturehood, which is again something that Franke certainly does not want to endorse.

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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