Models of Revelation continued: Presence, Awareness, and Proper Evangelical

Continuation of the discussion on Avery Dulles’ book, “Models of Revelation.” This post discusses the dialectical presence model and the new awareness model. Finally, it concludes with what the evangelical model more accurately looks like.

Model Four: Revelation as Dialectical Presence

Dulles defines this model by stating that, “God…could never be an object known either by inference from nature or history, by propositional teaching, or by direct perception of a mystical kind. Utterly transcendent, God encounters the human subject when it pleases him by means of a word in which faith recognizes him to be present.”[1] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is God’s utterance of a word charged with divine power.[2] This model is a response to the inner experience model which overemphasized the imminence of God. In this model, God is unknowable unless He makes Himself known. Revelation begins with God’s self-disclosure. The difference between this model and the experience model is that this encounter begins with God’s initiative. The content of revelation for this model is God, particularly God revealing Jesus Christ through words is one of its strengths.

Other strengths of this model are its focus on Christ and the need for revelation as God’s self-disclosure. The problems with this model is that it “views Scripture as a fallible witness to a revelational encounter” and considers its propositional statements fallible.[3] In addition, it limits divine revelation to the encounter with Christ and ignores other forms of divine revelation.

Model Five: Revelation as New Awareness

The form of revelation for this model is that of a “breakthrough into a more advanced stage of human consciousness, such that the self is experienced as constituted and empowered by the divine presence.”[4] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is the “the stimulation of the human imagination to restructure experience in a new framework.”[5] Revelation occurs by active involvement and immersion in the world. It is a reflection of God in human consciousness and is ongoing, not to be confined to the past.

The strengths are that symbols and experience can produce and induce a divine consciousness. It is also not as rigid and as authoritarian as other models. The weaknesses of this model though are quite substantial for the evangelical. Since God is not the object of revelation, the lack of content and rejection of verbal revelation are serious problems.

The More Complex Evangelical Model

Dulles reminds us that “The differences are limited and relate more to the theological understanding of revelation than to the fundamental idea.”[6] These models point out how different people understand the same terminology differently, which is part of the issue with revelation, it is how we respond or interpret it.

As we have seen, each model offers a variety of strengths and weaknesses. In the revelation as doctrine model, the major strengths are that God does speak and reveal Himself and His will verbally. Other strengths include the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture we recognize as part of the evangelical model. In the revelation as history model, God revealing Himself in acts in history is the main strength. The major strength of the revelation as inner experience model is that God does reveal Himself in a personal and communal relationship with His followers. The strength of the dialectical model is revelation occurring by God’s initiative and that God is perfectly revealed in Christ. Finally, the major strength of the revelation as new awareness is the value of symbols and active involvement in the experience of God’s creation. In summation, the evangelical model is much broader and more complex than Dulles originally described. By taking the main strengths of each models and incorporating them into the evangelical model, it becomes a more comprehensive and complete model that symbolizes the views of the evangelical Christian in an effort to know and respond to God’s divine revelations.

[1] Dulles, 28.

[2] Ibid, 28.

[3] Henry, 24.

[4] Dulles, 109.

[5] Ibid, 28.

[6] Ibid, 118.


Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992.

Henry, Carl F. H.. “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible

Commentary, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.


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