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In this post, I discuss the fourth through the sixth sources of theology of the Theological Hexagon. These sources are general revelation, experience, and emotion.

General Revelation

The term “general revelation” means, “[R]evelation about God given through the created order.”   See page 101 of the Notebook.   Another definition of “general revelation” is:

The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law, which comes through creation to all humanity, is often called “general revelation” (because it comes to all people generally). General revelation comes through observing nature, through seeing God’s directing influence in history, and through an inner sense of God’s existence and his laws that he has placed inside every person.

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (pp. 122–123). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

One well-known passage of Scripture that pertains to general revelation is Romans 1:18–20 (ESV), which reads:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

“General Revelation”, which is below Scripture, Reason, and Tradition, ranks fourth on the Theological Hexagon.  General Revelation functions to either confirm our theology or act as a safeguard.  After interacting with the correct interpretation of Scripture, general revelation will either confirm the interpretation or raise a question about the correctness of the interpretation. 

If general revelation confirms the interpretation, we continue on the pathway of biblical interpretation.  If a clear observation from God’s created order (i.e., general revelation) raises a serious question about the biblical interpretation, we return to apply again reason to arrive at the correct interpretation.  If the interpretation remains the same, we continue on the pathway of biblical interpretation to experience.  If the interpretation changes in light of general revelation, we reevaluate the interpretation beginning with tradition.

Experience

The term “experience” means information that comes through direct encounter, participation, or observation.  See page 100 of the Notebook.   A dictionary definition reads:

3. Actual observation of facts or events, considered as a source of knowledge. … 6. In religious use: A state of mind or feelings forming a part of the inner religious life; the mental history (of a person) with regard to religious emotion. 

See The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition at page 550. 

In the sense of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, experience is the witness of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life to where he or she knows they are loved by God and reconciled to God.  Experience includes instances of how God has worked in the past, such as through physical healing, answered prayer, and other circumstances in which one observes or feels the touch of God.  It is through this lens of love and reconciliation one can look at and verify theological truth.  The article by Jeffery Lamp reads [in part] at page 7:

If the Spirit bears witness with both the content and the fruit of a theological formulation, then it is said that experience has confirmed this truth.  If, conversely, the Spirit produces a “check” in a believer’s spirit, or if the fruit borne of doctrine is contrary to Christian character, then experience dictates that the doctrine must be subjected to the scrutiny of Scripture, tradition, and reason.  Personal experience, then, becomes the laboratory of theological reflection.

The Holy Spirit indwells a Christ-follower per Romans 8:9 (ESV):

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

“Experience,” which is below Scripture, reason, tradition, and general revelation, ranks fifth on the Theological Hexagon.  Experience functions to either confirm our theology or act as a bumper stop.  After interacting with the correct interpretation of Scripture, experience will either confirm the interpretation or raise a question about the correctness of the interpretation. 

If experience confirms the interpretation, we continue on the pathway of biblical interpretation to emotion.  If experience (e.g., a “check” in one’s spirit) raises a valid question about the biblical interpretation, we return to apply again reason to arrive at the correct interpretation.  If the interpretation remains the same, we continue on the pathway of biblical interpretation to emotion.  If the interpretation changes in light of experience we reevaluate the interpretation beginning with tradition.

Emotion

The term “emotion” means information that comes through subjectively experienced psychological feelings.  See page 101 of the Notebook.  One dictionary definition of “emotion” reads:

Psychology a mental “feeling” or “affection” (e.g., of pleasure or pain, desire or aversion, surprise, hope or fear, etc.), as distinguished from cognitive or volitional states of consciousness.  Also, abstr., “feeling” as distinguished from other classes of mental phenomena. 

See The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition at page 183.

One can include the sensus divinitatus (sense of the divine) within the category of emotions.  It is the inward emotion of yearning to worship God. 

Emotion comes from the heart.  The heart is the center of life per Proverbs 4:23 (ESV):

23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Even so, it can be a source of unbelief per Hebrews 3:12 (ESV)

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

“Emotion” ranks sixth on the Theological Hexagon.  While we cannot totally disregard emotion, it ranks last since it is the least reliable source of theology.  Emotion functions to either confirm our theology or act as a caution light.  After interacting with the single, definite and fixed interpretation of Scripture, emotion will either confirm the interpretation or raise a question about the correctness of the interpretation. 

If emotion confirms the interpretation, we continue on the pathway of biblical interpretation to develop our theological principles.  While it is unlikely, if emotion raises a genuine question about thee biblical interpretation, we return to apply again reason to arrive at the correct interpretation.  If the interpretation remains the same, we continue on the pathway of biblical interpretation to develop our theological principles.  If the interpretation changes in light of emotion, we reevaluate the interpretation beginning with tradition.

Conclusion

The Theological Hexagon provides a tool by which we can arrive at the correct interpretation of a biblical passage.  We can use the correct interpretation as the foundation to develop one or more correct biblical theological principles. 

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Please send me any comments at steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the comments feature of the blog.

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