The question as to the existence of revelation...
Can we even define such a thing? The very concept implies something from without; something that cannot be obtained from within; something that must be given or bestowed upon man, but in order for revelation to exist (in the theistic sense of the term) it must first be established that A God of Revelation exists. Hence, natural theology is a necessity to the theist. But the tragedy of natural theology is that it limits the outcome of theism. In effect, this is a vicious circle: the concept of revelation presupposes the necessity of the existence of God, while the concept of God presupposes the necessity of revelation. The concept of God, in order to be specific, requires content— natural theology has no choice but to produce theistic particularity on the assumption of the authority of revelation (which is really nothing more than a subjective interpretation). God has no value without incorporeal attributes, but incorporeal attributes cannot be deduced from nature (theism requires a text)— nature theology does not go far enough to establish the existence of a transcendent, personal God (let alone a Christian concept of God)!
This is clearly seen in Christianity (though Christianity is quite distinct from theism): “As Christians we have the testimony of God living within us, the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God... How does the believer know that Christianity is true? He knows because of the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit who lives within him.” William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, third edition pg.46
Insanity, absurdity, hyper superstition, a God of theological conspiracy!
None of these ideas can be deduced from nature— they desperately require something (a text??) in order to be established. But what can a text do for those who refuse to affirm its authority? And yet, in order to provide theism with content one must go beyond natural theology, but where, what is left to man? How does one deduce the proposition that God is living in us? How does one deduce, that most fanatical and absurd concept of the Holy Spirit from nature? How does one establish the authority and existence of the beyond and then direct its favor toward that of particular theism (holy spirits and trinities)? This is simply ridiculous (only fools would advocate a kinder word).
The Christian’s answer is always the same, never lacking in subterfuge, never lacking in craftiness: “Now at first blush it might seem self-defeating or perhaps circular for me to appeal to scriptural proof texts concerning the witness of the Spirit, as if to say that we believe in the Spirit’s witness because the Scripture says there is such a witness. But insofar as ours is an “in-house” discussion among Christians, it is entirely appropriate to lay out what Scripture teaches on religious epistemology. In interacting with a non-Christian, by contrast, one would simply say that we Christians do in fact experience the inner testimony of God’s Spirit.” Ibid. pg.44
Never mind that this is self-defeating, never mind that it is circular, never mind that the author does believe in the idea of the Spirit, and the Spirit’s witness, because he affirms the truth of the words of an ancient document as he sees fit to interpret those words (affirms the authority of his interpretation)... But au contraire, as if to save one’s self from criticism by that which is most convenient (one just happens to have a parachute in one’s back pocket): all of this is simply nullified by the fact that the Christian is having an “in-house” conversation! “In the circle we believe that magical little fairies breathe life dust into our nostrils, but outside the sphere we play the game of having lungs and a world full of air,” but never mind the fact as to what one really believes (what happens in the circle bears no burden).
How could one possibly prove that they experience the “inner testimony of God’s Spirit?” How could one possibly prove that God has a “Spirit” or a “testimony” apart from the assumption of revelation?
[All of this makes for bad reading and poor thinking. One should seek out more worthy opponents: Christian theism is too easily refuted! A competent philosopher desires a challenge in order to increase his skill; in order to advance his conversation in the world. If one only refutes fanatics one’s power will remain small.]
The problem is the idea of knowledge from another realm... how does one establish such a premise? How does one prove that such a thing exists? Clearly the claim of revelation itself is insufficient to establish the conclusion of revelation. If this were the case then every claim of revelation would have to be taken at face value (but this is never the case with theism).* The theist is only interested in his own revelation, and all those claims which contradict his claims, must be violently rejected. “Clearly (x) must be false in that it does not agree with (p)!”
What then is the criterion of revelation? I posit there can be no such thing. Even if revelation does exist there is no way man could possibly know it. Our rational methods are simply not suited to discover whether or not revelation exists. One might believe it exists; one might claim it exists, one might interpret, one might insist, one might assert, but none of this will establish the claim that there is such a thing as revelation!
THE CONCLUSION IS:
To every theist who thinks different, by all means, step up and defend your claim.
*The other interesting thing here is the evidential and rational attempt to resolve competing revelatory claims. Notice what this proves: it proves that revelation is not itself an authority, but that it must appeal to something more primitive; something more essential; something more authoritative than itself (it proves that something stands above revelation)! How then can one appeal to revelation, if one must first appeal to evidence and reason in order to establish revelation? By way of existential commitment, this would necessarily prove that one believes in the authority of evidence and reason above that of revelation. The only way to escape this commitment would be to resolve competing claims of revelation on the authority of revelation, but since revelation is not authoritative, in and of itself, there is no way to resolve the tension apart from evidence and reason.
The problem in context: If a theist seeks to claim that there is such a thing as revelation then he bears the burden of proof; he must demonstrate the veracity of what he claims. However, and in most cases unbeknownst to the theist, the problem of revelation is first and foremost a problem of the existence of God, and not just any God, but A God of Revelation is something painfully specific! The ontology of the claim requires that the theist first establish the existence of a very specific God.