What is revelation for?

Explore with me what belief in God entails:

  • If there is a God (rather than “God” being merely a code name to refer to our own best ideas)… and
  • If God reveals himself and his will (rather than merely putting a rubber stamp on our most sincere decisions)… and
  • If we are in real need of this revelation if we are to be saved and guided (with ignorance and a warped will both being characteristics of the unaided–classical theology would say “fallen”–human state)…
  • Then it is logically inevitable that the revealed will of God will be, at least at some points, different in its form and substance from what human beings would otherwise have thought on the same subject.

There must therefore be a limit set to the applicability of human common sense and the right to calculate right and wrong. We must expect that there will be points where the will of God will simply have to be taken on the authority of revelation. [from John Howard Yoder, “The Pacifism of Absolute Principle,” in Nevertheless: Varieties of religious pacifism, rev. and exp. edition (Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 1992), 32-33]

Yoder goes on to describe a version of pacifism which is grounded on these points, but I wanted to draw out a broader point here: if Yoder is right, then this applies not only to revelation about violence in specific, but about justice and truth in general. It seems to me that if he is right, then Christians need to be ready to hold to unpopular opinions simply on the grounds that “God says so”. Any theology which ultimately denies that revelation carries a higher authority than our best pragmatic answer (in the field of ethics, or in the case of any inquiry into factual matters) seems to deny that either God has in fact revealed himself, or, worse, that God actually exists.