Over the course of the past three years, I have dedicated a lot of my intellectual energy and effort over questions related to theological epistemology, especially through my research on 1 Corinthians 2 and my education under the professors as the Logos Institute at the University of St. Andrews. As a result, I have a lot of ideas that have come up over the years that I think are really helpful, but I don’t know how to systematically and coherently relate all of them together. So, instead of trying to write an intellectual narrative that tries to weave them altogether, here are a few of the ideas that have come up to me recently in light of my reflections on theological epistemology, some of which I have partially addressed in the past. Not all of these ideas have been thoroughly tried and tested equally, so some may be more needing of refinement, if not throwing away, even as others may have theological and spiritual value.
1) Revelation does not provide truth, but refers to events, speech, and the person of Christ from whom/which we are able to draw analogical inferences about God.
2) Analogy is cognitive, not ontological. As such, analogy only transfers our understanding from one domain of knowledge to another, but it is not a linguistic tool by which we cross the threshold of the Creator-creation boundary. The reliability of analogy to understand God is contingent upon God’s agency to make analogy reliable.
3) The recognition of revelation doesn’t tell us what the specific analogy there is between the content of revelation and God, but only that an analogy for understanding God can be found in the person Jesus and in the events and speech of revelation. Instead, revelation provides the content that both (a) allows for a person to recognize revelation as revelation (self-authentication) and (b) provides instruction which, if rightly understood, leads to truth ().
4) The self-authentication of revelation is conditioned to God’s agency to accommodate Himself to human understanding and not to some specific type of cognitive or epistemic state in the recipient of revelation. Consequently, from the human side, a person may come to recognize God’s revelation based upon prior epistemic foundations. However, the success of revelation disconnects the epistemic foundations for recognizing God’s revelation from the comprehension of the content of revelation.
5) The degree to which the content of revelation is understood is the degree to which the criteria by which a believer recognizes God’s revelation and activity in the future are transformed. As such, the way people come to know God is transformed over time based upon mutual love, where God in love accommodates to us and we in faith come to love and accommodate to God.
6) Love is not the beginning of knowing God, but it is the culmination of the mind and heart prepared to understand the fullness of God’s purposes by the fullness of Christ through the fullness of the Spirit’s inspiration of the Church.
7) The way we learn to draw the right analogy from the content of God’s revelation so as to understand truth is through the direction and leading of the Spirit, both mediated through another, inspired person and through the direct instruction, leading, and guidance.
8) The leading of the Spirit is not intellectual before it is pre-symbolic and volitive. Also, the lead of the Spirit occurs over time, such that Spiritual formation, alternatively referred to as discipleship, pedagogy, etc., is necessary for a person to be able to understand in such a way as to draw true analogies from God’s revelation.
9) To the degree that the object of theology is not focused on God and His purposes but on the products of God’s agency within creation, theology can safely allow for analogies within creation to understand the creation, while still needed to be critically engaged. For instance, one may draw from an analogy of romantic love to understand the human love for God, while recognizing that the analogy may need careful qualification. This is not inherently unreliable to the degree which the objects of our analogical inferences are known asides from analogy, allowing for the possibility of self-correcting feedback for specific analogies.
10) There are two, interrelated reasons the analogia entis is inherently unreliable to understand an utterly holy God. Firstly, apart from revelation, there is not way to “test” the analogies that are being drawn to determine their truthfulness about God. In other words, the analogia entis is not self-correcting. Secondly, to the degree that the analogia entis does not provide self-correcting feedback, it risks created an entrenched confidence in the methodology that falls far off track from its lack of reliability in knowing God.
11) There is no redeeming the analogia entis for any sort of theological knowledge about God. At best, it may provide a grounds for deriving possibilities about God that may be beneficial in pre-evangelism and apologetics for breaking loose ideological strangleholds that preclude understanding God, but the risk is that through such analogies a person may come to believe the analogia entis is a reliable theological methodology.
12) The analogies of revelation are ultimately directed towards God’s purpose in new creation and, as such, analogies are not primarily intended to tell us about God’s nature abstracted from creation, but rather God’s activity and purposes in creation.
13) As such, the doctrine of the Trinity is to be ultimately understood as the description of how God has, is, and continues to be engaged in His creation and, consequently, how we come to understand God’s purposes through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, the ultimate analogical target of new creation means that the Trinity is to be understood economically and not immanently, except insofar as the immanence of the Triune relations are exhibited in God’s activity in creation.
14) The distinction between the economic and immanent Trinity as a product of human thinking may be considered analogous to a modification of Kant’s phenomena and noumena distinction, where the noumena refers to the range of potential of which the phenomena is one instantiation. To that end, discussions on the immanent Trinity may be considered to be a reflection of the range of possibilities that have been exhibited of God as Father, Son, and Spirit throughout salvation history.
15) Worship that is shaped in relation to the Triune God, and not simply the recognition of Trinitarian doctrine, is the necessary condition for being capable of being able to comprehend God’s revelation to the fullest.