Revelation in history in the theologies of Charles Hodge and Karl Barth
This study is a comparison between the views of two Reformed theologians, Charles Hodge and Karl Barth, concerning revelation in history. It is an attempt to contrast their different viewpoints in the light of their assumptions about knowledge and their understanding of theology. There is also an attempt to place each man within his particular historical context and to determine how his historical circumstances affected the formulation of his theological beliefs and epistemological assumptions. For Charles Hodge, knowledge of God is similar to the knowledge of the external world. He believed there was a natural understanding of God given through natural revelation and that was supplemented by the understanding obtained from the information provided in the Bible, God's supernatural revelation. He believed theology should be primarily concerned with the study of the Bible. This study of the Bible should take the form of a systematizing of the timeless truths found in the Bible in order to formulate a definitive confession of faith that gives the correct interpretation of God Himself and His dealings with man. From this framework, Hodge presented revelation in history as the communication of timeless truths about God, man and the world. In natural revelation, truths were communicated through the interaction of the innate facts of consciousness with the external world. In supernatural revelation these truths were give by inspiration as the Holy Spirit chose and controlled certain people to communicate the truths that God wanted to be made known to the world. In the case of the Biblical writers, they were chosen and controlled to communicate these truths in written form. They were controlled to such an extent that the words themselves were inspired and gave these truths in an error-less way. For Barth, knowledge of God is different from knowledge of the external world. This is because of the radical difference between God and His creation. Revelation in history is God's unveiling of Himself in man's time. In this unveiling, God speaks His Word and gives man knowledge of Himself. Through this unveiling, a person is able to affirm the truth and reality of God Himself as He was made known in His original unveiling in Jesus Christ. In His original unveiling in Jesus Christ, God made Himself known to man by becoming a man Himself. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Incarnate Word of God and demonstrates the truth and reality of God Himself in His person and work. The Bible and Church proclamation are witnesses to this revelation of God in Christ and the means through which God unveils Himself in the present age. God unveils Himself by speaking His Word through the written word of the Bible and the spoken or written word of Church proclamation. Theology is the self-examination of the Church in the light of this self-revelation of God in Christ. As a result of this comparison, the difference between the two theologians in relation to their views on revelation in history becomes apparent. Whereas Hodge believes revelation in history is the communication of natural and supernatural truths that gives man a set of timeless truths to be systematized and accepted as the correct interpretation of God, man, and the world, Barth believes revelation in history is the unveiling of the truth of God Himself as He speaks His Word to man through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the witness of the Church.