February 2017: What Is Revelation?

February 2017 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

What Is Revelation?

Monday, February 20, 2017
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

To the religious, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of truth or knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities. Thus Yahweh gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the written and oral Torah on Mount Sinai. The angel Gabriel taught Muhammad to recite the Qur’an in a cave on Mount Hira. The angel Moroni revealed golden tablets to Joseph Smith. Some Hindu Vedas are not of human origin but revealed. Religion depends on revelation which may happen once or be a continuous process. But how do we know which to believe and is revelation confined to the religious?

Much conflict is generated when one faith denies the validity of another’s revelation. Was Muhammad God’s messenger or a liar? Did Jesus claim to be divine or was that an invention of later believers? Do we know if Abraham, Moses, or Krishna really existed much less that they are part of a holy process? Does faith require us to leave reason behind and rely on trust in our tradition and its truth? Or does reason depend on faith in something—perhaps that lab experiments are replicable and gravity makes objects fall? Is logic a faith of some kind?

Archimedes is said to have run through the streets of Syracuse naked when a scientific insight came to him in his bath. Are Eureka! moments a form of revelation. Albert Einstein remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. Why are there consistencies and patterns in our universe? Why not just chaos and randomness? Is the conviction that reality can be understood through observation and experimentation part of a revelation which makes our technology and modern life possible?

So what is revelation really? Is it in the stories which reveal the truths of our faiths? Is it in holy books or commentary? Do we need messengers and angels? Do we need meditation and prayer? Do we need merely to observe the world around us objectively and with no preconceptions not confirmed by experiment? Do we need faith in a specific revelation to believe what we believe? Could they all be true? If not, then are some deluded and some following the only true path?

How do we explain the power of revelation? Why did the Roman Empire end and Christianity survive and prosper? Why did the teachings of an Arabian merchant turn into a religion with over a billion followers? How could the meditations of a former Hindu prince turned mendicant result in Buddhism? If the world is rational, should this be possible? Do these results prove the truth of revelation or just a human need to feel something greater than man exists?

On Monday, February 20 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will try to establish what is revealed and what is not. Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will hopefully let us see the light or at least not add to the darkness. And Hallelujah, there will be treats!