Revelation is the problematic and, all too often undeclared, center of the discussion between believers of different traditions and between the believer and non-believer.
Beginning with the ubiquitous introductory course in World Religions, if the student can, at the outset, discern the nature of revelation, then the student can pursue, with confidence, their understanding of both the believer and non-believer, both the devout and nominal members of any particular religion, and the present and past expressions of religion.
I have often found religion the center of the most frustrating and unsatisfying debates and discussions. Frequently, neither side feels that they have anything to learn from their opponents.
The average discussion on religion orbits around unspoken assumptions, and is often guided by hidden apologetics, the desire for syncretism (the combining of different beliefs and traditions of different origin) or, at times, guided by religious controversy. At the center of this orbit is the singular concept in question: the concept of revelation.
In comparative religious studies, the students will inevitably encounter the notion that only the so-called ‘revealed religions’ are based on a belief in revelation. The diligent student must be careful when encountering this comparison between the Abrahamic religions and the Hindi and Chinese religions.
There is some truth in maintaining that the Hindi religions have a notion of time and history that seems fundamentally different from that of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations. The Mediterranean and Mesopotamian religions are depicted, in this view, as an intervention of the divine into the trajectory of human history, and hence the idea that God reveals Himself at a specific moment in history.
The Indian and Chinese traditions are then depicted as lacking this element of intervention. The student will eventually find this distinction to be born of a European bias. I insist that the true danger of this model lies in misleading the student as to the nature and central epistemological importance of the belief in revelation found in all religions.
Indeed, all religions propose a worldview based on the belief in revelation. Further posts developing this topic are linked together under the category Revelation.