the establishment of fellowship

Webster on “revelation” as more than imparting information: as being God’s very presence.

Assumed audience: Theologically-orthodox Christians, or folks interested in things that theologically-orthodox Christians think.

So far, then, revelation is God’s self-presentation in free mercy. As this self-presentation, revelation is, third, the establishment of saving fellowship. Revelation is purposive. Its end is not simply divine selfdisplay, but the overcoming of human opposition, alienation and pride, and their replacement by knowledge, love and fear of God. In short: revelation is reconciliation. This is what revelation means’, writes Barth, this is its content and dynamic: Reconciliation has been made and accomplished. Reconciliation is not a truth which revelation makes known to us; reconciliation is the truth of God Himself who grants Himself freely to us in His revelation.”

As the gracious presence of God, revelation is itself the establishment of fellowship. It is not so much an action in which God informs us of other acts of his through which we are reconciled to him; rather, revelation is a way of indicating the communicative force of God’s saving, fellowship-creating presence. God is present as saviour, and so communicatively present. The notions of God as revealer and God as reconciler are sometimes thought to tug in different directions: revealer’ suggests an excessively noetic understanding of our relation to God, and reconciler’ corrects this by emphasising participation or communion in the life of God. But the contrast is specious. For, on the one hand, fellowship with God is communicative fellowship in which God is known; it is not a mere unconscious ontological participation in God. And, on the other hand, knowledge of God in his revelation is no mere cognitive affair: it is to know God and therefore to love and fear the God who appoints us to fellowship with himself, and not merely to entertain God as a mental object, however exalted. Revelation is thus not simply the bridging of a noetic divide (though it includes that), but is reconciliation, salvation and therefore fellowship. The idiom of revelation is as much moral and relational as it is cognitional. Revelation is the self-giving presence of God which overthrows opposition to God, and, in reconciling, brings us into the light of the knowledge of God.

 — John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch, p. 15