- Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation: The Mediation of the Gospel through Church and Scripture by Matthew Levering
In Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, Matthew Levering breathes life into the body of topics that emerge from the doctrine of revelation. The eight chapters take as their starting point that God has spoken through the prophets and "by a Son." The book addresses the following question: "Where and in what ways does this mediation take place so that humans in all generations can receive the fullness of the gospel?" (1).
The first three chapters engage the hierarchical-ecclesial nature of the mediation of revelation. Levering articulates the Church's role in the mediation of revelation in terms of Aquinas's theology of Trinitarian missions. "The Church's participation in divine revelation," he explains, "comes about through the missions of the Son and Spirit that enable us to believe, obey, and [End Page 138] imitate Christ's revelatory words and deeds" (42-43). "Absent the vibrant theology of the trinitarian missions that we find in Aquinas (and in Scripture)," he argues, "the theocentric character of revelation would seem to exclude the active role of the Church, lest mere humans be situated in the place of God or lest revelation be imagined as the Church's work over the centuries rather than as God's work in Christ and the Spirit" (55-56).
Chapter 2 treats the role of the Eucharistic liturgy in the mediation of revelation. Levering begins his discussion of the mediating role of the liturgy with a lengthy presentation of the work of Anglican theologian John Webster. Webster raises questions about "liturgy-centered accounts of Scripture" because he worries that they lead to the view, in Levering's words, "that Scripture is 'Scripture' only when the Church is actively using the biblical texts in proclamation and worship" (61). Levering appreciates many of Webster's insights about the nature of Scripture but is not satisfied with all of his conclusions. In response, Levering offers a presentation of Scripture's own testimony about its mediating role in the liturgy. "When Scripture talks about Scripture," he observes, "it does so most frequently within liturgical and sanctifying contexts" (70).
Levering turns his attention to the priesthood in chapter 3. Authors such as Calvin and Hobbes ask whether the priesthood, especially the papal office, "has failed to mediate divine revelation faithfully" (87). The evolution of the centralization of power in the priesthood and papacy gave rise, according to this view, to a "priestly rivalry" that destroyed the serenity of the early Church. Levering resists this narrative by pointing out that it is precisely by its priestly power that "the Church prevails against the power of death by liturgically mediating the gospel to the world—thereby revealing not the power of humans to be in charge, but the cruciform power of the merciful One" (111).
In chapter 4, Levering relates the Church's mediation of revelation to the reality of the gospel. "If the gospel is Jesus Christ," he asks, "why does not Scripture's testimony to Jesus suffice for the mediation of divine revelation, especially after the end of the apostolic age?" (114). He considers and contrasts the gospel theologies of Scot McKnight and Thomas Aquinas to respond to this question. McKnight's theology of gospel culture "involves more than simply the call to repent and believe in Jesus Christ" (ibid.). At the core of gospel culture is a dynamic that "leads directly to who Jesus is" (120). Levering builds upon McKnight's treatment of the gospel by looking at Aquinas's commentaries on St. Paul. What makes the gospel good news, Aquinas explains, is "that it announces the news of man's union with God, which is man's good" (121). Aquinas and McKnight thus agree on the transformative nature of gospel culture and the centrality of Jesus Christ at the heart of the gospel message. Aquinas, however, "does not do away with...