Regular readers will know that I like John Henry Newman’s words: “No revelation can be complete and systematic, from the weakness of the human intellect; so far as it is not such, it is mysterious … The religious truth is neither light nor darkness, but both together; it is like the dim view of a country seen in the twilight, which forms half extricated from the darkness, with broken lines and isolated masses. Revelation, in this way of considering it, is not a revealed system, but consists of a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed.”

But I have gradually come to see that what Newman calls ‘religious truth’ is not confined, as I’ve tended unconsciously to assume, to the propositions of theologians. It includes that but goes far beyond it, and in doing so takes my breath away.

There is a strong Christian tradition that speaks of God being revealed in creation, to the point of describing creation as a second Bible. For many God is revealed primarily through the natural world.

I’m aware that for me God has been revealed through my own experience. I know the God Who loves and sustains me: God has revealed God-self to me directly & personally.  This ‘God Whom I already know’ is the same God that I recognise as revealed in Jesus, and the same God Whom I recognise in creation.  But there is more. This creative God is also revealed in all human creativity.

I’ve quoted the poet Alice Oswald saying about her own creative process: “The poem is not necessarily coming from inside you but is already out there and you’ve just got to listen & find it.”  It’s “A voice that is simply there and speaking and that I listen to.”  In order to do this, she has to concentrate very hard. And “When I write a poem, I try not to be aware of what I think, I don’t know if the poem thinks that.”   I’ve shared her words with two friends who are also poets, and they recognised what Oswald was saying from their own experience.  Is this not also revelation, in which something is revealed seemingly from outside oneself? 

Some sculptors describe a similar process to Oswald’s when they say that what they sculpt already exists in the wood or stone that they’re working with, and that their job is to find it.   But isn’t any creative process that we engage in, and we are all engaged in creative activity of one sort or another, much the same?  

The cook standing over a dish they are preparing & searching for the necessary additional ingredient to complete it, that they can sense already exists & that they seek to find.

The gardener pondering on the particular plant that needs to go in that space in their garden and sensing that it exists if only they can recognise it.

The decorator seeking the right colour for that space to achieve the effect that they want, and knowing that it’s there if only they can become aware of it.

The composer who talks of being given the music they write, as if it in some sense already exists ‘out there’.

Always there seems to be a sense that what is needed already exists and simply has to be sought for it then to be revealed. “Seek and you shall find.”

Whatever comes to us in this way reveals something of God and when trusted leads to faith.  It’s a God Who is revealed for most people personally and more powerfully through music, the arts and the natural world, and in our own acts of creativity, than in the words of theologians.  Crucially we need to recognise and name this, and then to trust it, to have faith in it.  As Newman said: Revelation……consists of a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed.”  This vast system is vast beyond our imagining and yet actively present in the life of each of us in a multitude of different ways. We both know it and also know that it is beyond our knowing.

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