Around the year 2000, I started studying theology part-time. The following is a paper I wrote and for which I received a reasonable assessment. It doesn’t represent any significant theological understanding on my part, but it does show how wide and long is the road to obtaining any knowledge of God.
I offer it for what it is; one very flawed believer’s attempt to answer a question regarding revelation.

By Warren Nunn
Leon Morris believes God has revealed Himself in the Bible as well as in nature and in history. Morris considers and critiques some of the models of revelation and draws out the strengths and weaknesses of others with whom he finds common ground and those he does not. He seeks to find a balance between those with a too simplistic view of revelation and those who all but reject it. Morris denies that anyone can come to the Bible without preconceived ideas about revelation. But his view is more balanced than those who criticise it because he believes the conservative does not force God to reveal Himself but rather goes to God’s Word with humility and allows God to speak for Himself. Morris sees the Bible as the authentic revelation, for that is the teaching he derives from Christ. For Morris, without faith there is no perception of revelation.

Leon Morris believes, as most Christians would, that revelation is knowledge that comes “from outside ourselves and beyond our own ability to discover”.1

Revelation is “the act of making known”, “the thing made known” and “God’s disclosure of Himself and of His will to His creatures”.2

Those definitions match what Morris says but finding a consensus on what revelation is, let alone what it means, is the stuff of much vexed and studious endeavour.

For the Christian to restrict revelation to the words of Scripture alone, is to limit a limitless God to human thought. But neither can we limit the revelation that Scripture brings.

That combination can and does lead to various approaches to revelation which in turn leads to the different ways in which Christians articulate their understanding of God.

For Morris, revelation alone comes from God and the understanding of it is enhanced by coming humbly to the Bible with a teachable spirit.

That the Bible is revelatory is obvious from the opening statements in Genesis and various appeals Jesus Christ made to Scripture particularly when tested by Satan in the wilderness.

Avery Dulles3 has proposed five models of revelation: as doctrine, history, inner experience, dialectical presence and new awareness.

Morris would fit into Dulles’ “doctrine” model that says, “revelation is principally found in clear propositional statements attributed to God as authoritative teacher”.4

Dulles also places the Roman Catholic view in this model but Morris would reject the notion that revelation is found in the teaching of the Church, “viewed as God’s infallible oracle”.5

He challenges James Barr’s assertion that biblical ideas can become our ideas with “it is still a fact that there are ideas in the Bible that are not ‘our own ideas’ and that when we go to the Bible humbly and in a spirit of readiness to learn we find them there”. 6

Which underscores that the Bible and revelation go hand in hand. Whatever a Christian decides about revelation, their understanding of God is enhanced by the words of Scripture.

J. C. Wenger has a helpful perspective, “again we must reiterate: the authority of God’s Word depends wholly upon God, and not upon the ability of finite men to ‘demonstrate’ its truth”.7

No-one can demonstrate the truth of the Bible to anyone; it can only come by revelation to the individual.

While Morris recognises the Bible as the decisive and authoritative source of revelation8, it is not for him the sole deposit.

He sees a place for a revelation outside the Bible in nature but says that it does not necessarily “enlighten him”.9 It must be connected with faith because “without faith
there is no perception of revelation”.10

While general revelation tells us nothing of the Trinity, incarnation, atonement and the person of Jesus Christ, Morris sees that its “silence about some topics should lead us to be deaf to its eloquence on others”.11 He surely meant that it should NOT lead us to be deaf to its eloquence on others because the created universe speaks of an infinitely creative God.

Millard J Erickson says general revelation “refers to God’s self-manifestation through nature, history, and the inner being of the human person”.12

The combination of this and Biblical revelation should leave the believer in no doubt that God has revealed Himself particularly when the statements in Romans 1 are considered. Verse 20 says, in part, “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead”.

Outside the Bible, it is impossible to come to such a conclusion about God. We may perceive His invisible attributes but we cannot conclude anything about eternal power or Godhead. Those things God has revealed through His Word and His Son.

Morris challenges a priori ideas of revelation and proposes that the conservative (his) view is more balanced than those who argue against it. “The conservative refuses to manufacture a theory of revelation. He does not assume that the Bible writing must be of the same kind as other writings of that day (or of our day). Or for that matter that they must be different. He is content to take the facts as they are.”13

Those facts constrain him, but not on a priori grounds.14 Likewise, Morris tackles F. Gerald Downing’s contention that Christianity cannot lay claim to a revelation.15 Morris maintains that while Downing has “argued his case magnificently”,16 he has done so from the perspective that, “If the Old Testament writers want to convey the idea of revelation they must do it in the way I lay down”. 17

Morris also tackles A.O. Dyson’s concept of revelation that “gives decisive voice to the modern world”.18 Because Dyson is relying on the “understandings of the world”,19 revelation is not given a chance. “It is not fair because the revelation is not allowed to speak for itself. And it is not Christian, for it is the Christian attitude to give priority to Christ, not the world.”20

He concedes that humans are in no position to determine how and when God reveals himself21 and challenges the approach of Barr and others who find the Bible defective.

“It seems to me much better to ask what God has done than to reject in advance the possibility that he might do anything because I do not see how he could do it.”22

The Bible alone should be used to refute those who diminish its revelatory nature, particularly “in the face of that modern radical movement which ascribes no special significance to the Bible”.23

He bemoans such scholarship: “In handling the biblical documents it prefers to proceed along lines that would be congenial to the atheist or the agnostic.”24

Such scholars have an “uncritical reverence for their critical method”25 and, while they are humble enough to acknowledge their understanding can be enhanced, this “does not extend to his view of the method”.26

What they are doing, in Morris’ view, is akin to treating the Bible as a human document.27

Rather, Morris is in accord with F.V.Filson, who stated: “I work with the conviction that the only really objective method of study takes the reality of God and his working into account, and that any other point of view is loaded with presuppositions which actually, even if subtly, contain an implicit denial of the full Christian faith.”28

Which raises the question of what revelation is if it is not tied to faith. If what Christ did and said, what nature speaks of God and what the Bible says of God is insufficient for the exegete to accept that God has revealed enough of Himself for understanding, it is obvious that individual has not grasped who God is and/or what faith is.

In addressing the possibility of revelation outside Christianity, Morris appeals to Christ’s redemptive act for all humanity and what God has revealed of Himself from Creation to the Cross and beyond.

While other religions argue for a form of revelation, the central plank of Christianity stands in stark contrast to all other claims about God and His purpose.

Arguably, there is “truth” in all religions and cultures but it cannot and does not negate the “truth” God has revealed.

It is the “finality about the revelation God has made in Christ”29 which, rather than being a trigger for isolation and exclusiveness, should engender in all Christians a total commitment to spreading the good news.

Of Christendom’s inability to find a unified approach to the Bible – and by inference revelation – Morris says, “unless we agree on the way the Bible is to be used and the extent to which it is authoritative there is no more than a façade of unity”.30

That unity has not occurred is highlighted by what Morris sees as an unbalanced approach to revelation – the conflict between a too literal approach and a rejection of inspiration.

The balanced position requires “that both the human characteristics and the divine inspiration be given due emphasis”.31

Balance is such an integral part of our existence that it seems almost mandatory to take such an approach to revelation.
Morris has achieved this by comparing and contrasting the too literal and the too liberal. While both extremes may find fault with his conclusions, they could not object to the balanced way in which he has presented his case.

Morris leaves no doubt as to his evangelical position in the last chapter. It could be argued that such an approach is out of place in the context of the subject but it is a refreshing conclusion in harmony with the rest of his work.

Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. New York: Orbis, 1992.

Internet, Wenger, J.C. God’s Word Written, 1966, no pages,

Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Morris, Leon. I Believe in Revelation. London: H&S, 1976.

The World Book Dictionary, Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1976.

1 Leon Morris, I Believe In Revelation, (London: H&S, 1976), p. 10.

2 The World Book Dictionary, (Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation), p. 1786.

3 Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, (New York: Orbis 1992)

4 Ibid, p. 27.

5 Ibid, p. 27.

6 Leon Morris, I Believe In Revelation, p. 15.

7 J. C. Wenger, God’s Word Written, 1966, quoted at:

8 Leon Morris, I Believe In Revelation, p. 85

9 Ibid, p. 38.

10 Ibid, p. 38.

11 Ibid, p. 41.

12 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), p. 178

13 Leon Morris, I Believe In Revelation, pp 119, 120.

14 Ibid, p. 121.

15 Ibid, p. 21

16 Ibid, p. 20

17 Ibid, p. 20

18 Ibid p. 22.

19 Ibid, p. 23.

20 Ibid, p. 23.

21 Ibid, pp 87, 88.

22 Ibid, p. 89.

23 Ibid p. 87.

24 Ibid, p. 95.

25 Ibid, p. 93.

26 Ibid, p. 93.

27 Ibid, p. 96.

28 Ibid, p.99. cited by Ladd, Interpretation, Vol. xxv, p. 58.

29 Leon Morris, I Believe In Revelation, p. 157

30 Ibid., p. 14.

31 Ibid, p. 100.