What Is Your Evidentiary Standard For Divine Revelation?

If you had a friend who claimed that he personally spoke with God, or a suitable representative, and was told certain things, and I don’t mean “It’s going to be okay” or “Take a different path,” 

I mean something specific, like “Go to a specific place, build a temple, gather followers, write down the stuff I say,”

Like Joseph Smith or Mohammed kind of stuff, specific divine revelations, about the present, about the future, a…

  1. Schrodinger

    particular or private revelations which are constantly occurring among Christians.  When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them. Speaking of such revelations as (e.g.) those of St. Hildegard (approved in part by Eugenius III), St. Bridget (by Boniface IX), and St. Catherine of Siena (by Gregory XI) Benedict XIV says: “It is not obligatory nor even possible to give them the assent of Catholic faith, but only of human faith, in conformity with the dictates of prudence, which presents them to us as probable and worthy of pius belief)” (De canon., III, liii, xxii, II).


  2. Schrodinger

    In judging of revelations or visions we may proceed in this manner: (1) get detailed information about the person who believes himself thus favored; (2) also about the fact of the revelation and the circumstances attending it. To prove that a revelation is Divine (at least in its general outlines), the method of exclusion is sometimes employed. It consists in proving that neither the demon nor the ecstatic’s own ideas have interfered (at least on important points) with God’s action, and that no one has retouched the revelation after its occurrence.

    To judge revelations or visions, we must be acquainted with the character of the person favoured with them from a triple point of view: natural, ascetical, and mystical. (For those who have been beatified or canonized, this inquiry has been already made by the Church.)


  3. Edward Smith

    This is s doozy of a good question, Fred.

    You’ve outdone yourself this time.

    I am inclined to follow the tenor of Schrodinger’s Cat’s answer(s).

    Past that, I have to say I’ve never really given the question much thought.

    That said, the story of rich man who goes to Perdition while the beggar at his gate goes to Heaven has this line:

    “They have Moses and the Prophets.”

    There’s more than enough Revelation already out there without us needing a new Joseph Smith

    BTW, my brother is named Joseph.

  4. Blake Anderton

    Maybe it’s just the Lutheran in me, but my quick-reaction answer is : “can they back it up with scripture?” Aside from obvious physical tests (is God telling our friend to go to someplace that doesn’t actually exist? etc) God’s nature and will are revealed through previous revelations, and if true our friend’s revelation should reasonably conform to that previous knowledge.

    Also the person’s openness with details would be important. God doesn’t make a habit of having the people he reveals things to hide them. He doesn’t tell people to hide golden tablets and only share the knowledge with a select few. It’s always been, to my knowledge, “Here’s a revelation, tell/show everyone you can find!”

  5. Sabrdance

    The tests I am familiar with are:

    1.) Does it contradict prior general revelation?

    2.) Is the prophecy wrong in any particular?

    Is the prophet a man of good character might matter too, but Peter was a known hot-head so there’s that.

    Any claim of new General Revelation will violate (1), as Revelation declares the Canon (and by extension, all further General Revelation) closed.  You get the Bible and the Universe, everything else is specific to individual circumstances, under which see (1).

  6. Fred Cole
    Edward Smith: This is s doozy of a good question, Fred.

    Thank you.  I try.

  7. KC Mulville

    I give Schroedinger a like, and add this:

    The evidentiary issue of a vision or revelation is no different than any other thought. If I told you I had a feeling of pain, how could anyone dispute it? Suddenly we’re in the same ballpark as Thomas Nagel and bat-feelings. And frankly, at that point, I don’t really care. If God wants to whisper to someone, it’s none of my business.

    However, if this friend said that not only did he have a revelation, but that I am commanded to follow his vision and obey his dictates … I would decline until God also spoke to me personally and confirmed it. 

  8. DocJay
    Well, now I’m back at home and I’m looking forward to this life I live You know it’s gonna haunt me So hesitation to this life I give You think you might cross over You’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea You better look it over Before you make that leap And you know I’m fine But I hear those voices at night Sometimes they justify my claim And the public don’t dwell on my transmission ‘Cause it wasn’t televised But it was the turning point Oh what a lonely night The song maker says, “It ain’t so bad” The dream maker’s gonna make you mad The spaceman says, “Everybody look down” It’s all in your mind
  9. Group Captain Mandrake

    Fred, may I ask if you have a friend who made such a claim?

  10. Mama Toad

    The items Schrodinger’s Cat cites are part of my evidentiary standard as well. As a believing Catholic, I would determine whether or not what the recipient of the revelation in question is revealing contradicts the deposit of Faith that I believe to be True. If not, then I wait to see what the attitude of the person receiving the revelation is. If the person is argumentative, rebellious of properly ordered authority (within my Faith, that would be the bishop), then the revelation is most likely not from God. That would be the case even if the revelation seems good or believable and the bishop is a complete and total loser of a human being.

    So my 2 criteria are: 1. Does not contradict the deposit of Faith; 2. Does not challenge the authority of the Church.

    There are a number of visionaries whose revelations were challenged by Church authorities, some pretty severely. (See Padre Pio, for one.) Those visionaries who accepted in obedience the restrictions placed upon them, even when the restrictions seemed motivated by spite or anger, are today approved visionaries. 

  11. Mama Toad

    By this, I do not mean to say that visionaries never challenge bishops, popes, or members of the Church to be better Christians. St. Catherine of Sienna harangued the Pope and eventually practically hauled him back to Rome. But she did so in a spirit of obedience.

  12. Foxman
    Schrodinger’s Cat

    To judge revelations or visions, we must be acquainted with the character of the person 14 hours ago

    St Paul, for example?

  13. Group Captain Mandrake

    How would the various views expressed here change, if at all, upon learning that the person who claimed to have spoken to God revealed that it all took place within a dream?

  14. Despair Troll

    When someone comes up to you with some revelation, is it your faith in God that is being tested, or your faith in that person?

  15. Fred Cole
    Schrodinger’s Cat

    To judge revelations or visions, we must be acquainted with the character of the person favoured with them from a triple point of view: natural, ascetical, and mystical.

    Can you expand the meaning of this a little?

  16. Brian McMenomy

    The fact that God speaks to us should not come as a shock to anyone.  He most certainly has spoken to me, and I most certainly am not mentally ill or a scam artist.

    Some criterion:

    1)  It must line up with Scripture.  Period.

    2)  It must line up with the actual (not projected) character of God (i.e., holy, loving, just, etc.)

    3)  My experience is that His chats with me always start with Him dealing with MY issues, not brother or sister so-and-so.  He might let me know that I’m to share something with someone, but only after my own heart is pruned.

    4)  I absolutely, completely must be submitted to His will & desire His glory, not my own. 

    5)  Since you brought up the specific event (the Second Coming), anyone that tells you they know the date IS LYING.  Jesus himself said that only the Father knows the time of His appearing. 

    6)  Revelations are always to be tested, by me, and by others.  Not because God is false, but because my perceptions can be mistaken.

    Humility and gratitude is the order of the day, not pride and self-aggrandizement.

  17. Fred Cole
    Group Captain Mandrake: How would the various views expressed here change, if at all, upon learning that the person who claimed to have spoken to God revealed that it all took place within a dream? · 35 minutes ago

    Would it matter if it were a dream?  Doesn’t God have a long tradition of speaking to people through dreams and/or visions?

    Or would that negate the whole thing?

  18. Fred Cole
    Frozen Chosen: You simply ask God through prayer if it is true and he will manifest his answer through the Holy Ghost, typically via thoughts or impressions.

    However, please be aware that God’s answer comes in His timeframe, which may not be the same as ours. · 9 hours ago

    A problem might occur if you different people asked and got different answers.

  19. BrentB67

    Fred - What if someone at Ricochet had a revelation that one day your hard anarchist heart would be touched by Christ, you would believe and accept his service and sacrifice made for you and all of us and that your life would be saved?

  20. Edward Smith

    Saul of Tarsus … you could write a book about the man.  Books have been written about him.

    My take on him, in brief, is that he persecuted Christians with a fire in the belly that separated him from the flunkies from the Sanhedrin.  He believed that the Christians were wrong, as opposed to seeing them as a rival for power, or for criticizing him or the members of the Sanhedrin.

    That fire in the belly was a gift from God, and God called him to Christ after Saul of Tarsus had honed himself into a Weapon, Fierce & Articulate,  so that the Church could grow into what it became.

    Character is as much why we do what we do as what we do.

    How many people who do silly or even loathsome things are not completely left to their own devices because people wiser than them recognize that there is greatness in them as yet untapped?

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