In our experience, and in the traditions which we inherit from our forbears, we make a claim that we find God’s revelation. We cannot prove this claim to others in any rational way, but can only say with Jesus: Come and see. Together with other Christians, we also find a primary source of revelation in Scripture, both canonical Scripture, and for some Independent Sacramental communities, other writings such as the Gospel of Thomas. All of these documents display the divine/human encounter in a troubling, inextricable mix of profound inspiration, and human weakness. The Bible, or the scriptures of the community however defined, is never the pure Word of God. We have to struggle with it, like Jacob and the angel, refusing to let go until it speaks to us of God.
In a 1976 promotional booklet for The Christian Community of the Holy Order of MANS, we read the following about revelation:
It is scripture, but it is more. It is John the Beloved rapt in vision on the isle of Patmos; it is Francis of Assisi at one with God through all the varied forms of the “natural” world; it is Dante beholding the face of God in a rose and weeping with joy; it is the anonymous soul whose life is changed by a brush with death and the momentary glimpse of ultimate Reality. There are endless such examples. Not only individuals, but groups also may be penetrated, informed, and guided by Divine Presence and Purpose.
At times, the Independent Sacramental movement has been filled with a holy daring to challenge the church on issues such as race, gender, and sexuality. It has also, in some places, been willing to profess the teaching of universal salvation, without reserve, and to engage in interpretations of the faith from an inner or esoteric perspective. It has lived a prophetic ecclesiology, demonstrating different ways of incarnating the Kingdom. To my mind, all of the foregoing is best understood as manifesting continuing revelation. Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit will guide them into all truth, and that they will do the works that he has done, and greater! Why should we believe the canon is closed, and that the Spirit has nothing further to say?
Of course, if we consider the possibility of open, ongoing revelation, then we have to wrestle with how to decide what is truly revelation, and what is personal fantasy or delusion or egoic manipulation. And once we decide, how do we interpret it? There are no easy answers to these questions, but even reading and interpreting the canonical Scriptures result in similar dilemmas. As communities and as individuals, we cannot ultimately escape the responsibility of saying, “So it seems to us,” and letting the fruits of our labors bear us out – or not.
We can also benefit immensely from the traditions of other Christians, but we are best able to do so, when we know our own tradition well. Likewise, hopefully, other Christians will be able to somehow benefit from our work and wisdom, our foibles and craziness. We all bring our unique offerings to the one table of Jesus. As host of the cosmic eucharistic potluck, we can trust him to sort out all the contributions into a glorious feast. Other religions and other fields of human knowledge have their contribution to make, as well.
In all the foregoing, I only speak for myself. However, I hope that others will find these thoughts useful – even if in reaction against them – in findings ways toward a distinctive Independent Sacramental Christian theology.