Thursday, September 1, 2011

Acts 10 and the Objective and Subjective Elements

I've been following the on-going discussion over at Parchment and Pen regarding "Why I Am/Not Charismatic."  In the process I've been posting a few comments on the various threads.  One of the threads concerned the issue of subjectivity in receiving contemporary revelations.  I posted the following in regards to Acts 10:
Regarding dreams and subjectivity…I’ve been impressed by looking at Acts 10 and seeing the interplay between revelatory moments, rational thought, and providential events. Peter is engaged in set prayers (v 9) and falls “into a trance” (v 10). He has a revelatory experience of the sheet coming down with unclean animals. This revelatory event does not bring with it an inherent sense of clarity because “Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be” (v 17). This perplexity causes Peter to “reflect on the vision” (v 19) obviously engaging rational powers. In the midst of this reflection the Holy Spirit “speaks” to Peter about three men looking for him (v 19-20). Simultaneous with this the three men from Cornelius are at the front gate. This is the providential element and it is memorable to Peter because when he recounts the story in Acts 11 he mentions that it was “at that moment three men appeared” (Acts 11.11). When Peter finally comes to Cornelius’ house he says the following: “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (v 28). This conclusion is a result of a complex of factors including a revelatory vision, the direct speech of the Holy Spirit, rational thought processes and providential events. Putting these all together Peter comes to his conclusion. The vision by itself did not yield this clarity. It was one factor. I see no reason why it might not be the same today. So even if one wants to say that a vision or dream is not clear or that it is open to subjectivity this is no different than the NT times. We look to all the potential factors to draw conclusions.
I would like to develop these thoughts in the future and speak to some of the potential applications for today but for now I figured I would just post these "seed thoughts."