Divine Revelation and Human Practice: Responsive and Imaginative Inspiration

By Tony Clark

A creative contribution to the doctrine of revelation, seeking an understanding of God’s self-disclosure in the Church’s participation in His Trinitarian life.

ISBN: 9780227173138
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Divine Revelation and Human Practice is a substantial work providing important and original proposals for rearticulating the doctrine of revelation.

The author takes as his point of departure Karl Barth’s doctrine of the Word of God. Barth has impressed upon theology that revelation is primarily an event in which God establishes relationship with humanity in an act of his sovereign freedom. But what is the role of human participation in this revelatory event? It is here that Barth’s account is less than satisfactory, and this shortcoming points to the principal theme of the book.

Addressing this theme, Clark engages with the work of Michael Polanyi, whose philosophy provides a potent resource for the task. One profoundly innovative aspect of Polanyi’s work is his theory of tacit knowledge, which demonstrates how articulate knowledge (conceptual understanding) arises out of knowledge established through practical and intrinsically imaginative participation in particular practices or “life-ways”. Although we depend upon such knowledge, we can articulate it only in part. We know more than we can tell.

This insight has profound implications for the doctrine of revelation. It suggests that knowledge of God is necessarily bound up with the various practices of the church in which Christians are imaginatively engaged and through which God makes himself known. It also suggests that such knowledge cannot be fully articulated.

Clark does not deny the possibility or the importance of doctrinal formulation, but he does issue a reminder that theological statements are only possible because God gives himself to be known in the life and practices of the church.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 244

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Tony Clark is Assistant Professor of Ethics at Friends University and was previously Teaching Fellow at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.


Foreword by Trevor Hart

1. An Exposition of Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Revelation
2. Critical Engagement with Barth
3. Michael Polanyi’s Theory of Knowledge
      Excursus: Polanyi and Religion
4. Barth and Polanyi in Conversation
5. Revelation and Participation
6. Revelation and Imagination
7. Closing Remarks


Endorsements and Reviews

At a time when so much theology swings between a wooden cerebralism on the one hand, and undisciplined fantasy on the other, a thesis such as this is sorely needed needed
Jeremy Begbie, Ridley Hall, Cambridge and the University of St Andrews

Divine Revelation and Human Practice is an impressive piece of creative and integrative theology … Clark provides a compelling platform for further discussion on free and creative human response to God’s sovereign revelation.
Andrew Stravitz, Trinity International University, Illnois, in Theological Book Review, Vol 23, No 1

This is a stimulating book, loyal to Barth’s doctrine of revelation but nonetheless improving upon his work where important elements are understated. The conversation between Barth and Polanyi he constructs helps one focus on the human involvement in revelation.
Hans Burger, in Theologische Literaturzeitung, 136 (2011), 10

Clear and engaging … On every turn he displays a clear mastery of the subject at hand … well versed both in the voluminous body of work that surrounds a twentieth century giant like Karl Barth and at times hard to grasp work of Michael Polanyi … Those inside and outside the ecclesial confines will find this book accessible, informative, and enriching.
Bacho V. Bordjadze, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 19, Issue 1

Clark’s exposition of Barth and Polanyi and the conversation between them which he engenders, is fascinating and both Barth scholars and Polanyi scholars will find this book interesting and provocative.
A.T.B. McGowan, in Evangelical Quarterly, Vol 84, No 2

[Clark] certainly opens up many avenues of thought, especially for those with an interest in Barth, Polanyi, theology and science, or epistemology.
Marian Maskulak, in Heythrop Journal, Vol 54, Issue 2