The following comes from a paper Ryan Wellington recently published through the Journal of Analytic Theology, his essay is titled: Divine Revelation as Propositional. Typically, as an after Barth thinker I am repulsed by emphasizing revelation as propositional; instead, I like to emphasize revelation as personal. But Wellington parses his development on revelation in such a way that he understands revelation as propositional from within what he identifies as acquaintance knowledge. As such Wellington argues the following thesis (and more, but not less): “Divine revelation, as I will argue, cannot be merely propositional if, by it, we are to have acquaintance with the persons of God. Instead, I agree with Wahlberg (2014, 41) that Divine revelation is nothing less than propositional, and as my thesis for this paper, I will defend the idea that the propositional model of Divine revelation deserves renewed attention.” When I initially read the title, particularly as that is situated in a journal called Journal of Analytic Theology, I presumed that Wellington would be arguing for a theory of revelation that was necessarily at odds with the conception of personalist revelation that I am most prone towards. I have not yet finished the essay in full, so my move to laud Wellington’s argument, or least certain lineaments might be premature; but in keeping with the trajectory of his essay thus far, it would be surprising to me if my current impression proves errant. That said, let’s read along with Wellington, and engage with what I take to be at least laudable; if not from a purely analytic mode of engagement. Wellington writes (in extenso):
Second, it would seem that through Divine revelation we come to an acquaintance knowledge of God whereby we know Him intimately; thus, it would seem that acquaintance knowledge is a good candidate for a complete account of knowledge of Divine revelation. However, I think that such an account would be incomplete: although acquaintance knowledge is distinct from propositional knowledge, it seems to me that knowledge by acquaintance of persons (in whatever way one is acquainted with persons through a public means instead of by a private means) is mediated by propositional knowledge. One does not sufficiently possess acquaintance knowledge of another person through public means except by possessing propositional knowledge of that person (e.g., where they are from, what their values and preferences are, what habits they have, what their occupation is, who their friends are, what they possess, what they have said or done, how they have said or done something). Taken in this sense acquaintance knowledge, although distinct from propositional knowledge, supervenes on propositional knowledge.
In this way, knowledge of God by Divine revelation may—and ought—to become an acquaintance knowledge of God, but the type of knowledge of Divine revelation that yields acquaintance knowledge is propositional knowledge. Along a similar line of reasoning, Lamont (2004, 13) writes, “We do not have a self-disclosure of God in revelation instead of a communication of knowledge. Rather it is in part through a communication of knowledge that God’s self-disclosure takes place.” With similar reasoning Abraham (1981, 80) writes:
If God were to communicate certain propositions to an individual then that in itself would normally entail that God has revealed something of himself. Thus if God were to say “I am faithful to my covenant with my people Israel,” this would reveal something about God himself. It is misguided, therefore, to insist that any revelation made by asserting propositions somehow contradicts the claim that the content of revelation is God himself. Indeed such verbal revelation is crucial to our understanding of God.
This emphasis on propositions as a vehicle for God’s self-disclosure is the substance of what I meant in the introduction of this paper by the idea that Divine revelation is not less than propositional: that this propositional revelation is meant to fundamentally unite the human person to God in a disclosure of God that offers a higher kind of knowledge than that of propositional knowledge—an acquaintance knowledge from propositional knowledge. Thus we might say that the propositional model of revelation is the foundation of Divine revelation but that “revelation is a broader concept than divine speaking” (Lamont, 2004, 5).
In this way, Divine revelation offers propositions, but it offers more than just propositions, particularly in cases of manifestational revelation whereby we are even more apt to acquaintance knowledge (Wahlberg 2014):
Revelation is an epistemic concept: it has to do with knowledge, and knowledge is, or involves, a propositional attitude (an attitude toward a proposition). Propositions, therefore, necessarily figure in both propositional and manifestational revelation. God, or any agent, cannot make knowledge of some reality available to a subject except by making knowledge of some proposition available. So even though manifestational revelation does not essentially involve propositions known by the revealer, it still essentially involves propositions as the entities revealed. . . . In manifestational revelation, therefore, the entities revealed can (and often do) include more than just propositions, while in nonmanifestational revelation they include only propositions. If God appears to a person in a mystical experience, or as the incarnate Son of God in Palestine two thousand years ago (which would be examples of manifestational revelation), then God reveals both some proposition about himself (propositions, as we remember, figure necessarily in any kind of revelation), but also something that is not a proposition, namely God himself (30-31). . . . [R]evelation indeed is more than a transmission of information. The crucial point is that it cannot be less (41).
In a similar way, St. Thomas Aquinas (ST IIa-IIæ. q.1. a.2. ad.2.) writes that “the act of the believer does not terminate in a proposition, but in a thing.” This is such that God’s revelation always consists in—but offers more than—propositional content. This propositional content is, itself, not the object of the revelation but the threshold that we cross to enter into acquaintance. The object of the revelation—that to which the propositions refer—is God. Thus, by the propositions of revelation we develop acquaintance with God, and this knowledge by acquaintance is itself distinct from propositional knowledge. It “is non-propositional and . . . is not reducible to knowledge that” even though it arises from or accompanies (in the case of manifestational revelation) propositional knowledge (Stump 2010, 51). As Lamont (1996, 407) writes, “Divine revelation is not primarily a set of first aid instructions for dealing with sin, or a set of directions that tell us how to find our way to God.” Instead, it is a means of bringing “us into a personal relationship with Christ. It does contain some first aid instructions and directions, but these are all based on this personal relationship, and presuppose it.” Wahlberg (2014, 14–15) seems to agree here as well:
I do not think that revelation is only, or principally, about grasping propositions. I think that revelation is mainly about getting to know a person, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I believe that coming to know Christ through revelation requires a graced transformation, which is effected by participation in the sacramental life of the church. Revelation, therefore, involves much more than divinely asserted propositions.
In keeping with Wellington’s intention to prove the soundness of his thesis, that revelation is not less than propositional, he emphasizes the role that propositions mediate as a sort of epistemic bridge between the revelation and revelator. If we were to leave things here I would have found his argument unacceptable. But Wellington doesn’t leave it here, and as we have seen, situates propositional knowledge of God, within a broader category called acquaintance knowledge; and to further specify acquaintance knowledge he qualifies further by distinguishing between manifestational and non-manifestational acquaintance knowledge. For the Christian conception of God, Wellington seems to locate all knowledge of God within acquaintance knowledge as a prius. In other words, Wellington understands that in order for propositions to have referential meaning they must first be grounded in a manifestational mode of God’s acquaintance with the recipients of His Self-manifestation. Even though Wellington seems to be arguing that propositions serve in an epistemically instrumental mode vis-à-vis the broader category of acquaintance, he is not also arguing that revelation can be reduced to propositions themselves; instead, that propositions only have in-formational force insofar as those first come through a participatory involvement with God among those who have become acquainted with Him.
Insofar as I understand Wellingtons’ argument thus far, I don’t think I have a problem with it. Of course, you can see how I am emphasizing the acquaintance structure of knowledge of God. I might be reading my own theological disposition into that, and emphasizing it in a way that belies Wellingtons’ whole argument. Even so, I have no problem affirming the notion that propositions serve as instrumental means whereby God’s voice in Christ comes to make meaning-ful sense; but only insofar that these signs/propositions (signum) find their ultimate reality (res) in the living reality of the mysterium Trinitatis (so the personal and confrontational ground, of course!).
My fear is that if we were to reduce knowledge of God to propositions, as the lead, that might reduce our relationship or acquaintance with God to a structurally linguistic reality that denudes the personal notes that I think our mystical union with God imbibes. If we see propositional knowledge of God as a predicate of God’s speech for us in and through His accommodating humiliation towards us in the Christ, then I am fine with that. As long as we emphasize the instrumental and yet seemingly necessary role that propositions, as informers, play in the process of us coming to know God personally; in meaningful and effervescent ways. I probably wouldn’t argue for the propositional revelational model, per se, but I can see some value in the way Wellington is seemingly arguing for it.
 R.A. Wellington, “Divine Revelation as Propositional,” Journal of Analytic Theology, Vol. 7, June 2019: 156-77. Accessed 07-24-2019.