Macquarie University
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The verification by demonstration of divine revelation

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posted on 2023-05-01, 05:38 authored by Martin Dowson

Christians claim that the religious propositions to which they hold are not of their own making. Rather, these propositions are alleged to be revealed by God. In this thesis, I examine three methods by which Christians seek to demonstrate, and thus verify, that propositions they allege to be revealed are revealed: observation of, and deduction and induction from, the Bible. These methods are standard within the broader method of theology. While affirming that observation and deduction are appropriate methods for demonstration, I nevertheless show that induction fails to demonstrate that propositions are revealed. Various attempts to rescue induction (i.e., faith, authority, tradition and theology) for the purposes of verification are explored in the thesis. However, I show that each of these attempts also fail for various reasons. In particular, the use of abduction under the auspices of theology fails to rescue induction because of particular limitations in abduction itself. 

Given the failure of induction to demonstrate that propositions are revealed, and given that many of Christianity’s core propositions (e.g., Jesus is God, Jesus died as a penal substitute for sins, and hell will be populated for eternity) can only be demonstrated to be revealed by induction, I conclude that these propositions cannot be verified to be revealed. Further, I argue that if these propositions cannot be verified by demonstration to be revealed, they are not revealed in the sense that Christians typically take divine revelation i.e., as public revelation. I conclude the analytical component of the thesis by suggesting that a reasonable person, open to the possibility of divine revelation, can nevertheless judge that not all propositions claimed by Christians to be divinely revealed are, in fact, divinely revealed. 

Consistent with this judgement, in the final chapter of this thesis I explore some implications and applications that arise when Christians over-estimate the size and scope of the corpus of divinely revealed propositions. In this final chapter, I indicate that Christianity may find itself considerably less burdened theologically, ecclesiastically and apologetically if it was to hold less tightly to propositions not demonstrably revealed. 


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: introduction -- Chapter 2: overview of main argument -- Chapter 3: divine revelation: theological and philosophical perspectives -- Chapter 4: the problem of induction -- Chapter 5: theological solutions to the methodological problem of induction -- Chapter 6: abduction as a solution to the problem of induction -- Chapter 7: divinely guided abduction and direct revelation -- Chapter 8: case study 1 - The Trinity and the deity of Christ -- Chapter 9: case study 2 - Retribution and Atonement -- Chapter 10: case study 3 – Hell -- Chapter 11: summary of case studies -- Chapter 12: final argument -- Chapter 13: conclusion -- References

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Albert Atkin

Additional Supervisor 1

Jennifer Duke-Yonge


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




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