By Method of Witness: Revelation in Nicolas Berdyaev’s Religious Philosophy.

Brian McKinlay
Bachelor of Theology (Honours) dissertation. Charles Sturt University, 2002.

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A condensed and slightly revised version is published as “Revelation in Nicolas Berdyaev’s Religious Philosophy,” Open Theology 3 (2017): 117–133, doi 10.1515/opth-2017-0009.


Nicolas Berdyaev’s understanding of the self-revelation of God to humankind is a point of connection between the central ideas of his religious philosophy. This essay seeks to describe and explain Berdyaev’s ideas on the interrelationship of the divine and the human in revelation, and to place these ideas within the context of his philosophy. Berdyaev says that God’s self-revelation occurs within the inner person, through divine-human spiritual cooperation. It brings about a revolutionary transformation of the human consciousness. Yet, the degree to which revelation can occur depends on human spiritual development. The eschatological culmination of this development will be the revelation of God in humankind and humankind in God—fulfilling the Godmanhood of Christ. The content of revelation is the Truth that is Godself, expressed in relational knowledge of God. Because, in Berdyaev’s view, revelation occurs as an activity of divine-human cooperation, it is affected by human limitations. Therefore, revelation must be open to critique, in particular to purge from it human categories of dominance, power and enslavement. For Berdyaev, Truth is its own criterion. Nevertheless, in the sobornost idea can be found a sense of the communal discernment of Truth. Truth can be found only where there is freedom. Freedom is therefore a precursor to revelation. The essay does not attempt a thoroughgoing analytical discussion of the merits or otherwise of Berdyaev’s views on revelation in comparison with other views. However, criticisms of the general idea of revelation as experience are employed to strengthen exposition of Berdyaev. The essay concludes with a reflection on the category of witness as a characterisation of Berdyaev’s life, his religious philosophy, and his concept of revelation. As an Appendix, there is a bibliography of 546 items by Nicolas Berdyaev and about him and his work, including primary and secondary sources in English and secondary sources in other Western European languages.