Gettin' to Know Theo: Revelation (Part 2) March 2021
This month we will look more fully at General Revelation, before switching next month to Special Revelation. When thinking of General Revelation, we must realize that many of the attributes of God are made known, at least generally, through General Revelation. Just a few attributes that can be found through General Revelation is that God exists, he is creator and sustainer. That he is uncreated, powerful, and righteous (Romans 1, Acts 14, and Acts 17 affirm these aspects of General Revelation). Though these things are made known to all people through General Revelation, we also must recognize there are other limits to General Revelation. For example, General Revelation in and of itself is not enough to know about Salvation or Jesus Christ. That is why evangelism is still vitally important as it is through God’s People and Scripture that the Holy Spirit works to bring about salvation for the lost. Therefore, while General Revelation can make known to us there is a God and certain things about God, it does not make known the path back to God. This is why General Revelation is inferior to Special Revelation.
General Revelation is given to humanity in two different ways. I like to talk about these two was in relation to the human body, so I use the terms “external” and “internal.” It externally found in things like nature (the cosmos). It is found internally in the human conscience (morality) and human spirituality. One of the key passages for General Revelation is Romans chapters 1-2. In these chapters the external and internal types of General Revelation are mentioned, as well as other places throughout Scripture. Romans 1-2 clearly states that all people, everywhere has a knowledge of God, yet suppress that knowledge. Where is that revelation found? It is found in creation (1:20) as well as God has also written a morality law of everyone’s heart (2:14-15). It is important to recognize that both types of General Revelation have been distorted by sin (Gen. 3), yet it did not destroy the witness of God. Think of sin as hazy glasses. Sin has made the view of God hazy, but it has not destroyed the view of God. Yes, God can be seen more clearly through Special Revelation, but sin does not hide God all together. And so, a believer knows God through Special Revelation and because of that, can more clearly see God’s General Revelation. Yet, a non-believer is without excuse even if they only have access to General Revelation as Paul states knowledge of God can be seen by all people, in all locations, in all time through General Revelation.
Some theologians view General Revelation as also being found in human history, primarily in acts where God is guiding nations. While I do not deny God’s work in human history, that seems to fall more under God’s providence than God’s revelation, so I choose not to discuss it here. Which gives me an opening to make sure we realize that when we talk about theology and different categories or parts of theology, oftentimes those categories overlap. In so doing, we must also make sure that one part of our theology does not contradict another part. Our God is a God of order and is a God of non-contradiction, therefore our theology must not contradict itself either.