General and Special Revelation

A Christian friend suggested that I read a twelve-page document at this link: https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/rev-henry/1_general-revelation_berkouwer.pdf. That was quite a long read, and it was interesting even though somewhat confusing. It was written as if the person had no relationship with Christ in any real sense, although, he must have some relationship on some level. I tried to digest it and understand it, and I’ll comment on it since it links to The Reason Collection in several ways.

The author mentioned something about what he termed “proofs of God,” but any proof is absolute, or it isn’t proof. If we’re able to prove a thing, it’s because the thing is true and proof is possible. What I’ve seen of many who try to prove God, they try to use inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning can never prove anything. Alternately, they try to use deductive reasoning without true premises, and any reasoning that doesn’t have a true premise is unsound. The conclusion isn’t proved. That’s not to say that God doesn’t prove Himself to every person. From Romans 1, see that He does indeed prove Himself to every person, and He does that through divine revelation. “He has showed it to them.” That’s consistent with what He says as He speaks through Scripture and says, “in whom (Jesus Christ) is hidden all knowledge and wisdom.” So, He reveals reality to every person, but what is the depth of this knowledge? He tells us. He reveals everything that humans can know about God and the Godhead. That’s a lot of knowledge.

We see the word “conscience” comes up. It’s translated from the Greek word “suneidesis.” “Suneideses” has two definitions listed: “the consciousness of anything” and “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.” A word study on the word “soul” tells us that the soul is distinct from the body and the spirit, and the same word translated as “soul” is also translated as “mind,” “heart,” and “life.” It seems that the conscience isn’t the mind but rather a part of the mind. Perhaps it’s the intuition. We don’t have enough information to say. And yet, we do know that God speaks to us at times, and we know. He communicates to our minds in a way that we can’t explain. He may give a word of knowledge, a word or wisdom, a vision, a dream, or just a sense that a certain decision is the right decision. Because of our spiritual immaturity, this communication is dim at present, but the path of the just is as a shining light that shines brighter and brighter until the day of completeness.

I found one non sequitur disturbing: “Because of man’s involvement with the goodness of God’s command, it is clear that the Church may not abandon its doctrine of general revelation.” There are a few problems here. Somehow, the author of that PDF came to a conclusion that man is involved with the goodness of God’s command, and that’s so vague that I can’t tell you what he’s trying to say. I hope he isn’t saying that humankind has an inherent goodness that he may be hinting at in his previous statement: “Certainly life is not safe in this haven of humanism, but nonetheless life is still preserved.” We are involved with God’s goodness. Our part is to yield ourselves to His Spirit. When we hear His voice, His utterance, His rhema, His command and stop resisting Him (the definition of yielding or submitting), His faith comes to us and gives us access to His grace. His grace then does His works through us, which is the free gift of righteousness. I can give you the Scripture behind those statements if you aren’t familiar with it.

Whatever the author meant, his premise doesn’t prove his conclusion: “the Church may not abandon its doctrine of general revelation.” He stated his conclusion, but he hasn’t proved his conclusion.

 

Different theologians define “general revelation” and “special revelation” differently. I’m not sure, from the article, how the author of this article defines it. I disregard the terms since I think they cloud what’s really happening. God reveals reality to every person. Every person also has a deceitful and desperately wicked fallen mind that’s able to counterfeit every gift of God, including prophecy and revelation. Every person also must deal with evil spirits who also counterfeit what God gives. Those are the three sources of information. Some would say that observation and experience are also sources of information. I would say that God reveals reality to us through observation and experience.

When we were born again into the Kingdom, Christ took residency in our beings. We were seated in heavenly places, although our minds aren’t fully aware of this. It seems that our spirits are joined to the Holy Spirit in some sense. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit can make the distinction between our spirits and our minds/souls, but I don’t seem to have that discernment.

In my discussions with hardened atheists, they eventually realize that they can’t reason from a true premise but that they reason from axioms. Axioms are things made up. They consist of made-up stuff that seems real, but the illusion of reality isn’t proof. When confronted with the fact that God reveals reality to every person, they refuse to test that by seeking and finding Christ. Rather, they try to cause doubt. “How do you know that it’s Jesus speaking to you?” “The human mind isn’t capable of discerning between Jesus Christ, an evil spirit, or its own ramblings.” So, I had to pray about that. God assured me, speaking through Scripture and through Christ within me that He is well able to give the Holy Spirit to whoever asks for the Holy Spirit. If the discernment depended on me, I would indeed lose my way. And yet, discernment is our problem. With the deceivers (our own minds and demons) always working at us, we all make many mistakes. The author made some references to the coming day of fulfillment, and that day of fullness will come. But we have many steps on the way to that day. As we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are transfigured into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. This Scripture is speaking of the road to spiritual maturity. With maturity comes discernment.

My Christian friend was defining “general revelation” as something that proceeds from humanity rather than from God. He defined it this way: “General revelation is just looking at the universe and makes us draw a conclusion that someone (God) must have made it.” He was defining “faith” as making ourselves believe in something rather than what the Bible says that faith is. Faith comes when God speaks, so it’s substance (reality as opposed to concept) and evidence (meaning absolutely certain proof). Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, and we are not. My friend also defined “general revelation” as “a connection of our soul with God – it is a rational questioning of our existence.” That definition seems to consist of two contradictory statements. I don’t know if revelation always connects human souls to God since God gives revelation to both saved and unsaved people, but many unsaved people never connect their souls/minds to God. The second statement seemed to define “revelation” as a human questioning. To say that that questioning is rational is questionable.

He asked me to define Revelation, so I said the following: God speaks. Jesus said that everyone who is on the side of truth listens to Him. He said that His sheep hear His voice. He speaks through Scripture and every means mentioned in Scripture. I would make a distinction between His speaking and our rational questioning. But then, we would have to define “rational,” and I would have to change my statement to take out the word “rational.” I would make a distinction between His speaking and our questioning. My understanding is that we must base rational thought on truth or it isn’t rational. Truth comes from truth just as information comes from information. In other words, rational thought requires a true foundation, and no other foundation can be laid other than that which is laid, Jesus Christ.

I don’t know if this is a widespread definition, but here’s the opinion of at least one person. General revelation is a human activity of questioning what becomes obvious to us about God using inductive reasoning. It doesn’t come from God. It comes from the human mind. Special revelation can only come from the Bible or human witness. I don’t see either of these terms in Scripture, nor do I see any reason to confuse the issue with these extra-biblical constructs.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Posted in Uncategorized.

Leave a Reply