Written by W. Robert Godfrey |
Thursday, September 22, 2022
Sinners can resist and deny this general revelation, but they cannot escape it. All nature, all the time, shouts out the existence, power, and splendor of God. Sinners can close their eyes and stop their ears, but general revelation remains plain all around them. Only when the unrighteous actively suppress this plain truth can the testimony of general revelation be denied. Such suppression is wicked and foolish.
Nothing is more important than knowing God as He truly is. For this reason, the church has confessed many truths about our God throughout history. God is the eternal Trinity, the almighty Creator, the wise Sustainer, the effective Redeemer, and the coming Judge. One truth not so clearly articulated in our creeds is that God is the trustworthy Revealer. To know God as He is, He must reveal Himself to us.
Because God is infinite, He cannot be fully comprehended by finite creatures. We are blinded to God’s truth by our sin. But even before sin entered the world, we needed God to tell us about Himself. God has always been a revealer of Himself both in His words and in His works. He spoke to Adam in the garden of Eden to reveal Himself and displayed aspects of His character in the works of creation that surrounded Adam. Theologians have called God’s words—spoken at first and later written down—His special revelation, while they have called His works of creation and providence His general revelation. General revelation is, well, general (those theologians know what they are talking about), whereas special revelation is much more specific, detailed, and extensive. Today, general revelation surrounds us in nature, while we possess special revelation in the Bible. Special revelation tells God’s people everything revealed about His character in general revelation and much more.
What exactly, then, is general revelation, and why is it significant? Some suggest that the natural sciences are the study of general revelation and so go beyond special revelation. But since the Enlightenment, the natural sciences have typically studied creation not to know God but to know creation, and therefore are not focused on general revelation through creation. General revelation, properly speaking, is God’s clear display of His glory and power in the works of creation and providence.