Romans 1:18-20 tells us, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
There is a type of revelation that is available to all men, regardless of their religious beliefs. This is called, “General Revelation.” Calvinists call this concept the “Doctrine of Common Grace.” Some philosophers call it “Natural Law.” Things in this category are what the American founding fathers referred to as, “Self-Evident” truths.
General Revelation is very useful, but it can only take you so far in life. You can figure out, from the laws of the created world, how to fix a car, do math, build a house, balance a checkbook and read the encyclopedia. You don’t have to be a Christian to learn to do those things. You can get by fairly well in life, physically speaking, even if you have never heard a sermon, opened a Bible or heard an angel sing.
The bad news, is that with General Revelation you only get enough knowledge to send you to hell, and not enough to admit you to heaven. You see, when you operate within the “Laws of the Universe,” you know instinctively that there must be a “Law-giver.” You can’t have a precisely designed universe without a designer. So whether you admit it or not, you know in the depths of your soul that God exists, that He is all-powerful and all-knowing.
People often ask, “What about the people in the jungles who never get to hear the gospel? Why should they go to hell?” The answer is in Romans 1. According to God, He has given them all the information they needed to know that He is there, but they still rebel against Him.
In order to please God, we need to acknowledge not only that He exists, but also that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). God is not only there, but as Francis Schaeffer reminded us, He is not silent. He speaks and reveals Himself to us.
Whenever God invades the normal confines of His created order and speaks to us in a way that can be clearly understood, we call this, “Special Revelation.” Since the time of the Creation, God has spoken through visions, dreams, angelic visits, prophetic messages, burning bushes, voices from the clouds, donkeys, still small voices, and much more. Most notably, He has given us His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and in these latter times He has spoken through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2).
All truth is revealed truth. The only way we can know anything is if God reveals it to us (and grants us the mental capacity of understanding). The only way we can know His specific will is if He crosses the barrier that separates the metaphysical realm (where He dwells) to our physical realm. He has done this for us.
“His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
It is only in Special Revelation that we are shown how to know God personally, and how to be reconciled to Him through His Son. It is only through Special Revelation that we can know how to please God and live holy lives.
I am thankful that God has not only demonstrated His existence to us, but He has gone beyond that to make sure that we have everything we need to live a life of Wisdom.
As we will see in future essays, your foundational starting point, whether it is largely based in General Revelation (Natural Law) or Special Revelation (Biblical Law) will impact how you approach Apologetics, Politics, Logic, Philosophy, Theology, and much more. Both of these elements are important and both have their proper functional limits. Understanding them, however, will help you to understand why you may have so many fundamental differences with various people. You may be building on separate foundational presuppositions (or starting points).