Beyond General Revelation

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When we come to the topic of God’s revelation to humanity, my students are taught that such manifestations take two forms: General and Specific Revelation.

  • General revelation is the universally available, but indirect revealing of truth. God can be revealed through reason, conscience, the natural world, or moral sense.
  • Specific revelation is direct revelation to an individual or a group. This sort of revelation includes dreams, visions, experience and prophecy, and the scriptures inspired by them.

I have written before about the design and cosmological arguments for the existence of God. These are forms of general revelation via reason.  The experience of the “still small voice” is similarly known and experienced by many, and Cardinal Newman’s moral argument grows from this, and expands upon the moral sense.

Romans 1: 19-25 reflects upon the natural world’s ability to teach the nature and existence of God.  Yet, humanity still fails to recognise it.

” . . .  since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

This inability, or refusal to recognise general revelation, has led God to directly speak to us.  The prophets were given direct revelation of God.  Their recorded experiences and insights formed the body of scripture, and  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).”

Greater still was the revelation of the coming of Emmanuel.  God came to be with us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1).”

The gospels contain the testimony of this ultimate revelation of God manifesting Himself. We are the inheritors of these revelations.  We have the prophets, and the gospels. These in our hands and hearts give us all the tools of 2 Timothy 3, but there is more.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).”

We have the means to change the world.  We have the dual revelations of nature, morality, and reason; and the specific God-breathed revelation of scripture.  We are gifted beyond general revelation.

Marshall Keeble said, “You’ve got a book and you can take that book and conquer the world, but you can’t do it with it under your arm. You’ve got to have it in your heart.”  If in our hearts, then we too should be “alive and active,” informing and changing the world.


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